The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

German bread spice - a game changer

semolina_man's picture

German bread spice - a game changer

I baked today for the first time with German bread spice.  A revelation, a game changer. 


German bread spice has been hinted at on this site, although it doesn't come up frequently.   There are a few people on this site who are from Germany, who I am sure are quite familiar with this. 

There are a variety of recipes, but the most common ingredients appear to be coriander, anise, fennel and caraway. 


A small amount of bread spice added to a spelt or rye containing dough is a near miracle.   It adds a note of complexity to the wonderful tang of the rye and spelt.   I started with a small amount of spice, to learn the flavor and not overpower. 


Bread spice recipe (amounts do not need to be precise):

1/2 tsp anise seed

1/2 tsp fennel seed

1/2 tsp caraway seed

1/2 tsp coriander seed


Grind the ingredients in a mill or with a mortar and pestle.  Add 1/2 tsp of the ground spice mixture to 500g of dough.   Bake as normal. 


The dough I used with the bread spice is based on the method from Tom Cat's Semolina Filone, from this site.  However all the flour was replaced with an equal proportion mixture of whole spelt, whole rye and all purpose wheat. 


I normally bake Brötchen, or rolls.  The dough above, with bread spice, was very good with butter.  I think it would also be good with a sweet topping such as honey or jam, which I will find out about tomorrow.   :) 


Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

or toasting a few minutes in a hot dry frying pan before crushing.  :)

Gadjowheaty's picture

Only a few years old, Mini.  What else to do while I'm, waiting for my %$#^* fat tomato confit petals to dry but comb the web looking for a source for Schabzigerklee?  With shipping 50 g costing upwards of 40E, the question comes up - to you or Karin, or anyone, perhaps in the U.S.:  (1) how easily can one grow the herb?  (2) any ideas on legality of buying seeds from Europe?


Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Saw some on amizon for just a few dollars. Did read that shipping was free on orders over €40.  Misread?

Funny....I pasted the below link right off the fenugreek page and it shows chilies.  I tried several times.  I have it pulled up on a second tab.  They say easy tor grow. Will try to copy some info. Just use the link and put fenugreek into their site search box. Then tap the picture of blue fenugreek.  Easy peasy.  €5 shipping but don't know if they ship to you.

Blue fenugreek is an old, traditional spice often used with cheeses and dips, which undeservedly has not been in people's awareness until recently. Already popular in Switzerland, blue fenugreek is appreciated there for its own unique flavour, slightly resembling curry spices. 
Trigonella caerulea is an annual plant which is easy and fast to grow, ready for harvest already after 2-3 months. The whole plant may be cut and kept in a dry and dark space for drying. 

Seeds: 400 blue fenugreek seeds per packageDetails: Plant description & carePlant family:FabaceaePlant height approx.:56 – 96Flowering time:JuneJulyFlower colour:BlueRoot system :Deep roots Lifecycle :Annualsunlight:full sunSowing & cultivationSowing time outdoors:MarchAprilMayGermination time in days:5 – 10Planting distance:30 cmMain harvest:MayJuneJulyThe seeds can be sown directly into the ground outdoors from mid-April, about 1-1,5cm deep and in rows about 40cm apart. Blue fenugreek rather prefers sunny and dry locations.Other namesBotanical name:melilotus coeruleatrigonella caeruleaGerman names:bisamkleeblauer honigkleeblauer steinkleebrotkleehexenkrautkäsekleezigainergrautzigerchrutzigerkleezigerkrautEnglish names:blue melilotblue–white cloverblue–white trigonellacurd herbsweet trefoilFrench names:baumierlotier odorantmélilot bleumélilot d’allemagnetrèfle bleutrèfle musque
Gadjowheaty's picture

Great.  Thanks so much!

alcophile's picture

A quick search of eBay turned up a couple of vendors in Brooklyn that sell blue fenugreek from Georgia (Tbilisi, not Atlanta). You would have to ask the seller if it is ground leaves or seeds. Another vendor from Greece sells the leaves with $4 shipping. Off eBay, I found the seeds from a seller in British Columbia (here) and the whole spice seed from a spice vendor in Montreal. Have you considered using methi leaves as suggested by Ginsberg in The Rye Baker? He concedes that it is not exactly authentic, but it could be a temporary fix.

As for growing the herb, I suspect it will sprout readily with warm soil. It probably can be grown in a pot, too. I would not recommend purchasing seeds for cultivation from overseas unless the seller has a permit from the USDA.

Gadjowheaty's picture

Missed this when I posted. Thanks as well, alcophile.  I missed the comment in Ginsberg's book and will read the book again.  Rye is calling, putting on hold a plan to work through Hamelman's book.  I think it was coming on older breads talking about the wonders of German bread baking.  Rye.  Even sounds impish when I say it.

Gadjowheaty's picture

Just an FYI for all, bought seeds from Uprising Seeds.  Apparently a very easy annual to grow - as you say, alcophile.  Thanks again.

hanseata's picture

Anise, caraway and fennel are used all over Germany, whereas coriander is more often found in the South. And blue fenugreek (Brotklee) is special for breads from the Alps (like Vinschger Paarlen). 

