First of all, :~(
It smells so good, just the right combination of sweet roasted grain aroma, but it's so darn hard I can't even saw into it with my Cutco knives. I was able to chip a little off the end to taste, and I think the look of the grain and the basic taste are both right, but it definitely tasted burnt. Somehow, wrapped in foil and in a steamy oven, it still apparently burnt to a crisp over 24 hours. I've read several places that traditional pumpernickel bake times are at least 16 hours, but maybe 24 hours was just too long (though it seemed to have worked for Samartha).
Al encourages me to try again; he had some beer and mead flops at the beginning too (some batches that couldn't be drunk even when drunk, so to speak), but he keeps tweaking and trying new things till they're wonderful [I still think he needs to submit some of his batches to some sort of competitions – the raisin-clove mead, now almost 6 years old, being my favorite].
Maybe I'll try the baking method shown in my Oetker book for some other whole grain breads: They sit for about 13 hours, and then bake for around 2 hours, though they don't turn black like pumpernickel, so they're apparently not going through the Maillard reaction thing (see Part I). So if I want to try that, I guess I would need to mix up the dough early in the morning before I leave for work, leave it rest all day, and bake it at night. Too late for that today, so I'll shoot for tomorrow, meaning I'll need to get my starter out tonight…
[Of course, I suppose part of the problem could also be that my starter's a dud, which I'm still not quite clear on how to know. If this next attempt also yields something uncuttable, I'll assume this is the case, and try starting the whole process over from the beginning. Tenacity, that's the key.]