by Iris Reiff
Strolling through the streets in Germany, you will find there are many family-owned and operated bakeries. The technical skills, the love and the passion for this unique craft have been passed on for many generations, and Germans are very proud of their baking culture.
A variety of different breads, rolls, cookies, pastries or cakes are offered daily in German bakeries. People are drawn to these bakeries because of the delicious smell of the fresh baked goods.
The craft of Baking Bread in Germany
The principles of baking bread were established thousands of years ago. The basic ingredients are flour, yeast, salt and water, and the baking process involves only four key steps – mixing, proving or fermenting, baking and cooling.
Though it sounds fairly simple to become a baker, certified bakery master Josef Berrens said it takes a lot to become a certified baker.
With his wife and two sons he runs a family business in Speicher, a German community located not far from Spangdahlem Air Base.
To become a “Brot” or “Baker Meister” isn’t a small thing; it takes a few years, Berrens said.
After completing school, one must complete a three-year apprenticeship to learn the ins and outs of bread making. Apprentices also clean up the bakery and participate in all stages of running a bakery. After the apprenticeship they are eligible to work in a bakery.
After five years of work and experience they are finally eligible to train to become a “Meister.” At this point they need to attend school in the evenings for two more years.
They must pass four exams dealing with education, theory and chemical processes, mathematics and one practical exam, which includes preparing a display of their products with a theme. Once a Meister they are allowed to take on apprentices of their own and teach the trade of bread making to other young apprentices.
Berrens has three other Meisters working for him and one has been employed with his business for more than 30 years. The Meister works about 12 hours a day, including Sundays.
“We start working about 3 or 4 in the morning,” Berrens said. “As the owner of the business I usually don’t get to bed before 9 p.m.”
The Berrens’ bakery produces about 60 different kinds of bread, about 50 different pastries and donuts and more than 20 different cakes.
Your Guide to German Breads and Buns
The most common and less expensive bread is known as Roggenmischbrot. It is a rye mix with wheat or flour. Bauernbrot is similar to Roggenmischbrot, but a bit tastier and is usually round.
Weizenmischbrot is also similar to Roggenmischbrot – it is also light in color, but is made with different proportions of wheat and rye. For a slightly more expensive bread with a higher nutritional value, try the Vollkorn bread or whole grain bread.
And of course, for white bread eaters there is Weissbrot. It does not cut or toast like American white bread, but it tastes even better.
Because the bread is fresh and doesn’t last as long as store-bought bread, Germans typically visit the bakery every couple of days.
Rolls are popular breads throughout the country. There are almost as many varieties of rolls as there is bread. At the bakery, just simply point to what you would like.
The best choice is usually a mix of some dark rolls, seed rolls (sesame seeds, sunflower seeds or caraway seeds) and plain white rolls. For breakfast you may prefer the white rolls for a lighter meal.
Many hotels in Germany will offer white rolls for breakfast that taste wonderful with marmalade or honey.
Plain white broetchens are continuously baked in most bakeries, so they are always available and fresh.
The darker rolls and seedbroetchens make great sandwiches when filled with ham, salami or cheese, tomatoes, cucumbers, eggs or leafy salads. They are quite nutritious, and offer a good amount of fiber.
Every day, 1,200 different kinds of fine pastries are said to come out of German bakeries.
People can stop in a German bakery and learn more about the art of baking from a local Baker Meister. Find out what is available or simply make your bakery visit a sweet memory.