Traditional pumpernickel is made with coarsely ground rye flour (and perhaps some wheat flour) and is fermented with sourdough starter. The acetic acid from the starter and the soluble fibre in rye keep the glycemic load (GL) of the bread low—much lower than that of white or even whole wheat bread. (Glycemic load is the measurement of how much carbohydrate you are consuming.)
One Canadian study found that pumpernickel bread had four to eight times as much resistant starch as breads made with wheat or barley. Resistant starch benefits blood sugar because it doesn’t digest easily. Like dietary fibre, it travels right past the stomach and small intestine and settles in the colon, where it’s broken down by bacteria and eventually expelled.
Not all store-bought pumpernickels have the same benefits as traditional German pumpernickel, though. Many get their dark colour from molasses, not from whole rye kernels and a special baking process that takes many hours. These types usually contain more wheat flour than rye, and some are made using yeast instead of sourdough starter.
Your best bet is to shop at a place that sells “artisan” breads. Such bakeries tend to use more traditional pumpernickel recipes. If the bread feels heavy for its size, it’s probably the real thing. Commercial brands, if you can find them, include Mestemacher (imported from Germany) and Rubschlager, which makes cocktail rye breads.
As with rye bread, pumpernickel loads you up with lignans, the naturally occurring plant compounds that may help reduce the risk of breast and prostate cancers.
If you buy traditional pumpernickel bread from the bakery or make it yourself, it’s preservative free, so you’ll need to store it in a plastic bag and use it within a few days.
- For appetizers, top small squares of pumpernickel bread with cream cheese, sliced onion, and tomato.
- Serve strong-flavoured sandwich fillings, such as aged cheese, on pumpernickel.
- Mustard goes well with pumpernickel, so spread this Magic food (actually, the vinegar in mustard is the magic ingredient) on your next ham and Swiss sandwich on pumpernickel.
- Serve a slice of pumpernickel as a hearty, satisfying accompaniment to soup or chili instead of crackers.