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Cooking Through Fiction: Dark and Grimm German Bread

Are you guilty of watering down a story because otherwise it might be too dark or too gritty or too scary or too much-too much? I’ll admit I like rainbows and unicorns and Care Bears and sunshine and daisies. I have probably asked for the kid-friendly version of a story a gazillion times.

When someone says, “I have to tell you what happened,” I normally ask, “Is this a sad story?” I need to be prepared. Don’t spring dark, gritty, scary, too much-too much stories on me. My heart needs to know that I’m about to venture down a dark path, and even then, I’m not always ready.

In Adam Gidwitz’ book, A Tale Dark and Grimm, the narrator warns the reader that the tale is, in fact, dark and grim. You might think you know the story about Hansel and Gretel, but let me warn you, you likely don’t. And their tale is dark and grim. You have been warned.

If you need extra warnings, be prepared to read about children losing heads, fingers, hope, humanity, and happiness. Be prepared for a trip to hell with hellish singing thrown in as a bonus. Be prepared for hunting, dragons, witches, evil and handsome young men, and cannibals. And that’s just a small portion of this dark, grim tale.

But let’s not leave out the happy stuff. There is cake, dark German bread, golden apples, a fountain of wine, love, victory, and redemption. So let’s celebrate these two dark, grim German siblings with dark, German bread and warm bread pudding!

Dark and Grimm Bread (pumpernickel)

Serves: 2 loaves; 12 slices per loaf

Level of Difficulty: Difficult, Not for the faint of heart or the impatient


For the Dough:

3 to 4 tbsp melted butter, for greasing

2 c 2% Greek yogurt, at room temperature

1 stick unsalted butter, softened and cut into small cubes

¼ c solid vegetable shortening, at room temperature

½ c blackberry preserves

¼ c molasses

1 tbsp instant espresso powder

1 c boiling water

2 ½ squares (2 ½ oz) unsweetened chocolate, broken

2 tbsp ground caraway seeds

1 ½ tbsp whole caraway seeds

1 tbsp fine table salt

2 ½ pkgs active dry yeast

½ c warm water

pinch of sugar

3 ½ c coarse rye flour

Up to 6 c bread flour, including flour for dusting and shaping

For the Glaze:

1 egg white beaten with 1 tsp water


sesame seeds and/or caraway seeds (optional)

Cornmeal (medium ground), for bakers peel

How to Make

  1. Brush an 8-qt bowl with melted butter and set aside to rise dough. Take out your pastry scraper, another large mixing bowl and a wooden spoon.

  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the yogurt, cubed butter, shortening, preservers, and molasses.

  3. Dissolve instant espresso in 1 cup boiling water, and pour into a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan. Add broken chocolate and melt chocolate in espresso over very low heat until smooth, stirring frequently. Add to mixing bowl with powdered and whole caraway seeds and salt.

  4. Dissolve yeast in ½ cup warm water with a pinch of sugar until creamy, and pour into mixing bowl along with the rye meal. Stir to combine well.

  5. Using a wooden spoon, briskly stir in enough bread flour, ½ to 1 cup at a time, until you create a mass that’s not easily stirred, but not dry.

  6. Turn the mass out onto a floured wooden board, and knead until smooth and elastic, adding only as much flour as necessary to prevent dough from sticking to your work surface and hands.

  7. When dough is smooth and elastic, place it in the buttered rising bowl. Cover bowl with buttered plastic wrap and a clean kitchen towel. Let rise in a draft-free spot until doubled in bulk, about 2 ½ hours.

  8. Punch down dough with several swift swats from the back of your hand to deflate dough totally. Turn over dough, cover, and let rise again for 1 ½ hours.

  9. Turn out fully risen dough onto a lightly floured board, and use the blade of your pastry scraper to divide dough in half.

  10. Work with half the dough at a time, keeping the other half covered. Divide half of dough into another half. Roll each new half into a long log, approximately 18 inches long.

  11. Pinch the two logs together at one end to seal. Let sit while you copy the same instructions for the remaining dough. Let dough braids sit for half an hour.

  12. While bread is rising, preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Spray baking sheet with oil.

  13. After mixing egg white and water, glaze loaves.

  14. Bake loaves at 450 degrees F for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees F and bake for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and place on wire racks to cool thoroughly before slicing.

Pumpernickel Bread Pudding

Serves: 9

Difficulty Level: Easy


1 loaf of pumpernickel (yield 6 c of cubed bread)

3 c of milk

6 large eggs

½ c of sugar

¼ c of brown sugar

1 tsp of vanilla extract

¼ tsp of salt

¼ tsp of nutmeg (optional)

¼ c to ½ c semi-sweet chocolate chips

How to Make

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

  2. Grease an 8×8 pan.

  3. Cube your bread in 1-inch pieces, and place them in a large bowl.

  4. In a medium bowl, mix eggs, milk, sugars, vanilla, salt, and nutmeg. Pour mixture over bread, and allow bread to soak up the mixture for approximately 20 minutes. Fold in your chocolate chips.

  5. Pour bread mixture into an 8x8 dish.

  6. Bake for 40-45 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted.

  7. Serve plain or with fresh whipped cream or ice cream.

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