First of all, before I even begin to summarize our annual Berlin’s Best Bread competition of 2017, I have to say that bread in Berlin has become so much more diverse compared to when we started in 2013 – back then, we only found few bakeries who used only sourdough as a leaven, making bread in an artisanal, small-scale way. Today, more and more Berlin bakers choose exactly this method, that, while not being as predictable and thus controllable like others, makes for individual and high-quality loafs. Because the proofing of the dough is more sensitive than with other rising agents, the baker needs to give it more attention, and I believe this creates a closer bond, a better understanding of what makes bread. So, finally, we were able to ask only for sourdough-breads without yeast or other helpers for our annual tasting in the goal to find Berlin’s tastiest loaf.
I assembled a jury of carb-loving people from the Berlin food world to take over the serious job of judging. Due to some scheduling difficulties, the jury looks different than last year, nonetheless combines the most expertise on the field of gluten. My humble office welcomed once again 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 Ursula Heinzelmann, food and wine writer and author of “Beyond Bratwurst – A History of Food in Germany“. In addition we invited Katrin Engelen, sous chef and bread-specialist at Nobelhart&Schmutzig; Kathe Kaczmarzyk, fermentation and baking enthusiast; as well as Anna Küfner of Contemporary Food Lab.
We went for a stricter approach this year: every bread submitted could only be made of flour, salt, water, and sourdough, with several types of flours allowed. We split them into three categories, depending on which type of flour was the main one: wheat, rye, and spelt. We’ve received twenty breads from twelve bakers. As said, the Berlin baking scene is more lively than ever, and this showed in the shortlist of bakeries we invited. Some of them are not traditional bakeries, but cafés or restaurants whose breads you can buy to take home, which was our criteria to decide whether they could submit a bread or not. Here’s the list of all bakeries who brought us bread to taste: 100 Brote whose breads you can order online; Beumer&Lutum; as well as Christa Lutum, former founding baker at Beumer&Lutum who opened her own place in Charlottenburg; Domberger Brot-Werk from Moabit; Lode&Stijn, which is actually a restaurant but also sells bread; Lula, a new café in Friedenau with a bakery; Manufactum; Märkisches Landbrot; Ora, the café in Kreuzberg whose bread you can also buy; the Italian bakers of Sironi at Markthalle Neun; The Bread Station from Maybachufer in Neukölln, The Store Kitchen with their new baker Ilan Saltzman, and last but not least Zeit für Brot.
Here are the winners and the runner-ups for all three categories, however, all of the bakers mentioned above make good bread, so you should check them out whether they’ve won or not. Sourdough is a sensitive matter, and we tasted some breads with great potential, who suffered from mistakes in the process of making this actual loaf. As to the judging, we tasted the bread blind, first quietly, then discussed for a bit. Then the jury gave grades to all breads individually, which were combined to find the winner. Decisions were mostly unanimous when it came to the winner and runner up.
Category: Wheat flour
Runner-up: Lode & Stijn
This loaf is served and sold after 17:00 at Lode & Stijn restaurant in Kreuzberg – it’s made from 50% wheat flour, 50% spelt and rye flour, and wheat sourdough. While you might think the shape of it is a bit odd, it was actually created to be eaten with a meal, the flat shape enhances the flavour of the crust instead of having too much crumb. The dark crust tastes rather sweet, and this makes the perfect balance with the more intense sour flavours of the moist, almost jelly-like crumb that has big and spread out bubbles thanks to a good fermentation. Our jury found this to be a great combination, its individual approach is unconventional, but definitely fun and very delicious. Sold after 17:00 for 4 Euro per loaf at Lode&Stijn.
Winner: The Bread Station’s Weizen-Weizenvollkornbrot
The winner of the past year did it again – this bread just manages to have the perfect balance between a good sourdough, and whole wheat flavour, and has just the right amount of salt in it – whose lack was often a problem with other breads. It doesn’t only look beautiful, but also has a great harmony of crumb and crust. And the whole wheat flour gives it a nice nutty flavor. “Perfection on all counts”, as one of us put it.
Category: Rye flour
Runner Up: Lula Deli Roggenbrot
This very light bread made from 70% rye and 20% whole grain rye flour almost seemed too light and sweet to be a rye bread. With a chewy crumb that complements the bread well, floral notes and a long lasting sourness, most jury members found this to be a quite elegant and pretty rye bread. Lula is one of our newcomers, located in Friedenau, they don’t only bake and sell breads, but also offer breakfast and lunch. Definitely a reason to explore that rather underappreciated part of Schöneberg.
Winner: Manufactum Sauerteigbrot
To be perfectly honest, we wanted to include this bread since year one, but never got Manufactum to answer our requests. This year, we finally made it and they brought in this stunning loaf, which instantly won its category. The crust is crunchy and dark with a strong taste and a deep smell, the crumb is well balanced with good bubbles. All in all, it’s a bread with loads of character, that looks beautiful and tastes amazing – the sweetness of the dark crust balances the sourdough notes, the moistness of the crumb levels the crunchy crust. It might be considered too sour for some, but the jury loved the whole thing. The price is 5,40 per kilo.
Category: Spelt flour
Winner: Sironi – Rustico
We didn’t have a lot of submissions for this final category, where spelt flour was the main flour. However, Sironi’s Rustico bread made from 100% spelt flour would’ve probably won against many competitors. Developed together with and also served at Nobelhart&Schmutzig, this one benefits from its very good fermentation, a delicious crumb and crust, just the right salt content and is risen well. The taste is more pronounced than in other spelt breads, which also makes it my personal favorite if you care to know.