Bread is an important part of German culture and more than 300 varieties of bread originate from this European country. Each region has its own specialty. German bread tends to be heavy and dense in texture. Rye flour is used extensively and this can provide a strong, almost sour, taste. Many German breads are made with a sourdough starter: this keeps the bread moist and also acts as a natural preservative.
Pumpernickel is a rye bread originating from the region of Westphalia. It is made from a mixture of rye flour and rye meal. The baking process is complex: the bread is steamed, rather than baked, in an oven at low temperature. Cooking can take up to 24 hours. Once packaged, pumpernickel will keep for several months. It is usually served in thin slices as an accompaniment to cheese or sausage.
Vollkornbrot is a whole grain rye bread. It contains no yeast and is popular in Northern Germany. The bread is dark in color and has a dense, heavy texture. Sometimes sunflower seeds are added to the mix.
Roggenmischbrot is made from a combination of rye and wheat flour. A popular bread, it is eaten on a daily basis by many Germans. It has a light color and texture and, unlike many German breads, does not keep for long after it has been cut open.
Also known as "brezel", these are made from sourdough and have a soft center encased in a crisp, salty crust. Varieties of pretzels differ widely according to region: in Bavaria, in the south of Germany, the shape is long and thin. Pretzels can be topped with sunflower seeds or poppy seeds.
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