Today I’m just gonna tell you about some impressions from my last trip to Germany! I adore learning about pastry culture in other countries, so I figure some of you may be interested in what the baking world is like in my home.
I’ll get right to it!
Cafés and Restaurants
Coffee is HUGE in Germany. Some 75% of the country drinks it daily. Black coffee is most common, but cappuccinos and latte macchiatos are a staple at basically any café. Some do offer a wider variety of drinks, but Germans generally prefer to keep things a bit more simple than the massive Starbucks menus you see in the States.
In terms of sweets, cafés generally have assortments of cakes along with a coffee and tea menu, very much like the US. The primary difference is just that you see more of these shops around. Below are a couple of photos from a lovely café in Marburg where we stopped for afternoon coffee.
If you’re looking at a breakfast situation, you’ll likely be offered brötchen (crispy bread rolls) with an assortment of cheeses, meats and vegetables. Generally speaking, Germans like to go savory in the mornings. If that isn’t your deal, though, there will almost certainly be croissants, danish and the like offered as well.
Below are two breakfasts we had. Both were under €5 including the lattes. Quite a deal.
At restaurants, the dessert lineup is often identical to the ones you’d see in American restaurants. A cake or two, some ice cream, and rotating specialty items. Of course, in Germany you’d be more likely to find things like the apple strudel below.
This country takes its bread very seriously, and so bread bakeries are everywhere. The standard bakery lineup includes pretzels, a wide array of small bread rolls called brötchen, whole loaves of bread, croissants, savory pastries filled with sausages and cheese, German donuts (or Berliner) with various fillings, and an assortment of layered or sheet style cakes.
One offering that always makes me chuckle is the cookie below. These are called Americans. I don’t think anyone knows why, but they’re certainly delicious.
By far my favorite bakery item I tried on this trip was Eierlikör Berliner. Eierlikör is an extremely thick egg-nog type drink made with a TON of alcohol. It’s incredible. This Berliner was essentially a huge donut filled with Eierlikör cream, dusted in sugar and covered in chocolate striping. I tweeted this photo of me crying with joy when I tasted it.
There are also cute cake and chocolate shops. I mostly took photos of these from the outside.
Ice Cream Shops
Ahhh, the ice cream shop. Not nearly respected enough as an institution in the US, but perfected into an art in Germany.
The ice cream shop in my hometown is fantastic. They churn their homemade ice creams each night, and the whole place is family run. At €1 per scoop, it’s not a huge splurge to stop and get a scoop when you pass by. Or two. Or three.
Above you see raspberry, pistachio and hazelnut ice cream. This particular parlor does fruit ice creams exceptionally well, but their hazelnut is also an all time favorite of mine.
A common dish in ice cream parlors that you never see in the US is “spaghetti ice cream.” The basic spaghetti bowl consists of vanilla ice cream extruded to look like pasta, topped with a strawberry sauce and either white chocolate or coconut shreds as “parmesan.” There are lots of variations, though, even if the illusion isn’t quite as exact once the flavors begin to change up.
The ice cream shop in my home town also serves alcohol, which is actually relatively common. Not only does this mean delicious alcoholic sundae bowls, but you could theoretically just hang out and drink wine with your ice cream. Not a bad prospect either way.
Ice cream parlors also tend to have unique coffee offerings. One common menu item is Eiskaffee, or coffee topped with a scoop of (usually vanilla) ice cream and a healthy dose of whipped cream. Eiskaffee is below on the left.
A new-to-me coffee item I tried was called Caffè Nocciolato. This coffee was flavored with creamy nut liquer, and it was absolutely delicious.
Ice cream parlors also serve some sweet dishes like waffles or crêpes.
In my opinion, though, the best thing is a sundae heaped high with fruit, whipped cream or nuts on top. We had quite a few of these in our month there.
Below, a fruit sundae and a banana split.
A hazelnut sundae and an amaretto sundae with no small amount of alcohol.
A raspberry sundae, another hazelnut sundae, and “pizza ice cream.” The latter is an assortment of ice creams and fruits arranged on a plate.
In short, ice cream parlors in Germany are the best.
What popped out at me most on this trip with how incredibly AFFORDABLE everything is. I guess it becomes more obvious to me the older I get and the more time I spend budgeting. Baking ingredients cost a fraction of what they do in the States, and as a result you’re looking at cheaper finished products as well. The quality is generally still solid, however, which I chalk up mostly to the fact that Germans are pretty discerning about baked goods.
It’s also interesting to note the things you CANNOT purchase easily in Germany. I decided to bake a pumpkin pie. Pumpkin sweets just aren’t a thing here yet, though they’re slowly becoming more well known. Finding canned pumpkin is an incredible challenge… and pumpkin spice? That just doesn’t exist, so you’ll have to mix your own. My pie also has pecans… another rarely seen item here. Thankfully I knew that ahead of time and brought these items. Amazon has also made international items much easier to acquire.
I have more issues buying German ingredients Stateside. The most specific issue is that Germany has a wider range of dairy products. You just can’t find soft, creamy cheeses like schmand or quark (both used heavily in baking) in the States. Additionally, German butter is very different. The fat content is significantly higher, which changes everything from the color to the texture when it’s cold.
The flour is also difficult to replicate. German flours are classified differently and have differing protein contents, so trying to imitate them is a huge pain. AP flour is a reasonable enough replacement in many recipes, but with some things it just doesn’t work at all. Baker’s ammonia–a leavener–is also something people would be more likely to have in their pantry in Germany than in the States.
And finally… One very interesting thing I noticed was that some Aldi stores had hot bread vending machines! You push a button, and depending on the readiness it either immediately spits out a still-warm loaf of bread, or it asks you to return in about 10 minutes. It also dispenses mini pizzas, a few varieties of croissants, and rolls. I don’t know why I found these so exciting, but I really did.
This will be my final entry about this particular trip. I did, however, pick up a ton of amazing recipes there! Rest assured that you will be getting some of those very soon.