A recipe for Seelen inspired by my time in Blaubeuren, Germany! This spelt-based Swabian bread is topped with coarse salt and caraway seeds, then baked until golden.
Disclosure: Accommodations, meals, and transportation were provided by the German National Tourist Board. All comments and opinions are my own.
I spent a few days in Germany recently with Melinda Fulmer, a lifestyle writer, editor, and my cousin!
It was a whirlwind trip with two nights each in Frankfurt am Main, Baden-Baden, Blaubeuren, Augsburg, and Bad Ems.
A couple of weeks ago, I covered Baden-Baden with Homemade Spätzle. Today I am featuring our second stop, Blaubeuren, with a recipe for Seelen!
Blaubeuren lies at the foot of the Swabian Jura/Schwäbische Alb in Baden-Württemberg. It is home to the Blautopf, Kloster Blaubeuren, Urgeschichtliches Museum Blaubeuren, numerous hiking trails, nearby caves, castle ruins, restaurants, beautiful half-timbered buildings, and more.
It was my first time visiting this picturesque town, but I hope to stop by again someday with the family! Evan would especially love the focus on archaeology and of course the Swabian cuisine is fantastic too.
We spent 1 1/2 days here and it was enough to enjoy the major sightseeing in the town. I personally would have liked at least one more day to visit a couple more shops and cafes.
It is definitely perfect for a weekend getaway if you are nearby.
It took us around three hours to reach Blaubeuren from Baden-Baden with three trains (stops in Mannheim and Ulm).
A note on the German train system: If using the trains at all, I highly recommend downloading the Deutsche Bahn app and getting a Flexpreis ticket for more flexibility. The app is available in English and it is easy to search for additional trains along the route (same day) in case a train is late and/or a tight connection is missed.
Via car, Blaubeuren is 80 kilometers (50 miles) southeast of Stuttgart, 18 kilometers (11 miles) west of Ulm, and 170 kilometers (106 miles) west of Munich.
During our time in Blaubeuren, we stayed at Hotel Ochsen. This hotel has been in operation for over 500 years!
It is located at Marktstraße 4 in the heart of the town. Shops, bakeries, restaurants, and notable attractions are all within walking distance and it is only 1.2 kilometers (3/4 mile) from the train station.
The hotel features guest rooms with single, double and multi-bed options and holiday apartments.
Our room was on the top floor (elevator plus one staircase) and furnished comfortably with a bed, sofa, desk, and photo of the Blautopf. The bathroom had a walk-in shower.
There are a few free parking spaces in the hotel lot or garage spaces for a fee. Reservations are available through the Hotel Ochsen website.
Breakfast was included with our stay (additional fee with holiday apartments).
There was an assortment of bread, pastries, coffee, tea, cold cuts, cheese, fruit, cereal, jam, and other spreads with plenty of indoor seating. Everything was delicious and it was definitely the perfect start to our day.
We had dinner at Hotel Ochsen’s onsite restaurant our first night. It was such a wonderful and comforting meal.
They feature regional Swabian cuisine with a variety of drinks, appetizers, recommendations, mains, desserts, and a vegetarian option. Reservations are recommended and an English menu is available.
We tried the following:
- 2021er Pinot Grigio (trocken), Kaiserstuhl-Kellerei Friedrich Kiefer, Eichstetten
- Limoncello Spritz
- Schwäbischer Rostbraten vom Alb-Rind mit Röstzwiebeln dazu Spätzle vom Brett (Swabian roast beef with fried onions, and handmade cut Spätzle).
- Hausgemachte Maultaschen geröstet in Ei mit Salatteller (one of my favorite foods in the whole world)- homemade Maultaschen tossed in egg and served with salad.
- Bauernhof-Vanillerahmeis mit heißer Schokolade (oder heißen Himbeeren) und Sahnehaube- vanilla ice cream with hot chocolate sauce and whipped cream.
The hotel also has a small sports-themed bar called Oxbar with both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks.
We ended our last night in Blaubeuren with a glass of Grauburgunder (trocken/dry, Weinhaus Franz Keller, Vogtsburg-Oberbergen) and Schwarzriesling (halbtrocken/half dry, WZG Heilbronn-Erlenbach-Weinsberg).
We started our tour of Blaubeuren with the Blautopf!
The Blautopf is the second largest karstic spring in Germany at 21 meters (69 ft) deep. It is also one of the most beautiful.
The name translates to Blue Pot due to the conical shape and often striking blue color. Beneath that turquoise surface is an intricate cave system (Blauhöhle), the largest in the Swabian Alps. The only hint at this enormous system from above ground are the bubbles coming up to the surface.
The entrance was first discovered in 1957 by two Munich cave divers and it has now been explored to a length of over 11 kilometers (7 miles) with more to go.
Due to the difficulty navigating the underground caves, access is restricted.
Geographisches Institut Universität Bonn has a video on Youtube (in German) showing just how extensive (and claustrophobic) this system is.
The exact shade of blue depends on the season and rainfall. It is created from the scattering of light from nanoscale limestone particles. According to old stories, it is also said to be caused by someone pouring a vat of ink into the water daily.
