Thursday, January 18, 2007

herring & pumpernickel

often there are foods we like, or even don't, that evoke strong memories from childhood about where and how we grew up. for myself, many of the things i ate were different from those of my friends. coming from a european-ish home meant many of these food items were just not on the tables of the other neighbourhood kids. much to my chagrin, we didn't have poptarts and wonderbread like i imagined them eating on reruns of the brady bunch. [of course, my parents never knew that i was eating it next door at the neighbour's house ;D].

from what i remember, in my house, foods did not come out of cans or boxes, for the most part, and going out to restaurants was really only a special occasions thing. i mean, who knew if the cooks had washed their hands properly or the food was fresh [not my words but take a guess who]. i think the mentality was, why pay someone to cook food you could cook yourself? that, however, did change later.

a strange part of north america for my parents, initially, was that people went to grocery stores once a week, as opposed to daily, and that everything was in boxes or packages, all items came from one single store and nothing was in metric [at the time]. after all, meats came from the butcher where people could actually see & decide on what pieces they wanted and how it was to be cut or ground. having "issues" with freshness, my mother ground her own beef. vegetables, in their minds, still had to have signs of dirt earth on them, almost freshly plucked from the soil. fish needed careful selecting to make sure it was almost still swimming when it was bought. herring was purchased in jars — the favourite was schmaltz herring, and also the one that came in oil.

how i remember weekends spent being shlepped to markets when all i wanted was to stay home and watch tv like everyone else in the world. stay home? ha! none of my protesting and foot stomping did the trick. the house would have burned down. robbers could have kidnapped me. there could have been an earthquake. [did i say i was 15? only joking]. i can still vividly remember being 5 or 6 and kicking around the sawdust that covered the floors in the marketplace we would visit and all the noise and smells.

one thing i came to appreciate only later, even though i ate it as a kid and hated it, was pumpernickel bread and herring — the most jewish of fish beside the gefilte. STOP! before continuing, it has to be explained that pumpernickel à la canadian and american is not the same as "the real" kind. i believe the words used by my parents in a foreign language to each other were, "what the h*ll is this?" when they tell the story about the guy at the grocery store who handed them their first loaf of pumpernickel bread here. after arguing insisting explaining that what he gave them wasn't pumpernickel, he told them that, 1) yes it was, 2) this was canada they were living in [he heard their accents] and 3) if they read the label, it said pumpernickel.

i don't think they went back to that store.

the following is a great article about the true way that pumpernickel is made in germany, and has been for hundreds of years, in very long moulds and the manner in which it is baked. this is an interesting pictorial lesson of someone who experimented in detail trying to recreate the real deal. mine, below, is a good alternative when you can't make it the authentic way.

easy european-style pumpernickel

this recipe results in a close approximation of a typical european pumpernickel bread. using no yeast, it relies on the process of fermentation to leaven it and takes a few days to "ripen" before it can be sliced and eaten. true pumpernickel bread gets its almost black colour from the maillard reaction causing the sugars to caramelize over a period of 24 to 36 hours of "steam baking". my recipe only cooks for 4 hours at low heat and then another 30 - 45 minutes at a higher one. it is therefore helped along by a bit of colouring by using high quality cocoa powder. for the purist, this is cheating and considered heresy. also used is bulgur wheat to add texture. a coarse grind is recommended but you can get away with using medium grind.

i make these in two very small loaf pans which measure [l] 6" x [w] 3 1/4" x [h] 2". they are the perfect size for hors d'oeuvres or small appetizers served along side a nice wine. you can make this pumpernickel bigger as a single loaf in a standard small loaf pan.


