An ode to the Frug

Look back. Go ahead and look back in time. Do you remember all of the people, the experiences you had, the books you read, the flavors you tasted. The many influences that make you into the cook you are today? Hell, the person you are today? Look back and smile. Look back and laugh. Enjoy. It’s all been good.

When I was a girl, I loved to bake. I only began to dabble in cooking when I began to stumble onto the many things that would influence what I loved to eat. One person who influenced me was a strange and silly man. A theologian, a historian, he was not a chef. He was a home cook. Endlessly fascinating, clumsy in the kitchen, but knowledgeable and quite possibly the first real foodie I had ever seen. He dubbed himself the Frugal Gourmet and I sat on floor in front of the TV each week to listen to stories, be entertained and watch a man make amazing food in a really nice kitchen with better equipment than I thought I’d ever have access to.

To tell you the truth, I think I enjoyed watching his antics more than cooking out of his books. I loved to watch him. His show made me happy. His recipes were unfortunately inconsistent and he made me into a better cook because I often had to make changes to the recipes to get them to work.

But… I miss the Frug. I was so happy to stumble onto the fact that other people loved him enough to keep recordings of his show and post them on YouTube. I have a treat for you. Here is a quintessential example of why I was mesmerized by his show. Please spend the next half hour watching the Frugal Gourmet bake with sourdough. You won’t regret it. Please keep reading after the show. I baked up one of his other loaves of bread and you won’t want to miss that!

Even after all of these years, I still use my Frugal Gourmet cookbooks. The other day, I whipped out my copy of The Frugal Gourmet on our Immigrant Ancestors. I have to admit that out of the three books of his I own, this isn’t my favorite, and I haven’t really looked at it with fresh eyes in quite awhile. After I made some enchiladas verde con queso using the recipe from the Mexico chapter as a rough guideline (I have completely changed this recipe over the years to be much more healthy), I began to page through this book. There are so many bread recipes. I didn’t know. At the time I got these books, I wouldn’t have dared bake bread. When I got to the chapter on Germany, I became very curious about the pumpernickel bread recipe. It sounded so delicious!

I finally had the chance to bake up a loaf of this wonderful bread today. I’m happy I never tried to bake this bread years ago because I would have been frustrated. The recipe called for over half a cup more white flour than necessary and the bread needed to bake for fifteen minutes longer than the recipe called for which are errors I never would have caught before I became a seasoned bread baker. But, I have to say, I was so happy with this bread. The Frug wrote in his book about this bread: “It is simple to do and the results are better than those of most bakeries that you know” Comparing this to the sourdough rye I made awhile back, it took a third of the time, a third of the kneading and the bread was just as delicious as that much more complex loaf. My boyfriend thinks it is better than the pumpernickel bread we get at a favorite restaurant which comes from a respected bakery. I have to say this is a very close second to that bread too!

If you love pumpernickel bread and want an simple recipe, this is for you! This loaf is going to YeastSpotting, a showcase of fine bread across the Blogosphere.

Pumpernickel bread

Adapted from The Frugal Gourmet on our Immigrant Ancestors by Jeff Smith

4 ½ tsp active yeast

1 ¼ cup tepid water (between 105 – 110 degrees, F.)

1 cup whole grain rye flour

1 cup whole wheat flour

¼ cup molasses

2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder

1 tbsp whole caraway seeds

1 ½ tsp salt

1 cup unbleached white flour (possibly more if needed)

Cornmeal for dusting your peel

In a large bowl, combine yeast and water. Allow to proof for 10 minutes. It should be nice and frothy. Add rye flour, whole wheat flour, molasses, cocoa, caraway seeds and salt. Mix well. Add white flour and mix with a heavy spoon or spatula until well combined. Turn out onto a floured board. This makes a very dense dough. The original recipe called for over a half cup more white flour which could be added if the dough is sticky. If your dough is sticky, add a tablespoon of flour at a time if needed. Knead the dough for 5 – 7 minutes. It will become smooth and elastic and the outside will feel soft like your earlobe. (This dough will not be elastic enough to do a window pane test).

Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl. Cover with a heavy cloth and allow to rise until doubled, about an hour.

Punch the dough down. Knead for a minute and then form into a ball. Sprinkle a peel or a rimless cookie sheet with a liberal amount of cornmeal. Lay the dough ball on the cornmeal. Cover the dough with the cloth and allow to rise until doubled again, about an hour.

Put a pizza stone on the top rack in the oven. Also place a metal pan on the lower rack of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Using the peel or a rimless baking sheet, transfer the dough to the hot stone. Pour about a cup of water into the metal pan to create steam. Bake the bread for 45 minutes. The bread is ready when it sounds hollow when you tap it on the bottom and/or an instant read thermometer reads an internal temperature of 190 degrees F. when poked into the bread.



  1. drfugawe said,

    August 17, 2010 at 7:57 am

    Kudos for not dredging up muck – the guy really knew how to cook, and personally, I loved his style of instruction. I differ a little from your take on his recipes – I can’t remember ever having a problem with any of his recipes, and I’ve got six of his books – and use them a lot.

    I think he had a special knack with Asian stuff, and his recipe for chicken teriyaki in TFG Cooks With Wine (which he says he got from a Japanese friend) is perhaps the easiest and most luscious chicken preparation I know of!

    Nice post Mimi.

    • Mimi said,

      August 17, 2010 at 8:57 am

      The muck makes me so unhappy, so I try not to think about it. I just stay in denial.

      The problem with the recipes is probably a problem with me. There is the most amazing stuffed shells recipe in the TFG cooks with wine book. I love it. But no matter how stingy I am with the filling, I always end up with a huge pile of shells that don’t get stuffed. I’ve just learned to live with it, stuff the shells vigorously (the 9″ x 13″ pan always fills up) and then save some sauce to eat the extra pasta with on the side.

