My rye bread never comes out black

Hi, my name is Nico, I'm a newcomer. I've been making 100% rye bread using only my rye sourdough for months, but except when I follow the steaming/cooking process of pumpernickel (a bit loosely to say the truth) my bread always comes out brownish, never black. I'm curious to know if there's a way to get it black without steaming it, like the bread that can be bought in stores (always made with a mixture of wheat and rye). Or does the color depend on a specific variety of rye? Thanks.
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Millciti's picture
Millciti 2009 July 2

Boris aka... Danubian has lead a lot of great discussions on rye breads & pumpernickel here at the sourdough companion.  Also here is a great article on wikipedia...

Which really sums up a lot that I have heard about the bread that you seek.  I have had both types of pumpernickel bread and find it hard to believe they have anything in common except rye of course! 

What you probably want to make is the American Jewish variety...  More of a softer Deli sandwich bread ideal for stacks of pastrami or corned beef.  I'm sure it would also be great with a nice dry italian salami and some smoky provolone... Yum!  Of course I am partial to the German Westphalian type of bread as well.

Hope this stirs Boris and brings him to the discussion!  If he is like me lately I have barely had time to drop in for a quick bit of inspiration.


Best regards,




nicodvb 2009 July 2
Hi Millciti, just after having posted this thread I found out this other one that explains how to get a more colorful rye bread: a process that I already used a couple of times to make a russian rye bread. That soaking process (that in that russian recipe is called Zavarka) produces a very sweet and delicious bread that is much quicker to cook than pumpernickel. Anyway, what I'm seeking is not the american variety, but the german one, in fact I use 100% rye flour, rye sourdough, water and salt, no other ingredients. Thanks.
Danubian's picture
Danubian 2009 July 2
Hi Nico & Terry,

My guess is that unless you use a high extraction rye flour/meal and grain there just isn't sufficient amylase activity to produce enough maltose to caramelise sufficiently to get that darker colour. The formula I posted in the thread you linked to produces a nice dark bread with a sweet, acidic yet aromatic flavour. The combination of using a high extraction meal, soaking, and a long slow baking brings about a richness in colour.

I think I suggest 2 hours baking but that can be extended with a lowered temperature which will yleld an even darker bread. Of course there's a limit to haw dark it will go but I've made them pretty dark!

To recapitulate,

  • use a high extraction flour/meal grain or a mixture of both grain & meal
  • soak part of the meal grain in water for at least 12hrs
  • long slow baking time

These days many bakeries prefer to add molases or dark malt extract to colour the product but it's not the same and even a poor fake in my opinion.

Here's a thread that Nina started that might be of interest also. 
nicodvb 2009 July 3
the rye I can use is of only one type: there's not nearly as much choice here in italy as in the rest of Euorpe as far as rye is concerned (it's almost unknown to the big public); anyway, judging from the melting effect it has on the preferments I do I tend to believe that the amylase activity in my rye is pretty good, maybe too good.

What do you mean by "high extraction"?

Do you think that cooking at 140 degrees with the pot completely enveloped in tin foil is a good method? Generally the only defect of my rye bread cooked in this manner is that when I slice it inside it's still a bit too damp.

BTW, I received a german bread made just like pumpernickel but with only cracked wheat in it. Is there a recipe for a bread like this? Just now I'm trying to make it with the same soaking+sordough method that you describe (although wheat doesn't contain all that amylase, if any at all)... let's see what comes out.
Danubian's picture
Danubian 2009 July 20
Extraction rate in reference to flour milling is expressed as a percentage (%) and refers to a given quantity of flour/meal yielded from a given quantity of grain. eg.

  • typical stone milling 
    • 100kg of grain yields ~ 100kg flour/meal
    • extraction = 100%

  • Typical roller milling white flour
    • 100kg grain yields ~84kg flour
    • extraction = 84%

The extraction rate has a profound effect on the quality and character of the flour & bread.

high extraction = high ash content = high amylse activity = lower pH (acid intensity) & higher TA (acid volume)

low extraction = lower ash content = lower amylse activity = higher pH & lower TA

This type of bread typically has a moist but stable & elastic crumb but it should not be "gummy".

Good luck

mineira 2010 November 2

I am looking for the dark rye bread that requires some soaking. The crust is very crusty and the interior is dense and moist.

I read Danubian's info. on the process. Could this be the one?

Would you have a recipe as well?

Thank you so much

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