Below are transcripts with Dieter Buschmann, the excellent German Master baker from Hamburg with whom I was very excited to talk. We don’t have an audio version of this interview, but we hope you enjoy this one in writing.
Jeremy: How did you become a baker?
Dieter: When I was finishing school, I was deciding which profession I could learn.
A girlfriend of my mother worked as as a salesperson in a bakery, so I decided to become a baker
Jeremy: What defines German bread baking
Dieter: Several thousand recipes, various different flours, and having experience and know how to do it.
Jeremy: Is rye the predominant flour in German baking
Dieter: No, I wouldn’t say that it is exactly, but we do use it a lot.
In both Russia and the USA wheat by far is the most common grain.Whereas Germany is (maybe?) the only country in the world, where rye is always grown and harvested regularily, along with other flours,ie. spelt, wheat.
Jeremy: Since you were a baker how has baking changed in Germany?
Dieter: The change occurred over the last 50 years ago, but more or less occurred more recently with the time given to baking properly has been shortened, a financial bottom line approach to baking has taken over the business.
Our predecessors, colleagues, who learned this profession during the 50’s, are gone now. Most of them are collecting pensions or are in failing health! My own generation have been doing this job for the past 20 or 25 years, and it it’s now our time to pass the torch or lay down the towel for the next generation of bakers. One reason, the techniqal aspect of baking has changed a second reason, the generation today is 20 to 25 cm taller, but the benches haven’t grown any higher.So the bakers are working in an even more bent and crouched position, and its very painful for your back!
Jeremy: Could you describe the differences with the way German bakers bake their bread to say the French bakers?
Dieter: First is the flour type is different. It is different flour, than the German wheat or rye flour in processing the grain. The process of making the dough in the evening with longer fermentation times
with less kneading and introduction of the salt to the dough and slower process,autolyse,etc…
Jeremy: Tell us about how your website and the members change the way bread is baked today in Germany?
Dieter: I’ve created my page, because a lot of people now want bake their own bread at home.
It is not the same, as when buying it commercially. If you are you look at the pictures of the bread and rolls, even some professional bakers can learn a thing or two about bread baking from home bakers.
There are a lot of web pages, that are doing this home baking theme, but I think (I’m not exactly sure though?) if I am the only professional baker, who is giving home bakers a place to share what they do.
In the other forums, home bakers, without professional background, who lack real baking skills may lack the guidance to overcome problems and won’t have direction or advice like I share with my members on my own site. Breadbaking is an individualistic art as well.
Jeremy: What are some hints for baking good bread?
Dieter: A long rest for the dough, not too much yeast, a warm dough, and a hot oven in the beginning, with lower temperatures at the end of the bake. Oh yes, and…… a real good sourdough!
Jeremy: Is baking in Germany going through a renaissance? Or are your homebakers taking the lead in changing what people see as real bread?
Dieter: Some people would hope for a renaissance, but they don’t want to make the effort or can’t pay the price, and the baker has, (at most) the same breads with the same taste coming from most bakeries.
(30 years ago a roll cost 25 pfennig today its 25 Euro-Cent, its 50 pfennig. That is double. But the your payment for your work has not the doubled from what it was 30 years ago up until today.) I often find most bakeries are just making the same kinds of breads that lack flavor that distinguish them from the other. Most consumers need and want a change, they want bread and rolls from their grandma’s time.
Jeremy: What is your favorite bread?
Dieter: favorite bread is a mix from rye (60 – 70 %) and wheat, or blackbread (with soakers and quell)
Jeremy: How often do you bake at home?
Dieter: Not enough, according to my wife!
Jeremy: what did you love the most,
during your career as a baker?
Dieter: I think observing, how a mixture of different ingredients
(In this case, flour, salt, sugar, water)to become a staple food; but also, from an unattractive mass, this mealy dough turns golden brown from the baking, a loaf that nourishes not only the body but also the soul.