Working in a German Bakery
by Corliss Cogan
As for German bread, ther is nothing like it. I worked for awhile in Berlin at Backhaus, A bio-organic bakery. My job, each day, was to get money from the till, go to market and buy and prepare the noon vegetarian meal. This included wine and beer!!! What a job!!! I also got to eat.
Out of curiosity, I started hanging out in the bakery learning the bread making trade. We would grind 100lb. bags of various grains immediately before processing them.
Our oven was an ancient stone oven, with these old steam vents...It's the addition of steam that helps to form the crust. When we would remove the bread we would mist it down with a hose!!! We baked in bamboo baskets that afforded a lovely texture on the bread. To this day, when I bake bread, I spray inside the oven while I'm baking to enhance the crust!
The flours are different, and rising times are longer. I guess we just milled the heck out of everything. No yeast was used, ever. Ancient mutters ("mothers", this is like a sourdough starter) would be mixed in tubs with leftover loaves of old bread, water added, maybe a few beers, and that would ferment overnight for the next day.
Americans don't know what good bread is...It's the one true thing I really miss. I guess that's why Atkins hasn't caught on over there. Bread actually is a nutritionally good thing. Some bakeries have huge loaves you can buy slices or chunks of!!! The possibilities are endless.
This, combined with the fact that you actually walked to the bakery for your morning rolls, hot from the oven and walked back again is just a thing of beauty.
As to the flour, I always buy new flour at the health food store as it contains more nutrients and makes for a better consistancy...better gluten.Keep the dough wet. One big mistake is working in too much flour. I knead the dough in the Kitchen aid and then just put it in the form...don't roll it out, form a loaf etc. The bread just gets too heavy and dense. Since you already have a heavy and rather dense dough due to the flour (whole grain) there is no need to overwork it!
So, wet dough, the shape will come when it rises. While baking, create "Schwaden", or steam. I use a plastic spray bottle and open the oven just a crack and spray inside! This creates steam that helps form the crust. I do this often and also occasionally I spray the loaf, itself. I put cheap mexican tiles (saltillo tiles, 99 cents at Home Depot) on the botton of the oven to create a stone oven with a constant radiant heat.
I forgot to mention that the wooden baking baskets (bannetons) can be found at SurLaTable, a kitchen equipment store. They also have a web site of the same name. Not too expensive and also attractive, they can double as bread baskets to serve your little bread beauties!
This started it all we wanted to preserve our grandmothers favorite recipes and the stories starting from when she was a little girl in Germany
Browse through our cookbook
German Bread Recipes