beepbeepbeepbeep …. beepbeepbeepbeep …. beepbeepbeepbeep ….
It’s very dark as I come to semi-consciousness and hit the snooze button. After one more round of the alarm I start actually coming to, and I recognize the smell of bread baking and hear the faint voices and clatter of people at work. I’m staying in a room above a family owned and operated bakery in Behringersmühle, Germany – in the heart of the Franconian Switzerland area in northern Bavaria. This seemed to offer a great opportunity to see what goes on in such a place in the dark of the night so that people like me can have freshly baked goods for the day. My hosts, Dietmar and Renate Brandes graciously invited me to observe.
Dietmar told me that he starts at 3:30 AM every day … seven days per week to meet the demand for his baked goods. I am in a bakery (bäckerei in German) that supplies Dietmar and Renate’s several bakery shops in the area, many restaurants, and a internet shop that fields orders that are shipped to customers all over Europe with a flat 5 euro shipping charge (Dietmar tells me the US probably won’t work because of shipping times/costs).
The first thing that catches my attention is the impressive wall of bread ovens. You probably have seen a pizza place with a stack of a couple of ovens maybe six to eight inches high. Well imagine ovens twice as wide as those ones stacked five or six high. Then imagine two arrays of these side-by-side filling a wall of the kitchen. If you can imagine that, you’ve got the picture. Workers were busily loading, unloading, and checking. This is a pretty impressive operation.
I found Dietmar at the one of the industrial size mixers starting a new batch of a specialty sour dough bread that I think he said is a traditional recipe from where he grew up in Baden Wurtemburg. This is just one of eighty different products that he regularly makes and bakes. Rye breads, wheatless breads, and yeastless breads for people who have digestive problems with traditional breads are a specialty.
The bakery kitchen is warm and it smells great. Bins of interesting ingredients are arrayed throughout the room. Hunks of bread dough, pastry doughs, and works in progress ring the work area and three workers in addition to Dietmar ar highly focused on the tasks of their craft. Dietmar’s workers are young guys who appear to be in their 20’s. All together including the shops, this small business employs about 20 people. Dietmar and Renate are third generation owners of the business.
Dietmar explains one of his recipes as he goes through the steps of starting a batch in a huge mixer. It requires chilled water which is made in a refrigerator. Starter from yesterday’s batch is combined with the water and a mix of flours to get things started.
The bakery kitchen is a no nonsense, active place. Everyone seems to be in rapid, precision motion. Another of Dietmar’s specialties is fresh, soft pretztels, and I get to watch sheets of these being prepared and put into one of the ovens. Meanwhile, other products are finishing proofing and are going in, the batches in the ovens are being constantly being checked and steam is being added where called for to make the perfect texture. Racks and bins are filling with finished products and are stacking up in every available spot.
I don’t want to be a distraction, so I quietly slip away and return to bed for a few more hours sleep while the bakery continues to work away. Soon I’ll wake up again and be the beneficiary of a basket full of freshly baked breads in my basket for breakfast. Yummm! Sehr gut geschmeck!!!