      The bread recipe really surprised me. I had a hard lump of dough at three cups of flour. I was worried it would be too hard to rise properly. The extra half cup was unnecessary. I almost feel like he meant to say something like “another half cup of flour if needed” on the ingredients list but he didn’t. He instructs to add the one cup of white flour and then he says to add more to get the dough to the right consistancy. For me, I didn’t need it.

      Thanks for the tip. I’m going to go check out that teriyaki recipe! It sounds good!!

  2. Kevin said,

    August 17, 2010 at 10:12 am


    I remember very vividly watching TFG with my mother… that and Julia.

    • Mimi said,

      August 17, 2010 at 10:28 am

      Now I know why you love cooking. Your Mom got you hooked early!

  3. August 17, 2010 at 11:14 am

    Darn, ahah, I’m in the library right now, so I can’t check out the videos just yet, but I’d like to in the future ;] I like your description of this man, how he’s a home cook. It sounds very comforting, like he doesn’t really have any ulterior motives besides creating nurturing foods. Your bread sounds super neat, especially with the great compliment that your boyfriend gave it–I like the look of it, a nice big hunking loaf. I feel like just tearing a chunk out of it to munch on–would that restaurant or the Frug approve of my methods? ;]

    • Mimi said,

      August 17, 2010 at 11:35 am

      I would approve of your methods but only if you have a big chunk of butter to smash into first. 😀

  4. Andreas said,

    August 17, 2010 at 1:52 pm

    Very funny and inspirational videos. As he apparently likes to cook with wine, he can’t be a bad person in the first place.

    Of course, anyone who makes references to Jabba the Hutt while baking with sourdough is my friend. But you knew you could get me with this one, didn’t you. 😉

    There has been a popular DIY-programme on German television from 1974 to 2004 which also made an episode on bread baking which happens to be also available on youtube:

    As this episode aired in 1977, when I was three years old, I can’t remember having seen it. But watching this series was a regular weekly event in my family. I vaguely remember a fun New Years Eve episode (a bit like today’s Simpson Halloween episodes), which featured a Glas Noodle Salad with instructions to buy a sheet of window pane glas, get your local gaffer to cut it into quarter-inch strips and simmer those in a pot of water on the stove for two weeks straight. 😉

    • Mimi said,

      August 17, 2010 at 2:25 pm

      The Frugal Gourmet did a whole series where he cooked with wine. I haven’t found any of those episodes online yet, but I recall that he used to take more than a sip or two during the episodes which made for some interesting and fun television.

      I have to admit that I did think about you when he mentioned Jabba the Hut.

      The DIY-programme looks really great. Unfortunately, I don’t speak German so I only understood a few words, but, wow! The bread looked so good!! One of these days I’ll make it out to Germany. It will be worth it just for the food and bread and beer!!

  5. August 19, 2010 at 1:37 pm

    I’m not familiar with the show, but I can say I’ve heard of it. Love the bread you have been baking! I will have to bookmark these videos to watch soon!

  6. August 20, 2010 at 12:03 am

    […] Pumpernickel Bread […]

  7. Swathi said,

    August 20, 2010 at 2:30 pm

    I was looking for an simple recipe to make Pumpernickel Bread. I will try . I am not familiar with the show.Thanks for visiting my blog. You have nice space

  8. Elizabeth said,

    August 20, 2010 at 2:36 pm

    Ha! I remember watching those shows. They were always a tiny bit frantic but I loved watching him. You gotta love that voice!

    There are two FrugGourm recipes we use ALL the time that we got from watching his show. (I don’t have any of the cookbooks) His basil pesto (as I recall, he talked about making sure to use LOTS of basil) and a really spectacular roast chicken pieces in lemon juice and thyme that doesn’t require salt. It’s great for serving to people who are supposed to reduce their salt intake but don’t want to….

    The bread looks terrific. And I adore caraway in rye bread. I wouldn’t have thought of adding cocoa but it does make sense as a colouring agent.

    (I too just pretend I don’t know about the muck.)

    • Mimi said,

      August 20, 2010 at 2:49 pm

      OMG Elizabeth,
      You just reminded me about the pesto recipe. I think it comes from his “cooks with wine” book. In that book, he uses it in a recipe called scallops in pesto. It is to die for!! I think I’ll need to make scallops SOON!

  9. MC said,

    August 21, 2010 at 5:15 am

    A trip down memory lane! What a wonderful way to start the day…but unfortunately I have to wait until I have a faster connection to the Internet to see the shows. I am bookmarking this post! Thank you. The pumpernickel loaf looks beautiful. I love the color of the crumb…

  10. August 23, 2010 at 9:30 am

    Oh Mimi this is fabulous. I think baking especially but cooking too are so much a process of evolution like you draw here! Baking bread is really a long learning process.
    This is beautiful and the bread too!

  11. girlichef said,

    August 27, 2010 at 8:58 am

    YES! The Frugal Gourmet was one of the shows I loved to watch as a kid…along w/ Yan Can Cook and Justin Wilson. I love this post…and gorgeous loaf!

  12. Sandra said,

    September 3, 2010 at 7:49 am

    So wonderful to go down memory lane and visit some old friends, huh? I also really loved Jeff and his shows. Good looking bread there, and you just reminded me to pull out my old Frugal Gourmet cookbook!

  13. Sandra said,

    September 3, 2010 at 7:51 am

    Great looking bread. You just reminded me to pull out my old Frugal Gourmet cookbook.

  14. Madam Chow said,

    September 3, 2010 at 8:18 am

    I used to watch that show with my mom!

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