I add bread spices to most of my hearty rye or ancient grain breads.

Happy baking,

Karin (from Hamburg, now Maine)

semolina_man's picture

Yesterday's bake was with fenugreek (Bockshornklee, Trigonella foenum-graecum), fennel, coriander and caraway.  A good mixture.  I again used a small quantity to become familiar with the flavor.  I think blue fenugreek (Schabzigerklee, Trigonella caerulea) will be hard to find. 


Next bake will be with double the quantity of bread spice, to experience how strongly the flavor builds. 


Spice recipe:

3/4 tsp fenugreek seeds (Bockshornklee, trigonell foenum-graecum)

1/2 tsp fennel seeds

1/2 tsp coriander seeds

1/2 tsp caraway seeds


Mill spices in a mill or with a mortar and pestle.   Use 1/2 tsp of the spice blend in 500g of dough. 


Dough recipe used the same method as usual, Tom Cat's Semolina Filone.   Flour was 150g AP in the poolish, and 300g whole rye in the main dough.  

Southbay's picture

Can’t wait to try it out

clazar123's picture

Until I was a baker myself, I never realized that the flavor of rye bread was from spices. Big revelation.

Share your broetchen recipe! So delicious.

If you enjoy rye bread, one of our Fresh Loaf members has written a book and has a website-all dedicated to rye.


DesigningWoman's picture

I'd seen bread spice mentioned in a number of posts here and wondered briefly what the ingredients were. Thanks for the info!

BTW, I'm not sure if I have anise seeds, but I know that I have a big bag of star anise -- would that be a reasonable swap, or should I go buy anise? Or just leave it out?



semolina_man's picture

Thanks for the comments. 


Star anise, Illicium verum, is not a substitute for anise, Pimpinella anisum


Base dough recipe, from Tom Cat's Semolina Filone on this site:


Changes to the formula: note there are 450g of total flour.  An easy substitution is 150g each of AP, whole rye and whole spelt.   I like whole rye so I have used 100g AP, 250g whole rye and 100g whole spelt.  


I have found the original Tom Cat's formula to be consistently too wet.  So I reduce total water by at least 10%, up to 20%.   I remove the 20g-40g of water from the main dough, so the poolish hydration remains as per the original formula.


Optional addition: 1/2 tsp German bread spice, see the first post in this thread. 

Other optional additions: 100g or so spelt, wheat or rye berries, soaked overnight in water.


1. mix poolish, let ferment covered overnight at room temperature

2. mix poolish and main dough, with bread spice, let ferment 3 hours covered at room temperature with stretch-folds every 45 minutes.  If using soaked grain berries, add them gradually in portions during the stretch-folds.

3. divide dough into 8 equal portions, form Brötchen and place on parchment on a baking sheet.

4. let rise for 1 hour in a warm moist place.

5. score, then bake at 525F for about 25-35 minutes depending on oven and environmental conditions.  Color should be dark brown. 






semolina_man's picture

Here is a good summary.  Posted in German and with my translation.  Source:,Welche%20Arten%20von%20Brotgew%C3%BCrz%20gibt%20es%3F,Bockshornklee%2C%20Th....


GrundrezeptKoriander, Fenchel, Anis, Kümmel
Mediterrane ArtRosmarin, Thymian, Knoblauch, Oregano und Salbei
Tiroler ArtSchabziegerklee, Bockshornklee, Thymian und Cumin
Zwiebelbrotgerösteten Zwiebeln, Koriander, Piment und Kümmel
ZwiebelbrotOregano, Knoblauch, getrocknete Zwiebeln, Thymian, Basilikum, Paprikapulver, Salz


Type / Ingredients

Basic recipe / coriander, fennel, anise, caraway

Mediterranean style / rosemary, thyme, garlic, oregano, sage

Tirolian style / blue fenugreek, "regular" fenugreek, thyme, cumin

Onion bread / roasted onions, coriander, chili pepper, caraway

Onion bread / oregano, garlic, dried onions, thyme, basil, ground paprika, salt

clazar123's picture

I have always identified as  German heritage. Of the grandparents I knew of (baking ones died before I was born)-they all came from Germany and my mom said they spoke German in the house. They actually discouraged their kids from speaking German as they wanted them to be American. This was around WW1 time and it was not an uncommon sentiment where they lived.

So given those circumstances, most of our food and recipes were German based-including our bread. My mom didn't bake  bread so rye bread was purchased at the local German bakery. I use that excuse as to why I never knew that the flavor of rye bread came from the addition of spices. It was not until I started my bread making journey here on TFL and branched into rye bread that I learned about Broetgevurtz from MiniOven. I made a great (to me,at least) loaf of rye bread but a "rye bread" flavor was missing. DUH! Mini replied about bread spice and the dots were finally connected. How did I never know? I even WORKED in a  German based bakery as my first job and never knew rye bread flavor came from spices. It is amazing how things can be right in front of us and we don't "see" them.

Very interesting about the regional differences of these "bread spices". Thank you for the discussion!

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

affect flavour.  Much of the rye grown in the "states" is for animal feed.  This may have led to a decrease in some of the more flavourful varieties being grown.  Check on a return of "Rosen rye."