After four months in Frankfurt there’s still a lot to discover but there are also two places I am very much familiar with. When I have an appointment with somebody in the morning they often suggest one of those two cafés for the meeting: “Zeit für Brot” (Time for bread), a bakery with a few tables, or “Brot und Butter” (Bread and butter), another bakery with many more sitting opportunities which is part of a store selling lovely household and garden goods made with traditional methods.
The people I meet there, sometimes PR specialists or consultants, sometimes bankers or lawyers, do not only enjoy having breakfast at those places with a nice crescent roll, an open-faced sandwich or a currant bun, they also buy some bread to eat at home. Those two bakeries do not offer the biggest variety but regarding the quality of their products is probably among the best in Frankfurt.
There are few things that are regarded as quintessentially German as bread. On average every German eats about 87 kilos of bread and rolls per year. I almost could not believe those numbers when I looked them up. In France people consume only about 55 kilos of baguette. Allegedly there are more than 300 bread varieties and more than 1200 rolls, pastries and other baked goods in Germany.
Those two cafés I visit frequently make incredibly good sourdough bread. Because we missed sourdough bread so much in London we started to do it ourselves. But for home bakers making a good loaf of sourdough bread is a bit of a challenge. Not quite as hard as striving for the World Cup but good sourdough bread means you are at least playing in the Premier League of bakers.
Before you can make a loaf of sourdough bread you need to make the sourdough starter. This is a mixture of flour and water which develops under certain circumstances into wild yeast. You need to feed the wild yeast with fresh flour and water and over time it develops into something like a pet. We were very lucky in London, we had a friend who gave us some of her sourdough starter, so we could quickly start making our own bread.
But to be completely honest we were not really among the best players in the premier league of sourdough bakers. We were hampered by the lack of a proper oven with top and bottom heat. We only had a circulating air oven which is pretty bad for baking bread. Therefore we used a bread baking machine. It was a compromise which worked well until returning to Germany and eating bread make by “Zeit für Brot” and “Brot und Butter”.
That is just so much better. It takes a lot of more time and skill than I ever mastered to coach flour and water into something as beautiful and delicious. And you can watch them doing it at those cafés while enjoying some of their products.
“Baking is love” – that’s a very old advertising slogan for a certain margarine but it’s really made visible and eatible at those two cafés. No need to bake myself any more. The bread baking machine is stored in the basement and collects dust.