The Art of Baking Bread
Why I wanted to write an article about baking bread as a designer is simply because the art of baking bread is anchored in my family’s past. My grandfather, Heinz Vogel, was an artist, master baker and confectioner and ran a café in Würzburg, Franconia. His work has shaped me from childhood and to this day I appreciate that he tried to combine and preserve creativity, tradition and quality in his everyday life. Compared to many professions in today’s job market, many of these worthwhile work philosophies get lost.
Baked goods that are produced by machine, frozen and only heated up in the so-called back shop (german) also remind me of the way in which tableware is cast, glazed and fired industrially. Both manufacturing processes, baking bread and firing ceramics – celebrate an ancient craft that uses 100% natural raw materials from the earth and combines with the elements water, fire and air. Industrial production creates many advantages, but often no added value because the products always lose charm, uniqueness and value. Whereas something valuable and human is at all times inherent in hand-thrown ceramic tableware or real craft bread.
Heinz Vogel, Artist and master baker
Wabi Sabi Bread and Kintsugi
In the Japanese philosophy of Wabi Sabi, a hand-made or repaired item with cracks, dents, bumps and patches does not symbolise a mistake, but a quality feature that is not despised but celebrated. It is about accepting our own imperfection as a human being and of everything in the world, because everything is in a constant flow of change. A stone turns to dust, a person to earth, flour to bread and clay to dishes. Wabi Sabi is also involved in baking bread and turning ceramics and wants to make us aware that the future is subject to our creative power, because it is created anew at every moment and so we can give it a new direction every moment.
So I got back to baking bread many years later when I discovered that it was time to bake my own bread abroad. Because the bread that I know and love simply doesn’t exist in other cultures and countries. Until I was 19 years old, I naively believed that everyone knew the crispy black bread, franconian loaf, sourdough bread (e. g. from Domberger Brot Werk) or at least a rye bread. It was all the more interesting to discover the variety of preparation options and quality differences of bread and to recognise that the art of baking bread is a vital commonality of many cultures and that bread will always be a basic food resource for people.
Marguerite Wildenhain, Bauhaus Ceramist
Ai WeiWei “Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn”
»My life as a potter has taught me how short-lived the values of current and fashion trends, of art prizes and successes are. Publicity and the spotlight are as fleeting as clouds, but a good vessel will last for centuries because it is essential, healthy and pure in its practicality, its real beauty, and especially because it is the indivisible, indestructible and complete expression of a human being.«
– Marguerite Wildenhain, Bauhaus Ceramist
Bread of the Future – Seeing Reality Differently
The wonderful smell of freshly baked bread awakens many senses and that’s why I wondered what senses and feelings could be awakened by simply baking bread. After so many years bread is serving as a loyal everyday companion and according to my taste deserves some colour. The idea of waking up in the morning and seeing the bread on the breakfast table in a completely different way than I’ve ever seen it before seemed like the right experiment to me. It occurred to me to bake colourful bread in a colour that I have always vehemently rejected as artificial in food, namely the colour blue.
Because I sometimes like to expose my own prejudices and fears, it was naturally important to me to find a natural blue colour powder. So I came across the blue microalgae Spirulina, which is strong cobalt blue and is healthy at the same time. Spirulina is said to slow down aging processes, strengthen the immune system and thus protect against viral infections and cancer. So a 100% natural blue-green algae bread with super powers – just the right thing in Covid-19 times and for our future, in which we will probably eat more blue food.
Back to the Future, the idea of baking blue algae bread was also realised together with my Korean mother-in-law, who has been baking her own bread every week for over 30 years. According to my mother-in-law, baking bread is easy, so I shared d her DIY bread recipe below. I particularly enjoyed garnishing the blue spirulina bread on a hand-made stoneware plate.
Photography, Kerstin Mueller
Blue Spirulina Bread Recipe
Fortunately, the demand for quality bread and hand-baked goods without artificial ingredients has been increasing again for some years. Sourdough bread is particularly trendy, but the following recipe is a very simple bread recipe with yeast without sourdough, which, according to my mother-in-law, always works. The Spirulina powder is, by the way, completely tasteless, which means that the bread smells and tastes as delicious as ever.
500g spelt flour
200g wheat flour, alternatively buckwheat or whole grain flour
½ fresh yeast cubes or 1 pkg of dry yeast
1 tsp salt
350 – 400 ml water
2-3 tbsp linseed, chia seeds, sunflower seeds or oatmeal
1 tsp blue spirulina powder
Knead the dough for 5 minutes and cover with a cloth
Let it rest in a warm place for 2 hours
Grease bread baking loaf pan
175 – 220 C° top / bottom heat
Preheat the oven
50-60 min baking time
Brush 1-2 times bread in the oven with water
1. Mix the flour, yeast, salt and sunflower seeds with a teaspoon of spirulina powder.
2. Knead ingredients with reduced lukewarm water. Depending on the consistency, gradually mix in the retained water.
3. Knead the dough for five minutes and let it rest in a relatively warm place for two hours.
4. Preheat the oven to approx. 220 °C top / bottom heat long enough.
5. Shape the dough into a round loaf with some flour or put it in a box.
6. Bake a total of approx. 45-50 minutes. After 40 minutes, reduce the temperature to 175 ° C. For a crispy crust, leave the oven door slightly open for the last 5 minutes of baking.
7. Take out the bread and let it cool on a wire rack.
Image taken at Lobe Block, Berlin