Proper German baking is something I’ve I’ve aspired to achieve ever since I first set foot in Berlin about 8 years ago. English bakeries have something slightly down-at-heel, something slightly tatty and sad. I remember huge plastic-fronted counters, usually poorly-lit, with rows and rows of brightly-coloured biscuits, chocolate-covered eclairs and always, always some garish-red glacé cherries sitting atop something sweet and drenched in white water-icing. The breads were in three varieties: white, brown and cottage loaf. The delights of a granary were (as far as I can remember) a modern innovation from the late nineties when suddenly the Chorleywood bread process was recognised as a rather strange and mechanical way to make bread. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with a sandwich loaf, but I remember bakeries of the past as slightly sad places, places with queues and nowhere to stand.
Continental bakeries, on the other hand, are Aladdin’s caves. Usually with rows and rows of loaves in a huge array of colours ranging from pale cream to gold to deep, burnished mahogany brown, from wheat to rye to barley to god-only-knows what. The pastries are an even deeper mystery, a fascinating range of gorgeous treats which my waistline is preventing me from exploring further lest I truly balloon into a true heifer.
On my last trip to Frankfurt I decided to pick up a few more german baking magazines, including a copy of LandGenuss (“Flavour of the land”) and in particular its bread special. The following is a recipe for “Spring Bread” using carrot which is particularly tasty. The original recipe called for carrot and courgette which I thought risked being way too wet. As it was, with carrot alone the dough was an arsehole to knead, being impossible to assess for proper springiness due to the sheer amount of grated veg in it. As it was, I just kneaded as vigorously as I could and hoped for the best. Fortunately the fact I was using fresh yeast seems to have reduced the rise on these little buns, but I’d very much doubt you could usefully get a tin out of this recipe without risking some very heavy bread indeed…
Frulingsbrot (“Springbread”) baps
Makes 12 large baps or 2 loaves
2 large carrots, grated
1/2 cube fresh yeast (about 15g), or 1 tsp dried
1 dessertspoon wild honey
250g strong white bread flour
250g wholemeal rye flour
large pinch salt (optional – I forgot this and it was totally fine)
100g mixed seeds, especially heavy on the pumpkinseed
- Squeeze out the carrot to remove some of the water.
- In a large bowl, cream the fresh yeast with 375ml warm water and mix in the honey. Leave aside for 10 minutes to activate and grow.
- Meanwhile, mix the flours in the bowl with the salt, then throw in the carrot and mix well. Add the yeast and knead together into a soft dough, adding more flour if you need to ensure it forms a cohesive and not excessively wet dough. It will be quite sticky, I’m afraid. Knead lightly.
- Leave in a warm place covered with a damp tea towel to grow for 45 min. I found an oven on the lowest setting (about 50c) was quite adequate.
- Once about doubled in size, scoop out and knead for about 15 minutes. It will not have gotten any wetter but will probably need some firm manipulation before you can see any stretch. It will, however, smell really good.
- Cut into 12 equal0sized buns, dust well with flour and place on a greased tray. Cover with the damp towel and let grow again for about 30 min – 1 hour. The buns will grow and “kiss”. Twenty minutes before they’re ready, preheat the oven to 180c.
- When ready, brush the tops of the buns with water and scatter with more pumpkinseeds. Cook the buns for 30 minutes until golden brown and risen. If necessary, on getting them off the tray, turn over and cook for another 5-10 minutes to ensure they’re cooked through – the carrot makes them quite wet.
- Enjoy with fresh butter and herbed cream cheese or meats.