Berlin’s Best Sourdough Bread: 2018

Were you already waiting for this one? I certainly was getting impatient! However, thanks to a bit of scheduling kerfuffle, it took a bit longer to assemble a powerful jury for this years’ Berlin’s Best Bread competition. For the fifth time, I invited a number of local artisanal bakeries to submit their best bread to find the most delicious crusty crust and crumbly crumb in all of the city. It took us three hours of non-stop tasting to judge all seventeen submissions and crown the winner in three categories. Read on to find out who won, you might be surprised!

Here’s this years’ beautiful line-up. As last year, we limited submissions to bread that is made with flour, salt, water, and sourdough only. Whichever kind of flour was the dominant one decided the category the bread was running in: we had nine submissions for the wheat, five for the rye, and three for the spelt category. As usual, I invited a shortlist of bakeries to submit their bread, here are the ones who joined: Albatross a new bakery currently based in Kreuzberg, Beumer&Lutum, Domberger Brot-Werk from Moabit; Ilan Saltzman for The Store KitchenLode&Stijn, which is actually a restaurant but also sells bread; Lula, a café and bakery in Friedenau; ManufactumMärkisches LandbrotOra, the café in Kreuzberg whose bread you can also buy; the Italian bakers of Sironi at Markthalle Neun; and The Bread Station from Maybachufer in Neukölln. Taking part is  free, however, we had the bakeries deliver the bread to the tasting.

I mixed it up for this years’ jury, adding a couple of new faces to the mix: Florian Duijsens, writer (also for this very blog) and carb lover extraordinaire; Rüdiger Hager, baking master and teacher; Ursula Heinzelmann, food and wine writer and author of “Beyond Bratwurst – A History of Food in Germany“, Roel Linterman, head chef at Grill Royal, Monika Walecka, baker from Warsaw, and Luisa Weiss, author of Classic German Baking. Unfortunately, Malin Elmlid, Kavita Meelu and Cathrin Brandes, who’ve all been in the jury since year one, couldn’t take part because of scheduling issues, but they’ll be back next year!

Let me tell you, the discussion was vivid and despite discussing many of the same issues as last year (How sour should a sourdough bread be? Why do so many breads not have enough salt? How come everyone loves the cold risen breads these days?), the competition once again showed that Berlin baking is getting better year after year and is at an all time high. All of the breads we tasted were good breads, which means all of the above bakeries are very much worth a visit.
The results this year were surprisingly different than lasts, which once again proved that making good bread is a daily issue, depending on so many details and conditions.
Let me know if you have any questions on the judging process, why certain bakeries aren’t in the list, and who was my personal fav, in the comments!

Without further ado and as usual, I’m presenting you the winner of each category, plus the runner up, let’s beginn with rye breads!

Category: Rye Flour

Runner up: Domberger Brotwerk’s Roggenbrot
Made from 100 % organic rye flour, this beautiful round loaf of bread was a stunner in our line-up. The cracks in the dark crust stand against the flour deco and create a wonderfully messy pattern. Despite a slight mistake during the kneading and shaping which created a string of big bubbles in the crumb, this one convinced us with its classic rye taste. Which you’ll need to like, while Monika thought this one was a bit too acidic, and Florian dismissed it as too conventional, the rest were praising the traditional and intense flavours.
Sold for 4,50 Euro for the 750g loaf, and 10,80 for the 1800g one (pictured here).

Winner: Märkisches Landbrot’s demeter Roggenbrot
A tin loaf! Who would’ve thought this classic bread shape that’s often dismissed as too boring would take the crown against all the free formed loafs on the table? Made entirely from organic rye grist (even the sourdough starter!), which is a coarsely ground flour variety, it’s a classic grist bread with a great balance of sweet and sour flavours. While Roel praised the crust, Monika noticed the nice texture, and Rüdiger the slight sweetness.
You can buy Märkisches Landbrot at many organic stores around town, among them Biocompany, prices vary from market to market.

Category: Spelt Flour

Winner: Sironi’s Rustico
It’s a tough category, sure – only three bakeries submitted a bread with mainly spelt flour and last years’ winner rather easily took the crown again, with the vote being almost unanimous. Originally developed with and also served at Nobelhart&Schmutzig, this has a very distinct spelt flavour praised by the whole jury – it’s made with a mix of whole grain and plain, both stone ground. Ursula noticed a great balance of acidic and sweet. Full disclaimer, this is possibly my favorite bread in Berlin. It’s sold at Sironi as a 1800g loaf at 12,80 Euro.

Category: Wheat Flour

Runner Up: Albatross’ Café Sourdough
Okay, this is a tough one, because this pretty loaf is the runner up, but only by a hair (1 point). Albatross is a new bakery that is currently doing mostly whole sale, you can enjoy this loaf in many brunch cafés in the city, for example Isla. Considering they didn’t even exist during last years competition a second place is a really great result. Its nice crust was noted by the whole jury, respectively described as great, nice, beautiful, golden, and even lovely. Rüdiger, our baking master, criticised the too sour notes, however, the rest of the jury loved the acidity in combination with the well balanced salt. And while Luisa said it smelled like the countryside, Ursula noted it’s scent reminded her of a haystack, in a very positive way. A 1100g loaf sells for around 6,50 Euro.

Winner: Sironi’s Frumento
As said, winner by just a hair, but still a winner: Sironi’s Frumento is an Italian sourdough bread mixing stone ground, whole wheat flour with wheat flour type 812-1050, salt and water to create a pillowy soft crumb and a very photogenic crust. While some thought it was a bit too pale, and maybe a bit low in salt, they still voted it to the top of the bunch. It’s a fabulous bread with a beautiful texture and a very pleasant flavour. Get it at Sironi inside of Markthalle Neun for 5,20 Euro for a 900g loaf.