OK, so I’m a little excited about the solar eclipse Monday. I took the day off. My son and I are going to Penn State Behrend for the viewing party there (1 to 4 p.m. at the School of Science.) Even if the weather is bad here, we’ll be able to see NASA-TV on the big screen inside.

So I had eclipse on the brain and co-worker Bill Dietz said he wanted a recipe for Moon Pies in honor of the event. Then, from somewhere in the deep recesses of my brain, bubbled up an almost-forgotten interest in attempting pumpernickel bread. I saw a picture of a nice round loaf and figured it would look cool on a yellow plate, like the moon in front of the sun, with the corona blazing around it.

And then pumpernickel bagels because, well, once you have the stuff for pumpernickel bread, you might as well make pumpernickel bagels, too.

Five things I learned:

1. What the heck is pumpernickel after all? Well, one answer is that it’s a “dark, dense German bread made from coarsely ground whole-grain rye,” according to Google’s dictionary. But that did not satisfy my curiosity. I mean, that name is so intriguing, it must mean something.

I found a couple of stories, both most likely apocryphal. One has it that it was French for “bread fit for horses,” and another that it was German for “farting devil.” I like them both, but the truth is lost to history, it seems.

2. There is even more disagreement about how to make that deep dark, dense loaf. I finally found Pumpernickel Bread Flour at baking supply company King Arthur Flour. This is not to be confused with Pumpernickel Bread Flavor, a mistake I made, measuring 1/3 cup of the flour into the bagel dough that called for the flavor.

I’m not sure what’s in the flavor, but the flour is a course grind of rye grain, and needs to be blended with a more refined flour in order to behave like bread. In either case, the flour is not the source of the deep, dark color that we associate with pumpernickel. For that, I actually added cocoa powder to King Arthur Flour’s bagel recipe and bumped up the water a bit. The Dark Pumpernickel Bread loaf called for coffee, molasses and cocoa powder, which provided plenty of color.

By the way, neither the bread nor bagel tasted of chocolate — only a welcome bitterness — or sweetness: The sugars they called for were mostly consumed by the yeast. Both loaf and bagel are savory, delicious with cream cheese, avocado, pickles, sprouts, tomato and/or sandwich meats.

3. You don’t need pumpernickel bread flour to make either of the pumpernickel recipes. Regular rye flour will taste just as good and will have a lighter texture.

I got the flour because I make a special spinach dip for which I’m always looking for a round pumpernickel loaf to hollow out and use as a serving dish. For some reason, recently, I can’t find said loaf. Rather than waste trips to the store, I’d just as soon make it myself.

4. About the “non-diastatic malt powder.” I’ve been making bagels since before I started writing this column. I always added a tablespoon or two of sugar to the boiling water, which gave the bagels a nice shine and a smidgen of extra flavor. Turns out, in New York, bakers use non-diastatic malt powder, which is a “sweet derivative of roasted barley,” as well as sugar.

The malt powder is 60 percent as sweet as sugar, and is used for color and flavor. If you don’t plan to make bagels often, don’t bother with malt powder. Brown or white sugar will work just fine.

5. Have you ever wondered why we put salt in baked goods such as cookies? Well, I wondered this for the 1,000th time as I made the cookies for the Moon Pies.

According to www.howstuffworks.com, it’s what I call “the watermelon effect.” The salt is there to intensify other flavors and takes the edge off the cloying sweetness of the sugar. (I do not put salt on my watermelon because, unlike everyone else in my family, I don’t think it makes it taste better. But apparently I’m just wrong.)

Southern Moon Pies

½ cup butter, softened

1 cup white sugar

1 egg

1 cup evaporated milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon salt

½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1½ teaspoons baking soda

½ teaspoon baking powder

½ cup butter, softened

1 cup powdered sugar

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup marshmallow creme

Preheat oven to 400 F. Lightly grease a baking sheet.

To Make Cookie Crusts: In a large mixing bowl, cream together ½ cup butter or margarine and white sugar. Add egg, evaporated milk, and vanilla. Mix well. In a separate bowl, mix together flour, salt, cocoa powder, baking soda, and baking powder. Add flour mixture slowly to sugar mixture while stirring. Mix just until all ingredients are combined.

