I have been fascinated by the huge variety of rye breads that are enjoyed around the world and so I thought it might be fun to share with you what I have been learning about the love affair some countries seem to have with their rye bread. Since the Rubschlager family came to the US from Germany, it only seemed right to start with Germany.
According to food experts, the Germans have always had an unequaled passion for bread and make more types of bread than any other country. Heinrich Junemann, the head of the Berlin bakers’ guild, Germans puts that number at some 300 varieties, a vast majority containing rye flour – others cite as many as 600.
The words found on a wall outside Junemann’s office, ”Holy and eternal is bread. It keeps you from hunger and misery. The Creator himself gave it to us. He who dishonors bread dishonors life itself” express the intensity with which our German neighbors value the bread they eat.
Breakfast, arguably the most important meal of the German day, is built upon the bread and that bread is most likely to be a rye or pumpernickel bread which is accompanied by sausage, cheese, cold meats, boiled eggs, jams or honey.
Bread is continues to play a major role through the day. The mid morning snack is a ‘brotzeit’ or bread break. Germans also enjoy other bread snacks referred to as Pausenbrot, butterbrot and stullen – each a snack which is built on bread, typically a rye or pumpernickel bread.
There is so much more to Roggenbrot, german for rye bread, and pumpernickel than casual American observer can know without a little study. Like wine, there are so many regional variations and individual baker recipes – the more one learns the more interesting the breads become!
An article from the New York Times, “The Miracle of Rye” by R.W. Apple Jr., first alerted me to the breadth of the rye landscape.
Apple talks about KaDeWe, a Berlin department store known for stocking “everything good from everywhere”, and comes close to succeeding, sells more than 100 types of rye in their German bread department. He gives examples such as the thick-crusted 11-pound oval loaves from Pomerania, near the Polish border and one from Bamberg, in the Main valley east of Frankfurt, – a big, round, spicy sour bread, made from mixed rye and wheat flour by the Schuler bakery there.
There is bread baked in KaDeWe’s own ovens and by small bakeries scattered across Berlin and from neighboring cities across Germany.
Some of the most popular varieties of rye bread among the German population:
- Kürbiskernbrot – Dark rye bread with pumpkin seeds
- Zwiebelbrot – Light wheat-rye bread with toasted onions
- Mehrkornbrot – Multi-grain, usually a combinatin of wheat, rye and
- oats with linsee or sesame seed
- Roggenbrot – Rye bread
- Sonnenblumenkernbrot – Sunflower seeds in dark rye bread
- Pumpernickel – Heavy, slightly sweet rye bread
Next on our travels: Scandanavian Ryes