Introduction: Gersterbread

About: Polymath and idiot. Mostly idiot.

Gersterbread means scorched bread. It is a delicacy in the towns of Hannover and Bremen. Before the bread is baked in the oven, the top is sealed with a flame torch to prevent the loss of aromas. This is similar to how bread was baked in ancient times in a wood-fired oven. The word Gerster is not derived from the German word for barley, it is from a special type of reverbatory called Gersterofen.

It takes advanced knowledge to bake this bread, and of course safety precautions. If you need more information, have a look at my rye bread instructable. During my research I have found several recipes to prepare the Gersterbread, that's why I made some experiments first to find out which way is the best.

Full recipe:

Step 1: Ingredients and Equipment


  • 675 grams rye flour type 1150 (1.5 lb medium to dark rye flour)
  • 245 grams wheat flour type 1700 ( 0.5 lb wholemeal wheat flour)
  • 650 ml water (22 ounces)
  • 70 grams old bread
  • 20 grams baker's yeast
  • 20 grams sourdough
  • 20 grams salt
  • 5 grams spices


  • Kitchen machine
  • Loaf pan
  • Kitchen Scale
  • 3 jars

Step 2: Recipe

We need:

  • 450 grams rye ripe leaven sponge
  • 300 grams wheat ripe leaven sponge
  • 200 grams altus (soaked old bread)
  • 390 grams rye flour
  • 100 grams wheat flour
  • 150 ml hot water
  • 20 grams salt
  • 20 grams baker's yeast
  • 5 grams spices

Knead all ingredients to a smooth bread dough. Let rest for 40 minutes. Shape the bread and put into a greased loaf pan, wait another 50 minutes. Preheat stove to 250°C (480°F). Scorch the top with a burner and score the sides of the bread with a lame. Steam the stove and lower heat to 200°C (390°F), bake for 70 minutes. Remove loaf pan after 25 minutes of baking.

Step 3: Timeline

The bread has 2 different sourdoughs with a 2 level rye sourdough. We need a timeline for this. The first stage of the rye needs 24 hours, then 3 hours. The wheat sourdough needs 15 hours. And we have the soaker with bread residues that needs 3 hours.

My suggestion would be to prepare the the first stage of the rye sourdough on a Friday morning. Prepare the wheat sourdough on the Friday evening. Saturday morning, prepare the soaker and upgrade the rye sourdough to a ripe leaven sponge. After baking, let the bread rest until the next day and on Sunday morning you have a fresh and tasty bread made by yourself!

Step 4: Experiments

There are several recipes available on the internet, and they don't vary in ingredients, but in the sequence of operations. Some where flamed before letting the dough rise, some where right before the baking, some where coated with sourdough, some with salted water and some just with water. So I tried all possibilities out with a variety of smaller buns. I left out a coating with potato-starch wash, because I couldn't find an equivalent in a German recipe.

A good bread dough contains around 62% water in baker's percentage, for our testbuns we need 350 grams of flour and therefor 230 grams water. I have a silicon mold for 9 little buns, which fits perfectly for the number of testbuns I want to make.

Step 5:

I prepared four small bowls from a crême brulée set, they should be able to deal with the heat from the burner. Another 3 cups for the different coatings, water with salt, just water and sourdough.

Step 6:

Salt water and plain showed no difference. The normal water though became sticky and lost the smooth surface. Water is out.

Step 7:

The 9th was flambed in cherry liquor. As you can see in the 3rd picture, the crust only changed at the peak site of the flames. The cherry flavour was still in the whole bread though.

Step 8:

I took a look at the breads after 20 minutes and baked them for another 5 minutes to see the maximum. My conclusion was that I wanted to make a Gersterbread with sourdough on top that was burned after letting the dough rise.

Step 9: Result

Except on the size of the buns, the burning had no impact on the inside, but after I took them out of the stove an interesting thing happened. They cracked. Right below the burned surface. I could watch the gaps getting bigger and bigger. If I figure this out much better in further experiments, maybe I can use this to create a sensation at a dinner party.

Step 10:

Anyway, let's bake a smaller version of the recipe. We need 225 grams of ripe rye leaven, 150 grams of ripe wheat leaven, 100 grams bread aroma, 195 grams rye flour, 50 grams wheat flour, 75 ml hot water, 10 grams salt and 2 grams spices.

Step 11: Mixing

Mix it all and let it rest for 40 minutes.

Step 12:

I placed the dough in a loaf pan/casserole and burned the top. Then I coated the top with sourdough and wrote the word "FIRE" with the burner. The stove at 250°C, steaming 4 times every 30 secounds and then falling heat by turning the temperatur down to 200°C and bake for 70 minutes. I removed the casserole after 25 minutes for a better crust. As you can see in picture 4, the top is darker because of the caramelization with the burner, while the crust below shows mainly a colour of the maillard reaction. The yellow colour is from dextrin and the black is roast aroma. The more colours you have in the crust, the more different aroma. Now let's do the whole recipe for the dough.

(Again, if you dont't know what steaming or falling heat means, please have a look at my rye bread instructable!)

Step 13: Rye Sourdough (second Leaven Sponge)

Start the rye sourdough with 10 grams of storage leaven, 120 grams of rye wheat and 60 ml of water. Stir and let it rest in a warm place for 24 hours.

Step 14: Wheat Sourdough

Wheat sourdough needs 10 grams of storage leaven, 145 grams of wheat flour and 145 ml of water. Stir and let it rest in a warm place for round about 15 hours.

Step 15: Rye Sourdough (ripe Leaven Sponge)

Take the rye sourdough and feed it another 165 grams rye flour and 165 ml water. Let it rest for another 3 hours.

Step 16: Aroma

Take 70 grams altus, (bread residues/leftovers), slice them into small parts and soak them in 130 ml water for 3 hours.

Step 17: Spices:

The spices used are fennel, anise and coriander seeds.

Step 18: Mixing

Add all together. 450 grams rye ripe leaven sponge, 300 grams wheat ripe leaven sponge, 200 grams soaked old bread, 390 grams rye flour, 100 grams wheat flour, 150 ml hot water, 20 grams salt, 20 grams baker's yeast, 5 grams spices. Knead to a smooth bread dough.

Step 19: Leaven

Let the dough rest covered in a warm place for 40 minutes.

Step 20:

Grease a loaf pan and place the dough in it. Wet your hands with water and even out the top of the dough. Let the dough rest for 50 minutes and preheat the stove to 250°C. Then scorch and burn the loaf however you want! Put the laof into the stove, steam 4 times and reduce heat to 200°C. Bake for 70 minutes. Remove the loaf pan after 25 minutes.

Step 21: Resting

The bread needs to rest a day even if you cannot resist when you look at this wonderful and colourful crust.

Step 22: Enjoy Your Bread!

If you have any questions, feel free to ask!

This is my entry in the Fire Challenge and if you like to support me, please click on the red VOTE! button in the top right. Thank you and have a nice day!

Fire Challenge 2017

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Fire Challenge 2017