2 c rye flour
1/3 c coarse bulgur
1 tsp salt
1 3/4 c water
2 tsp oil
2 tbsp dark cocoa
1 tbsp molasses


mix the dry ingredients together in a bowl.

measure out the water, molasses and oil.

add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir well.

grease 2 small loaf pans or one standard sized one (small loaf) and place the batter in them/it.

place the loaf/loaves in a ziploc bag and seal it. put it in an oven with the pilot light on and let this ferment undisturbed for 24 hours. it must ferment this long, no shortcuts allowed. this is to help the loaves rise and to sour them somewhat. you will notice that the loaves have indeed risen without any yeast and will appear darker (compare above and belows photos).

after the rising time, carefully grease two pieces of parchment paper with oil and place these loosely on top of the loaves. cut them to size beforehand, measuring first. then take tin foil and double wrap the loaves tightly. if you don't place a barrier of parchment paper the acidity of the dough will react with the foil and cause little holes in the tin.

set these aside and preheat the oven to 225 F.

take a pyrex and fill it 3/4 full with boiling water. place a rack on top of it and then the loaves on the rack. let this steam bake for 4 to 5 hours. you shouldn't need to add water but check every few hours. add more if needed.

after 4 to 5 hours, remove the loaves but leave the rack and pyrex. raise the oven heat to 325F.

remove the foil and parchment from the loaves and replace the loaves now again (check the water) and bake for another 30 - 45 minutes. the tops should be hard.

after 45 minutes you will notice that the loaves will have shrunk. this is a good sign.

remove the loaves from the oven and let cool completely. when they are cold, wrap them twice or three times in plastic very tightly. let these age in a cool place for at least 2 days. they will improve with age.

carefully slice the loaves extremely thinly and enjoy with the garnishes you like. it is very good with fresh butter and sea salt.

the small ones are the perfect size for hor d'oeuvres.

rich cream cheese, anchovies and capers,
topped with toasted sesame seeds are a great combination.



The TriniGourmet said...

never could like herring... but sardines... oh sardines and pepper sauce with lime juice and salt... that is love... until recently we always had at least 2 tins in the pantry at all times... mom said it was a jewish thing...

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Ha, ha, I loved your story about being dragged to the market and making a tantrum because you wanted to stay at home ;-)!!! At least, now you know that is was for your own good as it developed your love for food...

Your pumpernickel looks absolutely delicious and those "tartines" really make me hungry! I bet that this bread would be superfine when eaten with "Rollmops"...

Here, we find that kind of bread in Valais (Pain Valaisan AOC), but it's made with sourdough.

tschoerda said...

... about the same over here: i can count the special occasions when i was a child and we went to restaurants on one hand (well, almost). mostly because i was raised in a working class household and we simply could not afford that kind of "fancy" dining.

nowadays my folks tend to take the whole family out to a restaurant once a year, on their anniversary. but up until today i somehow consider it a waste of money to go to a restaurant (cheap takeout not included *ggg*). in my life dining at a restaurant is totally reserved for special occasions, and it always includes dressing up and wearing heels instead of sneakers.

i can't believe you make your own pumpernickel!! that's a very time consuming challenge and i am glad i can buy pretty good pumpernickel in my local store.

the pictures look really tasty, i am totally craving pumpernickel now!!

beenzzz said...

Hey BB, that looks scrumptuous. I also like smoked salmon on bagels with cream cheese, capers, and tiny pieces of spicy red onion. MMMMM!

burekaboy — said...

sarina - hhehe, we also had those canned kind but i never liked 'em. i can eat sardines now but they literally made me gag when i was a kid. i could only eat them when they were fresh, breaded and fried. THOSE were def good and mediterranean. thanks for the link :)

rosa - thanks :) it's not the EXACT same thing but it's close enough for me to enjoy and it's moister than the dried out ones i find here. it would probably taste better if it was more soured like rogenbrot. if i used a sourdough (yeast) it would rise too much and not be dense as it is here in this recipe. i need to get a real pain de mie mould to do that.

i hated going to do the shopping. yawwwwn ;D i remember it smelled and was so noisy and there was a lot of waiting involved. i had important things to do at home!!

rollmops, hehe, haven't heard that in a while.

gerda - i seem to recall that lots of my friends didn't go out to restaurants but mostly that was an immigrant thing (maybe). either that, or i didn't know the right people ;P my parents, i think, didn't see the point of paying for lesser quality resto foods they could make themselves. oddly enough, they didn't have problems going to upscale places though LOL. people can be very strange when it comes to what they'll eat and how much they'll pay for it. it amazes me how people will spend hundreds of dollars every month just eating at fast food places 5 x per week cause they're too lazy to bring a lunch. look at the obesity problems these days. i think very few people make things from "scratch" anymore, at least here in N.A. everything is processed and filled with chemicals, fats and sugars. it's no surprise there is an epidemic of diabetes here. tragic as this type has now hit children and can be avoided through proper diet.

this bread is really a no-brainer; just mix and bake. it's mostly a lot of waiting. maybe a good experiment for tschoerda? ;P

beenz - smoked salmon, i could eat by the tons!

aja said...

