The German Baking Book: Cakes, Tarts, Breads, and More from the Black Forest and Beyond, written by Jürgen Krauss, features a delicious collection of German sweet and savory recipes for throughout the year. A few highlights include Apfel-Küchle (Apple Fritters), Pudding Streuselkuchen (Custard Crumble Cake), Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte (Black Forest Gateau), Zwiebel-Zopf mit Mohn (Onion and Poppy Seed Braid), and Zimtsterne (Cinnamon Stars). I will also be sharing his recipe for Bethmännchen following the review.
Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Weldon Owen in exchange for my honest review. All comments and opinions are my own. This post contains Amazon affiliate links. If you purchase something through the link, I may receive a small commission at no extra charge to you.
Jürgen Krauß is a database administrator, analyst programmer, and passionate home baker. He was born and grew up in the Black Forest and is currently based in the U.K. with his family.
This is Jürgen’s first cookbook. He was also a semi-finalist on The Great British Bake Off in 2021.
The German Baking Book
Jürgen begins The German Baking Book with a short introduction of his childhood in Baden-Württemberg and how he developed a love for baking in his mother’s kitchen. That passion continued to grow when he moved to Brighton and had a desire to recreate German-style bread in his new home.
I especially love the personal touches with family photos at the beginning of each chapter and memories scattered across the pages.
The chapters are divided according to the following: Waffles, Crepes, and Dumplings; Sheet Cakes; Cakes and Tarts; Sweet and Savory Breads and Rolls; Festive Bakes; and Basics.
The inviting photography is provided by Maja Smend. Most of the recipes are paired with a beautifully-styled full page photo of the finished dish. There are also a couple of illustrations to demonstrate specific techniques such as handling Schwäbische Seele (Swabian Spelt Rolls) and braiding Babka.
Measurements are listed in US Customary and Metric. Titles are written in German and English. Each recipe has a headnote with background information, personal memories, yield, and helpful tips.
It was so hard narrowing down what to make first in The German Baking Book! There are so many fantastic choices. I ultimately decided to feature the festive Bethmännchen.
I am spending the next few days visiting four states in Germany and am starting with Frankfurt am Main in Hessen. These little cookies also originate in Frankfurt, so they were definitely perfect for sharing today.
A popular Christmas treat and available in Frankfurt year-round, these cookies have a firm exterior that gives way to a soft and chewy center. They are packed with almond flavor, using not only marzipan, but also ground almonds, almond extract, and blanched almonds too.
Start by cutting the marzipan into pieces (this will help it blend better) and combine by hand with the ground almonds, confectioners’ sugar, flour, egg, and almond extract.
Once the mixture is smooth, cover and refrigerate for about 30 minutes. This will make it easier to handle without sticking.
Roll pieces of the dough into small balls about the size of a large cherry or small walnut, decorate each with three blanched almond halves, brush with a beaten egg yolk, and bake until lightly golden.
After cooling to room temperature, store the Bethmännchen in an airtight container.
I mixed in all-purpose flour, but Jürgen says you can also make these with gluten-free flour.
While I used some store-bought marzipan I happened to have on hand, he does have a recipe for homemade marzipan in the basics chapter.
Sift the confectioners’ (powdered) sugar to allow it to blend more easily.
Blanched almonds are used as the decoration for the Bethmännchen. These can be prepared shortly before making the cookies or a few days in advance and stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container.
Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Add the whole almonds and boil for exactly one minute. Don’t boil any longer or the texture will become soft. You just want to loosen the skin so the almonds easily pop out.
Immediately drain and rinse the almonds with cold water.
Squeeze along the bottom of the almond and the skin should slide right off. Discard the skins and cut each almond in half lengthwise along the seam.
I also made Oma’s Waffeln (Grandma’s Waffles), Marmor-Kuchen (Marble Cake), Milchbrötchen (Milk Rolls), and Flammkuchen (Flame Cake).
The kids requested Oma’s Waffeln (Grandma’s Waffles) and they were a huge hit. This light waffles with crispy edges come together easily and are delicious with powdered sugar, cinnamon sugar, or applesauce.
The cakes and tarts range from light and easy desserts to multi-layered creations. I started with a personal favorite, the fairly quick Marmor-Kuchen (Marble Cake). This cake has swirls of vanilla and a spiced chocolate batter.
I made the Milchbrötchen to pair with my Kräuterbutter (and the rolls are featured in those photos as well). This recipe is a recreation of the milk rolls Jürgen used to get in the shop next door from traditional baker, Hermann Faisst. The texture was incredible with a thin, slightly flaky crust giving way to a soft center.
The Flammkuchen is a delightful covered flatbread popular in the French Alsace and bordering states in Germany. An unleavened dough is rolled into a thin layer and covered with crème fraîche, bacon pieces, and onions. It is then baked in a very hot oven until crisp. Jürgen has also provided instructions for a sweet Apfel-Flammkuchen with cinnamon sugar and apple slices.
This book is a wonderful pick for those interested in German baking. There is a nice variety of both sweet and savory options for every season and occasion. Difficulty also ranges from easy sheet cakes and cookies to more stunning desserts perfect for celebrations.
Most of the ingredients are readily available in larger American grocery stores. A few items that may require further searching include orange blossom water, hazelnuts, rose water, vanilla pods, currants, quark, white spelt flour, Kirsch, and fine semolina.
Excerpt from The German Baking Book
- 3 1/2 ounces (100 grams) blanched almonds
- 7 ounces (200 grams) marzipan ready-made or homemade (recipe in book)
- 1 cup (100 grams) ground almonds
- 3/4 cup (75 grams) confectioners' (powdered) sugar sifted
- 1/3 cup (40 grams) all-purpose flour or gluten-free flour
- 1 medium egg
- 1 teaspoon almond extract
- 1 medium egg yolk for glazing
- Split the whole almonds in half and reserve for decoration.
- Line a baking tray with parchment paper.
- Cut the marzipan into pieces and put it into a bowl.
- Add the ground almonds, confectioners' sugar, flour, egg, and almond extract and knead by hand until a smooth ball forms.
- Cover in plastic wrap and let it rest in the fridge for about 30 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 350˚F (180˚C).
- Once rested, shape the dough into little balls the size of a big cherry or a small walnut. You can do this by dividing the dough, then rolling it to two strands to the diameter you want and cutting those strands into appropriately sized chunks. Roll these chunks into spheres between your palms.
- Decorate each ball with three almond halves, the tips of the almonds pointing into the center.
- Put the decorated Bethmännchen onto the prepared baking sheet.
- Once the sheet is full, glaze with egg yolk.
- Bake for about 20 minutes- the tops should be golden, while they should still be very light near the bottom.
- They keep in an airtight container for several weeks.