Alongside the Blautopf is a statue of schönen Lau based on the story, “Historie von der schönen Lau,” by Eduard Mörike of a mermaid in the Blautopf and how she learned to laugh again to break a curse.
Situated next to the spring is the historic Hammerschmiede (Hammer Forge). Driven by water-power, the mill was in operation from 1804 to 1889 in its original form, then as a mechanical workshop until 1956.
On certain days of the month, they have demonstrations and even forging courses available to book.
They also have an attached gift shop with postcards, books, and souvenirs. The café features cake, ice cream, coffee, and other drinks.
Hours of the museum and shops around the Blautopf may vary based on season. They are currently closed for winter break until March 21st, 2024.
Kloster Blaubeuren is just a few steps from the Blautopf. This monastery was originally founded in 1085 under the Benedictine order.
The entire complex is a work of art. It was rebuilt in the late Gothic style between 1466-1510 and is home to a high altar, sculpted choir stalls, painted ceilings, courtyard with an herb garden, and a completely preserved bathhouse.
Since 1817, the monastery has been a Protestant seminary with an attached boarding school.
The high altar was completed in 1494. It’s double wings open to reveal the life story of John the Baptist in 16 panel pictures.
While closed, the artwork shows the Passion story in four main scenes and two smaller backgrounds of the Lord’s Supper to the Resurrection.
There is a model of the altar’s panels outside the room to take a closer look.
I especially loved seeing the variety of herbs and plants in the inner courtyard’s garden.
Wochenmarkt am Mittwoch
Our timing was perfect and we happened to be in Blaubeuren for the weekly market on Wednesday. We started our full day here and picked up a few things for a light lunch before heading on a hike around the town.
Vendors were set up with fresh fruit, vegetables, sausages, cheese, flowers, and baked goods.
Inside the restaurant Wirtschaft zum Schwanen had Bauernbrot, Seelen and Wasserwecken fresh from the oven! All the bread was absolutely gorgeous, but I was particularly enamored by the Seelen.
For the hike, we started on a path by the Blautopf and made our way up to Blaufels then around to Grillplatz Sonderbuch for a lunch stop, and finally Rusenschloss before heading back down.
I very rarely hike, but it was such a relaxing experience with gorgeous views. We were there mid-October and the leaves were just starting to change with a scattering of color around the town. Most of the walk was easy with just a couple of moderate inclines.
There are many options for different skill levels. Renovations are also planned to make some of the paths more accessible.
Our lunch break at Grillplatz Sonderbuch was perfect with the Seelen, Gruyère, Emmentaler, Landjäger, carrots, grape tomatoes, and apples previously picked up from the market.
We were able to see more of Blaubeuren from a different angle at Rusenschloss.
These Hohengerhausen castle ruins date back to the 11th century and rest 150 meters (492 feet) above the Blautal.
Urgeschichtliches Museum Blaubeuren
After our hike, we had an incredible visit at Urgeschichtliches Museum Blaubeuren (URMU).
Located in the heart of Blaubeuren at Kirchpl. 10, this is the central museum for the Paleolithic period in Baden-Württemberg. It houses some of the oldest known works of art, musical instruments, and jewelry found in the surrounding caves of the Lone Valley and Ach Valley.
Most of these unique discoveries date back 35,000 to 43,000 years. The museum also provides an insight into the everyday life of the region’s ancestors and how they used the environment to create tools and the artwork on display.
One of the most notable items in Urgeschichtliches Museum Blaubeuren is Die Venus vom Hohle Fels, discovered in September 2008. This 40,000 year old sculpture is the oldest known manmade human figure to date. It was carved from a mammoth tusk and found in six nearly complete fragments.
The Gänsegeierflöte is another discovery from Hohle Fels in 2008. This 35,000 to 40,000 year old flute was carved from griffin vulture bones. The museum has a particularly fascinating exhibit demonstrating the level of work and resulting sounds created from musical instruments of different bases such as the vulture bones, swan bones and mammoth ivory.
The Wasservogel (Water fowl) is also from Hohle Fels. This 4.7 centimeter (nearly 2 inch) carving was created from mammoth ivory. The body was found in 2001 and the head was uncovered the following year.
The museum has a fun small gift shop in the lobby. There are books with more information and gifts. I got a little mammoth keychain for Claire and some mammoth-shaped pasta for Evan.
After touring the museum, our guide took us to Hohle Fels outside of Schelklingen to see the actual location where all the artifacts above have been found. This was such an incredible experience and I loved the connection between the origin and local museum only 6 kilometers (nearly 4 miles) apart.
Hohle Fels is one largest hall caves in the Swabian Alb and it continues to be an active excavation site. This cave and five surrounding ones in the region were added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2017 as “Höhlen und Eiszeitkunst der Schwäbischen Alb/Cave and Ice Age Art in the Swabian Jura” due to the finding of carved figurines and musical instruments from 43,000 to 33,000 years ago, among the oldest found so far in the world.
Check the schedule for entry and public/private tours before visiting. In 2023, public guided tours were available from May 1 to October 31. During the winter, the caves are closed to allow uninterrupted hibernation for bats.
