One of the first things that will probably come to every (other) German expat’s mind when asked about what they most miss about home is one single thing: bread.
(We sigh it with that dreamy, longing puppy dog expression too!)
Having lived abroad multiple times and having been privileged enough to have travelled, I can assure you that no matter what different culture I have experienced, bread has always been the first thing I have missed (apart from family and friends, of course). But it wasn’t just bread. It was good bread – after all, it’s not that we Germans have the patent on bread and that it’s not available in other cultures. It’s just not the same.
It’s hard to explain what makes German bread so special if you didn’t grow up with it deeply rooted in your culture. Think about the comfort food in your culture’s cuisine and what it means to you. Maybe it’s mac ‘n cheese or it’s grits and fried chicken or maybe it’s pizza or, or, or. For many Germans, it’s bread. The beauty of bread in Germany comes in the form of its variety. It comes in all shapes and sizes. It comes in all kind of tastes. Wheat, rye, spelt or a mixture. Caraway seeds or no caraway seeds. Sourdough or yeast. Grains and seeds and fruits and nuts. Hearty or sweet. Even stale bread serves a purpose as it’s oftentimes made into Semmelknödel. Bread is such an anchor in German cuisine that a dated German word for dinner is directly tied back to the tradition of having bread at night with cheese, meets, jam, simply butter or whatever you prefer: Abendbrot (literally translates to evening bread.)
Rest assured that I have a very dreamy, longing look on my face as I type this.
Anyway, to come back to my original point: bread is always the thing I miss first whenever I go abroad. Now while it’s not impossible to find decent or even good bread (once you know where to go) in a city as large as New York, I’ve recently taken up the challenge to make my own bread. I’m lucky that one of the New York branches of Le Pain Quotidien offers bread baking classes and that I have been able to attend a Bread Baking Basics class. Ever since, I have started making my way through Emmanuel Hadjiandreou’s How To Make Bread as well as Yoke Mardewi’s Sourdough.
After venturing into biscuit baking the other day, I still had plenty of buttermilk left. Instead of wasting it and pouring it away, I remembered that I had a recipe for a plain soda bread I had wanted to try due to it’s quick and easy preparation:
Makes one small loaf
250 g / 2 CUPS white strong/bread flour or wholemeal/Irish-style wholemeal flour
6 g / 1 TEASPOON salt
4 g / 1 TEASPOON baking soda
260 g / 260 ml / 1 CUP plus 1 TABLESPOON whole milk or buttermilk
- Preheat oven to 200°C (400°F)
- Mix flour, salt and baking soda in a mixing bowl and set aside. This is the dry mixture.
- Pour milk or buttermilk into the dry mixture. Mix until it just comes together. Do not overmix
- Lightly dust a clean work surface with flour.
- Transfer dough to the floured work surface.
- Shape dough into a ball and flatten slightly. Roll generously in white or wholemeal flour.
- Slash a deep cross over the bread using a sharp, serrated knife.
- Place into a prepared pie dish/plate or on the prepared baking sheet.
- Bake n the preheated oven for 20 – 30 minutes, or until baked through.
- Let cool and enjoy!
Couple of notes:
- Yes, it really is only a handful of ingredients. It’s convenient, easy, fast and delicious.
- Work swiftly since the dough will be a little wetter than many other bread doughs. You’ll want to get it into the oven quickly. Don’t be the kind of person who stops in between steps to take pictures.
- I used white flour and reduced fat buttermilk the bread came out beautiful.