Hey BB,
OMG you are just too amazing... homemade pumpernickel! Next you'll be making the pickled herring to go with. Surprisingly, it is really difficult to find p'nickel here - and when you do it is all dried out and not worth the small fortune you pay for it. Did I say you are amazing? 8^D

ML said...

That was a great story! Isn't it funny how you only appreciate things when you're all grown up?

My husband loves "American" style pumpernickel. I bet he would like your version. It looks like a wonderful recipe.

Vidya said...

I've never tasted pumpernickel, found it too expensive at the grocery store. Maybe I'll try your recipe, will give me a chance to taste rye. Can you tell, I'm a first generation immigrant :)

Just a thought. Instead of adding cocoa to get the dark color, have you tried using Brown Maskal Teff flour. The symbiotic yeast in Teff would be an added benefit during the overnight fermentation period.

I have been incorporating teff flour in all my cooking for the past 3 years, for obvious health reasons. It does darken the end product, so all my parathas, rotis, cookies and muffins are a darker shade, but there is no difference in taste. I substitute no more than half of atta/whole wheat flour with teff flour, since teff does not have any gluten.

burekaboy — said...

aja - LOL ... uhhhh, no. not gonna pickle any herring. i'm not that crazy.

surprising that, of all places, you can't find decent pumpernickel there. definitely not worth paying for overpriced dried out bread. this version is very labor UNintensive: mix, pour, bake and wait.

it is decent for a facsimile of the real one. thanks for the compliment :)

ml - thanks :)) i still buy the american kind. i think they also call it russian black bread here sometimes but that would be a mistake. authentic pumpernickel is very different as it is an extremely heavy, dense bread and very unlike american ones.

vidya - it's a good introduction to rye but as i said it's not yeasted. you'd probably have to try a typical rye bread recipe to compare. i happen to like rye but it's not a big favourite with people. i think that is more cultural however as it's more of a european kind of flour.

i am very interested in trying out this teff flour. i haven't heard of the brown maskal before. the fact that you say it has symbiotic yeast would most probably make a difference in the fermentation. i will pick some up and try it out, omitting the cocoa powder to see how it fares (unless you get to it before i do and you can tell me how it went). interesting that you're using it with atta. very innovative :)

Lisa said...

I also loved your story; it was so evocative—and I relate to it a lot, myself. Your tiny slices of pumpernickel look incredible—and I can't believe how clean your oven is! :)

Pammie said...

Fantastic photie of the final product at the end, Burekaboy! Looks very very snackable.

Where were your parents from? Kids never seem to appreciate the problems their parents went through adapting to a new country...all the want to do is be like their other friends at school. I am sure they are glad you appreciate it now!

burekaboy — said...

lisa - thank you. happy to hear you liked the story :)) wasn't sure how it was going to turn out while i was typing.

btw...a clean oven is ALWAYS a good thing in my books ;P i was embarrassed that there were spots in the back wall from something that splashed the other day!

Princess Jibi said...

I have only heard about pumpernickel bread from watching Barney the dinasour when I was small, they had a song or sth, but I remember it being like round like a donut or something...

Your story is nice, it makes me miss home lol, we hardly use tin stuff in our country, except for sardines...

I never had herring, i bought a tin to try it out. But I am always scared of trying new stuff, cause I am not sure what its suppose to taste like, then if its spoilt, I wont know, cause I dont know what it tastes like.

I like mollasses, so I guess the bread must eat really nice...

burekaboy — said...

pj - i am also a bit leary of trying new things sometimes :| it took me a long time to eat sardines from the can/tin. herring that comes in vinegar is pickled so it lasts for a very long time. it shouldn't be spoiled. just check on the bottle, it has a "best before" date. i never follow that date cause most always you can eat the things after that date for an extra week or so.

i like molasses, too. i think you make it in guyana, don't you? i know you have lots of sugar cane.