A Recipe for Bread and for Life

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The comfort food trifecta: bread, butter and honey

A friend of mine recently returned from a Zen Retreat at a German monastery, and told me about a delicious German whole-wheat rye bread he had enjoyed there. Now on quirky little Vashon, no one would bat an eye at that sentence, albeit some would be disappointed there was no mention of a unicorn.

Chris also produced a photo for me to drool over. Bread never looked so good. The rounded little sandwich bread revealed seeds, and nuts as if stones, pebbles, and boulders on a rough mountain road; and a dense constitution that provided nary a space for errant air bubbles or problematic holes so common with other breads. (Are you listening sourdough?)

Chris produced this photo for me to swoon over, and I did.

I listened intently as my pal (a man of thoughtful and artistic ways) shared his fascinating journey of retreat and discovery, from slices of life and to slices of bread–and both sounded delicious.

Now back to the bread. I love the few German breads I’ve tasted. They had a weight, texture, and density that made tongue, tooth, and tastebud sing. After a little research, I read that Germany is considered the bread capital of Europe. Apparently, there are more than 3,200 officially recognized types of bread in Germany according to the “German Institute of Bread.” (Check out the related reading at the end of the post.)

In lieu of placing a bowl of water in the oven for moisture, I baked the loaf in a lidded cast iron casserole pan. When the bread rose during baking and was firm, I removed the lid, and let further baking time make for a crustier top. I used a “meat” thermometer to test the internal temperature of the bread. When 190° F was reached, I removed the bread from the oven to cool.

Thanks to a continuing stream of dreamy bread photos dancing in my head, I was bent on making the seeded whole-wheat rye bread my friend had extolled the virtues of on his recent pilgrimage. So my recipe search began and eventually led me to the All Tastes German website to a bread called “Körnerbrot.”

Recipe: German Whole-Wheat Rye Bread With Seeds and Nuts

I thought this was a great recipe (linked in title), and I also made a couple changes based on my baking and eating preferences. They are as follows:

  1. I still used two cups rye, but I added one more cup of the whole wheat flour for a total of four cups, for a less sticky dough.
  2. I made and kneaded the bread only using a stand mixer with a dough hook. I only kneaded the bread briefly to shape into a large loaf. Another time I made two loaves from the same recipe using bread pans.
  3. I added more nuts/seeds: 1/2 Cup walnuts, 1/2 Cup pumpkin seeds, 1/2 cup sunflower seeds.
  4. I baked the loaf in a large covered casserole dish and removed the lid once it had fully risen and was firm in the oven.
  5. I used a cooking thermometer to test the bread doneness. When 190° F was reached, I removed the loaf.
  6. I did not add any water to the oven.

Discovering the culinary gifts of other cultures through cooking and baking will always yield delicious results both on the palate and in the experience. So bake on my friends and don’t forget the olive oil and the butter.

What’s your favorite bread to bake?

Related Reading

29 COMMENTS

  1. i love german bread. this bread is also known as vollkornbrot and EVERYONE eats it in germany. i had german friends in college and they complained endlessly about american bread. they said they missed chewing.

    • Oh I’ll look for a recipe for Vollkornbrot, as I used to love a loaf like that at Seattle’s Macrina bakery; it was a favorite of mine when I lived in the city. Thanks Joyce, that remark about chewing is too funny. I had a German college friend who remarked American coffee was really just brown water. Well, thank goodness we got that figured out. Well wishes, Seasons Greetings, Tom

  2. Drooling… I could live on bread alone (well, almost – cheese and wine would also figure in, but I digress). The recipe and your notes inspire me to try to put together a loaf.
    As Joyce notes above, so much of our bread is, um, lightweight? This stuff is Wagnerian!
    And by the by, I was cutting up a squash for Cynthia this morning, and it had such gorgeous color. The thought popped in my head, “Tom’s house!”

    • Oh you know how to make a guy smile. I love that thought about cutting into a pumpkin and thinking of my new paint colors. I’m honored. Love the Wagnerian line, too! Take care, give a hug to Cynthia!

  3. Tom, I thank you very much. First of all, love your post and delicious bread you baked. And then you led me straight to a wonderful German website. I cook and bake a lot of German recipes, but that website is totally over the top in information and deliciousness. Vielen Danke, meine Freund. Susan

    • Oh good, that makes me so happy to learn. Now feel free to share with me, something you made that maybe I need to make. I don’t want to miss out on a tasty meal, baked good or side dish. 😉

  4. Oh I am drooling already and will definitely try your recipe. Years ago we used to ski with a Czechoslovakian family and they made a breakfast bread that was similar but had a large amount of dried fruit as well. It was delicious and a couple of toasted slices could keep you skiing until lunchtime. It’s interesting that Germany is consider the bread capital when it’s the French bread we hear so much about. ps- Please give Buddy a big hug from me.

