Apparently, Germans have more bakeries and eat more varieties of bread than most other countries in the world. Germany officially added bread culture to its UNESCO Nationwide Inventory of Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2014. There’s even a German Institute for Bread. According to its register, there are more than 3,200 officially recognized types of bread in the country.
Photo by: Jonathan Pielmayer, Unsplash
Bread is a staple for most meals in Germany. There are bread baskets with cold cuts for breakfast, bread for breaks (Pausenbrot, or "break bread") and literally “bread of the evening” for dinner or Abendbrot. Many key German words are connected to bread. One of the words for work is Broterwerb, literally "gaining one's bread."
With less sunshine compared to its southern neighbors where wheat-based baguette and ciabatta are popular, Germany has grains such as rye and spelt dominating the bread consumption.
Having bakery on every corner (there’s even a bakery finder app), however, didn’t stop people in Germany to join the bread-baking frenzy, like the rest of the world, during pandemic. There are online communities talking about vintage grains, locating special yeasts with very special microbes, and avid discussions on what makes a perfect crust.
We go as far as naming our favorite (and healthiest) bakeries in Berlin revealed by local bread buffs and baking aficionados.
During lockdowns, it seemed as if everyone learned to make sourdough bread and starter from scratch. Sourdough is a healthier choice than some other breads because the natural yeast that is used to make it actually unlocks the nutrients in wheat. Hidden in the Sophie-Gips courtyard in Mitte but hardly a secret anymore, Sofi bakery is where Berliners stand queuing at a distance, waiting to purchase takeaway artisanal sourdough bread, or morning buns made from croissant dough with orange, cardamom, and cinnamon. Its craft bakers use grains sourced from small, organic farmers in northern Europe. The ingredient list for every loaf is very simple: high quality flour, a little water, salt, and some sourdough culture. But what makes this bread utterly delicious and crusty is the process. It usually takes two days to make the bread, and croissants take three to four days.
If you visit the Kollwitzmarkt on Thursday, you will find this small bread stand with only four (!) bread varieties, but don’t let it throw you. In 1977, a baker and confectioner Heinz Weichardt together with his wife Mucke founded the first whole-grain Demeter bakery in Berlin. Like all Demeter-certified products, their bread is made according to the strictest cultivation guidelines, and the grains are sourced from biodynamic farms across Germany. The grains are milled on the 12th century stone coming from South Tyrol, grinding gently and slowly and keeping the taste alive even after baking. The bread is then sold at the select markets and other locations across Berlin.
Florian Domberger and his bakery in Moabit have been making perfect loaves since 2016. He loves sharing his love for bread by being mobile. He sells at several food-truck locations in Berlin, including at Markthalle IX, as well as takes his reconstructed military trailer loaded with fresh sourdough varieties to other regions, where supermarkets are, otherwise, the only choice for buying bread. Florian supports regional suppliers. His flour comes from the Erzgebirge millers. Ingredients used to prepare sandwiches or cakes come from Uckermark. He is a true bread nerd worried about temperature fluctuations and humidity levels, quality of flour, and other “yet unidentified” factors that might affect his baking or rising dough. He insists that longer fermentation and resting time give his bread a fuller flavor and undeniable taste. And we agree!
This bakery has been around the block for a long time and was the first to make a good crusty bread fashionable. They even supply to several Michelin-star restaurants in the city. We find their signature loaf (the Rundling), a hard-crusted country bread made from rye with a little wheat flour, spectacular, but not to miss is their pastries, cakes and other delicacies, now, thankfully, sold in two other locations (including Markthalle IX) around Berlin.
This small bakery in Graefekiez has become popular supplying bread and pastries to some of the best specialty coffee shops and restaurants in town. Their flaky pastries and bread varieties take inspiration from traditional French, German, and Italian techniques, refreshing them with an additional focus on high-quality and sustainable ingredients. During the first lockdown, the owners were the quickest to adapt and started delivering, which they do to this day, so if you don’t live in Kreuzberg, you can always opt-in for one of their staff to bring you freshest loaves and croissants to your door.