Years ago, when I first moved to Germany, Mum gave me a book on baking. At first I thought this was a hint at my lack of home-making skills and was fully expecting a follow-up book titled something like Vacuuming for Dummies or The Idiot´s Guide to Basic Nutrition - No, Frozen Pizza is Not a Food Group.
Somehow, it seemed a bit unnessesary to me, a baking book when going to Germany- the land known far and wide as home of the Best Bread Ever Made, in much the same way as France is home to the Best Cheeses Ever Made and Sweden home to the Best Self-Assemble Furniture Ever Made. I leapt feet first into the bread culture of this country, where there´s a bakery on every corner and at least one meal a day consists of basically nothing except bread.
So I was soon to discover that the title Home of the Best Bread Ever Made is more like France´s Home to the Best Insect, Amphibian or Rodent Meals Ever Made award, or Sweden´s Home of the Dried Fish on a Stick fame.
Sour dough is the most common type of bread, which is kind of like eating the kitchen sponge soaked in a jar of old capers, but without any of the nice taste aspects. You can use the average loaf of German bread to hammer in nails and it NEVER GOES MOULDY. That, to me, was a sure sign it can´t be good. If even microbes fear it, it´s something I should never put in my mouth.
Occassionally there are the good loaves. A slightly different dough that doesn´t suck all the moisture out of your mouth. That doesn´t so completely take over the flavour that you could be having a sandwich containing nothing but pickled herring and paint thinner BUT CAN`T TASTE IT. There are an amazing variety of breads, which, if they thought about reducing the general level of sourness, would actually be tasty. Some bakery´s even sell white bread. Shock! Horror! - I once got a fifteen minute lecture from a twenty-five year old woman on the unhealthiness of white bread while she was CHAIN SMOKING IN MY FACE. But the white bread, somehow contrary to the state of normal bread, manages to go stale within 45 minutes of coming out of the oven.
Other baked goods are actually really good. Trays of cakes sit in the windows. Amazing local pastry specialities can be found in different cities. But bread should be banned.
Or they should hire only french bakers.
So Mum´s good old baking book has had quite a workout here. This morning I started the push for Easter with a round of Hot Cross Buns. What? I hear you ask, It´s only February!
Ahh, I will nod sagely, but if you have a Baking Book, there´s no need to wait.
Addendum: DrH strongly objects with this single-sided and misleading depiction of the German Bread Industry and notes that the underlying cultural differences in this relationship will have to be worked on. But of course, he´s German so he wasn´t raised on decent flavours in the first place. Can anyone say POTATO?