    • Hi Penny, I like the idea of dried fruit added to this recipe. I bet it would work nicely with chopped apricot or raisins or dried cherries. Regarding notoriety, I thought the same thing about French bread and its reputation as the gold standard, but I think from what I read Germany is known for amazing variations of bread using a multitude of different grains and combinations thereof. I still give the French the number one spot for pastry, but I’m seeing with newfound awareness what Germany has to offer in the bread basket. Buddy got that hug and sends his love. He said, next time you can send him two hugs. 😉 Season Greetings, Tom and Buddy

  5. “problematic holes so common with other breads. (Are you listening sourdough?)” Hol’ up there pardner, sour dough is listenen’ and she aint happy” But OK there’s not too many breads I won’t try, so we’re still good

    • Whew! That was close. 😉 Holes is sourdough bread are indeed the preferred standard, but for me, well, I end up wearing the butter, the jam, the honey, the mayo, the ketchup, the hoisin sauce that find the trap door holes, only to stain my shirt, pants and floor. It’s less about the bread I guess and more about me being able to eat properly without a bib. Cheers my friend, Tom

  6. What a lovely looking loaf. All those nubbly seeds and nuts, yum! I think I will add some lovely fat raisins too. I took the recipe for the Bread Spice which sounds good too. I love a good rye bread and always add rye to my (holey) Sourdough as well.
    Did you use the bread spice Tom?
    There’ll be German bread in my house soon! Thankyou Tom for discovering this good wholesome loaf. Hugs to Buddy! :))

    • Hi Mary, I love the idea of adding raisins. And yes I did use the bread spice I mixed up a batch then ground it into gritty powder in my hand held coffee grinder. I really like it. Adds an earthiness. Buddy very much appreciates those hugs btw. 😉

  7. This bread enthusiast has yet to meet a loaf she didn’t enjoy both baking AND eating and I will say you’ve practically achieved Internet smell-o-vision with that lovely photo; I am catching the bready aroma all the way over here in NY. (Meanwhile & related, if you haven’t yet seen this it’s the perfect treat for yourself for having been such a good guy all year—it’s one of the most beautiful books I’ve seen in a long while: https://bookshop.org/books/advent-festive-german-bakes-to-celebrate-the-coming-of-christmas/9781787137264. All good winter wishes to you & yours!

    • Thank so much Anne, for the kind words and well wishes, oh and the book tip, too. I followed your link and then enthusiastically headed over to our library site and put the book on hold. I’m eager to hold it in my hands and pore over the stories, photos and recipes. Thank you so much. Stay warm up there in NY. No snow for us, just a lot of rain courtesy of a La Nina year, but we can sure use it. Well wishes to you and yours, too!

  8. I recently moved from New York City to Berlin and have had my eyes opened by the many different breads here, like you wrote. The differences seem to mainly be the wheat/rye ratio. They vary from loaf to loaf…and some are all wheat and some are all rye. And then the additions vary…seeds, nuts, etc.. And some are baked in loaf pans and some free form…the free form ones have incredibly hard crusts which makes cutting through a daunting task. I cut myself attempting it. There is an electric bread slicer where I’m subletting…apparently, most households here have one…but I’m too chicken to use it, so I buy the less crusty breads. They’re all delicious though!

    • Wow Lawrence, that is fascinating. Sorry about the hazard of cutting crusty bread in Germany. I get it though. Some breads I make must be handled with care and a sharp serrated knife to get anywhere near a slice. Let me know of any new breads or baked goods or recipes I need to try, now that TCF has a correspondent in Berlin. 😉 Cheers and Happy Holidays.

  9. Yum! Looks amazing and so delicious. Your words of course, made me giggle as many years ago you taught me the term “smirten gooza” and shared your American interpretation. 😂🤣

  10. Thanks so much for the links to this delicious looking bread recipe ! I ‘ve been on a bread baking tear of late. Harvest grain loaves , pumpernickel & English muffin toasting bread to mention a few . I’m a big fan of King Arthur Baking recipes & flours. Can’t wait to give this one a try !

    • Hi Sue, ummm I like the sound of English muffin toasting bread. I’m a big fan of King Arthur too, and will give that recipe a try. I also have some fruitcake and mincemeat pie on the list.

      • I make King Arthur’s English muffin bread and double the recipe and it fills a large Pullman loaf pan. It is yummy, especially with roasted strawberry jam. Enough though..your nutty seed bread is on my list for tomorrow’s bake.. Can’t wait!

        • Hi June, it looks like we have a bread-bake exchange of ideas here; I’m hoping to make your bread this week too. Nothing like crunchy on the outside, chewy on the inside freshly toasted English muffin bread.

  11. Ex pat German from Munich here.
    I can second the sentiment that US breads don’t have a fraction of the chew satisfaction of German bread. I feel my teeth loosening in the gums without a workout! Sounds gross, I know…but true. Even boutique breads here don’t compare.
    I want to add that IMO the best breads (and best big pretzels) come from Bavaria! (Sorry North Germany 😉)
    And Bavaria is pretty dang good in the cake (Torten), department too.
    Your bread looks fantastic though!

    • CC, hopefully we can turn the tide and bring the bread chew to our shores on a permanent and widespread basis. It’s a worthy cause I say, and I’ll start with home baking in my own kitchen. I’m fascinated to read your comments about Bavaria. I’m learning so much and now must further explore. Another friend of mine also recently returned from Germany and showed me a pic of a bakery case. The cakes or torten were a mile high and gorgeous and inviting and drool-worthy. Yep, time for more research, testing and baking here, too. Thanks for the tips. Well wishes, Tom

  12. My Austrian step mom used to have friends bring bread to the UK for her to freeze……she found nothing she liked in England!

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