A couple of astute readers out there noticed something about the black bread (pumpernickel) recipe. Specifically that after the initial “soaking” step, no more liquid is added. Can that be right? Indeed it is, and for that you can thank the goo. The pentosan gums, in other words.
Rye-intensive breads can be very tricky from a mixing standpoint. Once pentosans start absorbing water they get gooier and gooier — even without added moisture. The longer you mix, the gummier and stickier the dough gets. That natural reaction is to just throw in a little more flour. Problem solved. Only where rye is concerned that’s like trying to put out a flaming hanky with lighter fluid. The more flour (and gum) that goes in the wetter the dough seems to get until it’s all but overflowing the mixing bowl. So when your pumpernickel dough gets to the sticky point — and it will — just remember that the dough isn’t over-hydrated, it’s just replete with goop. Dust your hands and surfaces with extra flour and carry on.