We visited via car, but you can also take a e-bike or scooter during nice weather.
Wirtschaft zum Schwanen
For dinner after our visit to the museum and caves, we went to Wirtschaft zum Schwanen (same spot we stopped by in the morning for the Seelen).
Wirtschaft zum Schwanen focuses on Swabian cuisine with regional ingredients based on the season. The small, changing menu (in German) is written outside and on the wall, plus there is an assortment of coffee, tea, wine, beer, and other drinks.
Reservations are recommended and they have indoor/outdoor seating. I especially loved the beautiful styling and use of flowers. It really added such a unique presentation to the meal.
We enjoyed the Herbstgemüse in Kräuterflädle und Salat (Fall vegetables in herb pancakes and a salad), Schwäbischer Sauerbraten mit Spätzle und Blattsalat (Swabian Sauerbraten with Spätzle and salad), and Hühnerfrikassée mit hausgemachten Nudeln und Salat (Chicken Fricassee with handmade noodles).
Before our train ride to Augsburg, I picked up a few pastries from Beckabeck.
BeckaBeck is a bakery and pastry shop with locations in Blaubeuren and the surrounding area. Since 2001, all of the grain used in their products comes from the local Schwäbischen Alb. Their Weilerstraße 2 location has indoor/outdoor seating plus takeout.
I grabbed my favorite pastry- the Nussschnecke (snail shaped pastry with nut filling) along with a Dinkel Hefeteig-Schnecke (spelt yeast dough snail shaped pastry), Himmlische Berliner (heavenly Berliner doughnut with raspberry filling), and Käsebrezel (pretzel with cheese topping).
It was such a wonderful end to our visit in this beautiful area.
After enjoying the fantastic Seelen during our hike in Blaubeuren, I was excited to recreate our experience at home!
Translating to Souls, this Swabian bread highlights the local spelt flour in Baden-Württemberg. After forming and baking until golden, the resulting bread has a thin crust with a chewy center.
It is delicious on its own, with butter, as a base for sandwiches, or simply as an accompaniment to cheese, meat, and produce like our picnic in Blaubeuren.
While researching recipes, I came across many different ways of making the bread.
The cookbook, Die Schwäbische Küche calls these rolls a Schwäbisches Baguette and has half spelt/half wheat flour in their version. Some use purely spelt flour. Some use a sourdough starter. Others use yeast with a shorter resting time.
I went somewhere along the middle. After trying a few methods, I especially like this recipe with mostly spelt, an overnight resting time, and an oven with steam to get that nice thin crust.
A Few Seelen Tips
The dough for the Seelen should be very soft and wet. If it is too crumbly and just won’t come together, add some more lukewarm water a splash at a time.
After resting in the refrigerator overnight, bring the dough to room temperature for two hours before forming.
To shape the Seelen, use wet hands and a wet surface. This helps form the bread without adding any additional flour and it creates a little more moisture to develop the crust.
I kept the dough in a straight, baguette-like shape to mimic what we enjoyed in Blaubeuren. They can also have a more twisted, rustic look.
Try not to press out too much air as you handle the dough.
Brush the tops with more water to help the caraway seeds and coarse salt stick before placing in the oven.
Placing the pan of hot water on the bottom shelf of the oven will develop the crust on the Seelen as they bake.
The bread is best the day it is baked, but will last for a couple of days in an airtight container at room temperature.
Adapted from Die Schwäbische Küche and Bake to the Roots
- 2 1/4 teaspoons (7 grams) active dry yeast
- 1 1/2 cups (350 milliliters) lukewarm water 105-115˚F (40-46˚C), divided
- 3 cups (375 grams) spelt flour
- 1 cup (130 grams) bread flour
- 2 teaspoons salt
- Coarse sea salt
- Caraway seeds
- Sprinkle the yeast over 1 cup (240 milliliters) of the lukewarm water. Stir to combine, then set aside at room temperature until frothy, about 10 minutes.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine the spelt flour, bread flour, and salt.
- Add the yeast with water, then slowly add the remaining water to form a smooth, wet dough.
- Cover and refrigerate for 12-16 hours.
- Remove the bowl from the refrigerator and place at room temperature, still covered, for 2 hours to bring to room temperature.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment.
- Lightly moisten your hands and work surface with water, keeping additional water in a bowl nearby.
- Use your hands to gently divide the dough into 4 equal pieces.
- Moistening your hands with water as needed, gently form the dough into a rope about 1 1/2 inches (4 centimeters) thick and 10 inches (25 centimeters) long.
- Arrange on the prepared baking sheet and repeat with remaining dough to make 4 long rolls.
- Cover the Seelen with a towel and allow to rest at room temperature until starting to puff, about 30 minutes.
- Place one oven rack in the center and another on the bottom third of the oven. Preheat oven to 475˚F (245˚C) and place a baking dish 1/2 filled with water on the bottom rack.
- Once the rolls are puffed, very gently brush the tops with water and sprinkle with caraway seeds and coarse salt.
- Bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes.
- Remove the baking dish of water and decrease the temperature to 425˚F (220˚C).
- Continue to bake the rolls until golden, another 10-15 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and allow the Seelen to cool before serving.