It was about time for a new endeavor in the land of carbs: last week, a bread-loving jury came together in my office in Kreuzberg to taste the finest baked goods in the city, celebrating sourness, judging crumb as well as crust and talking grains, flours and sourdough. We broke the bread, spread butter, dipped in oil and even toasted some of them, to find Berlin’s Best Bread, this year in four categories, which means we have four winners! However, all of the bakeries we invited are glorious examples of artisanal baking, an endangered trade, so make sure you buy your bread with them when looking for real good one.
First, let’s talk about the jury, I was joined – like last year – by Cathrin Brandes, food consultant, writer of Berlin Tidbits and founder of Speisenclub Neukölln; Florian Duijsens, writer (also for this very blog) and carb lover extraordinaire; Malin Elmlid, Swedish baker, initiator of Bread Exchange and author of a book with the same title (and mother of Lode, our youngest taster); Kavita Meelu, initiator of Street Food Thursday & Breakfast Market plus Burgers & Hip Hop; Luisa Weiss, food-blogger and author par excellence. Additionally, I’m happy to introduce four new members this year: Ursula Heinzelmann, food and wine writer and author of “Beyond Bratwurst – A History of Food in Germany“; Anna Lai, champion of smoking pork and putting it in buns at Big Stuff Smoked BBQ, Tommy Tannock, who runs The Store Kitchen with Johnnie Collins and co-founded Bite Club, Lode van Zuylen, chef & baker, who will soon open his place: Lode & Stijn.
As every year, we voted for a shortlist of bakeries we’d like to include, all artisanal bakeries with production facilities in Berlin, many of them organic, here’s a full list: Ben’s Bakery (available at LPG, and all stands of ufa Bäkerei), Beumer & Lutum, Endorphina, Märkisches Landbrot, Sironi, Soluna, The Bread Station, Weichardt, and Zeit für Brot,
We also agreed to judge the breads in four categories: Pur, Vollkorn, Mischbrot & Free Style. So we have four winners! Here we go:
Berlin’s Best Bread: Pur
This means we asked for simple, modest and pure bread. We allowed only 3 ingredients (plus water) and only sourdough (no yeast, no Backferment). What made us very happy was that we received more submissions in this category than last year, proving that many bakers in Berlin are going back to this most challenging, yet most rewarding, simple baking style.
Runner Up: Soluna – Rundling
Last year’s winner, Soluna’s most classic German bread made from 100% rye flour, salt and sourdough, is this year’s runner up with very strong 8.1 of 10 possible points. It has a crunchy crust and a moist crumb with fine holes and a deliciously sour taste, that the jury loved because of its forward tartness that is still balanced. 5,60 Euro per kilo.
Winner: The Bread Station – Weizenvollkornbrot
This bakery is new on the Berlin scene, opened end of last year at Maybachufer, then quickly won the hearts of carb lovers thanks to their simple and thorough style. This round bread is made with Italian whole grain wheat flour, which they grind themselves. The vote of the jury was unambiguous with 8,9 points, among them two tens. Which was also the highest score of the whole competition. The jury loved the excellent crust, the juicy crumb, and the pleasant sourness. A clear winner, you should try it asap! 6 Euro per loaf (ca. 1,1 kg)
Berlin’s Best Bread: Vollkorn
When in Germany, you want a Vollkorn, a whole grain bread. Full of great ingredients, hearty and solid, and the perfect bread to put some cheese (or Wurst) on it.
Runner Up: Weichardt Brot – Walnußbrot
2014 and 2015 winner Weichardt Brot once again scored very high this year with 5.5 of 10 possible points. They submitted a bread made with rye, wheat and walnuts, who can prove tricky, but were wonderfully nutty in this case. 5,60 Euro per loaf, ca. 750g.
Winner: Zeit für Brot – Vollkorn-Saftkorn
This is what most of us expect when talking about Vollkorn: juicy tin loafs filled to the max with seeds and grains. And the jury agreed, awarding this rye and spelt bread one 6.8 of 10 possible points with such delightful comments like “party in the mouth” by Kavita. Malin and Luisa both thought this was the perfect bread for taking on a hike, loaded with butter, Wurst and Schinken. Thanks to the many seeds and grains, this one will stay moist for a while.
Berlin’s Best Bread: Mischbrot
Also a very German category, this one is focussing on breads made with two kinds of flour, one of them must be at least 50%. Submissions were varied and this one proved hard to judge. However, we found a clear winner.
Runner Ups: Sironi – Dinkelweizenbrot & Beumer & Lutum – Berliner Landbrot
Surprise, despite 10 possible points, these pretty loafs scored the same: 5.6! And while they look alike in the pictures, they’re pretty different. Sironi is using spelt and stone ground wheat, while Beumer & Lutum go for rye and wheat. And while Sironi shined with its elegant taste, crunchy crust and soft crumb that make it perfect to dip in hearty olive oil, Beumer & Lutum’s very convincing classic German bread scored with its well balanced flavors.
Winner: Zeit für Brot – Bauernlaib
This huge loaf was hard to miss on the table, and its rough, flavorsome crust, airiness of the crumb and awesome taste made it the clear winner with 7,7 points! It’s made with 80% rye and 20% spelt flour, plus a hint of fennel. And yes, this means Zeit für Brot is a double winner this time, congratulations!
Berlin’s Best Bread: Freestyle
This was definitely the craziest category, we asked the bakeries to submit whatever they wanted, inventive or solid, spiced up or filled with fruits. This category meant fancy breads, spiced with coriander, fennel, anise, nutmeg, made with grape seed flour or chia seeds. Here are the favorites:Runner Up: Endorphina – Scheunenbrot
As fancy as many breads were, this solid best seller of the traditional organic bakery scored 5,9 with our jury. The slight spiciness and well balanced salt made this one the runner up in this category.
Winner: Märkisches Landbrot – Dinkel-Früchtebrot
This pretty loaf was heavily filled with fruits, nuts and seeds, and embellished with loads of seeds. The well integrated and delicious filling would work very well with blue cheese and a cup of tea, as Tommy remarked. It scored high across the jury, reaching 6,9 points in the end. 5,69 Euro per loaf, ca. 1kg.
Congratulations to all winners! We literally can’t wait for our next tasting, next year! It’s a delight to see the progress of so many bakeries in our city, baking ever delicious breads, exploring new varieties and going back to the heart of baking. Support your local baker, it’s a tough trade.
Thanks so much for joining, reading, tasting!