German Bread

Bread Tradition in Germany

From the days of Charlemagne until the end of the previous century, a staple of the German diet was thick, hearty slices of sourdough-leavened bread made from grains like rye or spelt. The German word for supper, “abendbrot,” means “evening bread.”

German Bread Tradition
German Bread Tradition

In Germany, bread is more than just a food – it is a part of the German culture. Germany produces more varieties of breads than any other country in the world. The Deutsche Brotkultur bread registry, run by the Zentralverbandes des Deutschen Bäckerhandwerks Ev. has documented over 3000 varieties of dark and white breads and over 1,200 varieties of rolls and mini-breads (Brötchen & Kleingebäck) are produced in Germany.

Germans abroad yearn for German bread. You can’t easily find German style bread in the states. Yes, there’s Jewish Rye, which comes close, but the coarse, thick German bread is nearly non-existent. Back in the day, the East European immigrants came the closest to recreating such loaves in the US , but the sourdough fermentation/proofing process took days and soon succumbed to the quickly mass produced starchier white breads. German bread is really unique and it is hard to find anything close outside of Germany.

The Bread business is changing. There is an epidemic of gluten sensitivity in the US, but it remains hard to believe that the most important food in all our recorded history, so highly revered, and so widely eaten, is quietly poisoning us. The arsenal of gluten based additives, used in mass produced loaves and products is more likely to blame. Thankfully the number of small artisan bakers in the US is growing. But the last few years have seen the opposite trend in the German baker’s trade: self-service discount bakeries are popping up in almost every city in Germany. Their breads are mass produced, par baked and even frozen and only get crisped up in the local branches. They may offer low prices and convenience, but their products are often considered to lack taste and their competitive prices could force many small traditional artisan bakers out of business.

That shift in culture is so worrying to bakers, that they are taking extraordinary steps to raise the awareness of Germans, and the world, to the uniqueness of their threatened baking traditions. They are reaching out to young people via social media in an effort to attract more of them to the job. The German Bakers’ Association also applied for the country’s baking tradition to receive special recognition and protection by adding it to the UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) list of Intangible Cultural Heritage.

The education and cultural affairs minister conference and a panel of experts from the German UNESCO commission will assemble the final list (from 128 submittals), which will include 30 to 50 candidates. We will see which of Germany’s entries will be recognized in 2016 at the earliest.