Drop the dough onto greased baking sheet by rounded tablespoonfuls. Leave at least 3 inches in between each one; dough will spread as it bakes.

Bake in preheated oven for 6 to 8 minutes, until firm when pressed with finger. Allow to cool at least one hour before filling.

To Make Marshmallow Filling: In a medium mixing bowl, blend together ½ cup butter or margarine, powdered sugar, flavored extract, and marshmallow creme. Mix until smooth. Assemble pies by spreading 1 to 2 tablespoonfuls of filling on flat side of a cookie crust, then covering filling with flat side of another cookie crust.

— www.allrecipes.com

Pumpernickel Bagels

Makes 8 bagels

1/3 cup pumpernickel bread flour

1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

3¾ cups bread flour

1½ cups water

2 teaspoons salt

1 tablespoon non-diastatic malt powder or brown sugar

1 tablespoon instant yeast

8 cups water

2 tablespoons non-diastatic malt powder (or brown sugar)

1 tablespoon sugar

Combine the dough ingredients in a mixing bowl and knead vigorously, by hand for 10 to 15 minutes, or by machine on medium-low speed for 10 minutes. The dough will be quite stiff.

Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl. Let it rise, covered, until noticeably puffy, 60 to 90 minutes.

Divide the dough into 8 pieces. Roll one piece at a time into a smooth ball. Let the balls rest, covered, for 30 minutes; they’ll puff slightly.

Bring the water, malt powder, and sugar to a very gentle boil in a wide-rimmed pot. Preheat the oven to 425 F.

Cut or poke a hole through the center of each ball. Stretch the hole with your fingers until it’s 2 inches in diameter. Place the bagels on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet.

Transfer bagels, 4 at a time, to the simmering water. Cook for 2 minutes on one side, flip over gently, and cook for another minute.

Remove the bagels from the water and return to the baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining bagels.

Bake the bagels for 25 minutes.

Remove the bagels from the oven, and cool on a rack.

— Adapted from www.kingarthurflour.com

Dark Pumpernickel Rye Bread

¾ cup, plus 2 tablespoons brewed coffee (room temperature)

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 tablespoons dark molasses

2 cups bread flour

1 cup medium rye flour

5 teaspoons cocoa powder

1½ teaspoons sugar

1½ teaspoons salt

¾ teaspoons onion powder

2¼ teaspoons active dry yeast

In a medium bowl, combine 1 cup bread flour, cocoa powder, sugar, salt, onion powder, and yeast.

In another bowl, combine liquid ingredients and heat to 120 to 130 F.

Combine dry mixture and liquid ingredients in mixing bowl with paddle or beaters for 4 minutes on medium speed. Gradually add rye flour and remaining 1 cup bread flour to form a firm dough. Knead with dough hook 5 to 7 minutes until smooth and elastic.

Place dough in lightly oiled bowl and turn to grease top. Cover and let rise until dough tests ripe, about 1 hour.

Turn dough onto lightly floured surface; punch down to remove air bubbles. On lightly floured surface, shape dough into a round loaf. Place on lightly greased baking sheet or in 8-inch layer cake pan. Cover and let rise in warm place until indentation remains after touching (about 30 minutes).

Bake in preheated 400 F oven for 30 to 35 minutes.

Optional: Combine ¼ cup water and ½ teaspoon cornstarch; heat to boiling. Five minutes before the loaf is finished baking, remove from oven and brush top with cornstarch glaze. Sprinkle with caraway seeds, if desired. Return to oven and bake approximately 5 more minutes until glaze is glossy and loaf sounds hollow when tapped. Remove from pan; cool before slicing.

Note: This recipe is written for a medium (1½ pound) loaf using a stand mixer. Instructions for 3 loaf sizes and several methods are available at http://redstaryeast.com/dark-pumpernickel-rye-bread.

— Jennie Geisler can be reached on Twitter: @ETNGeisler.