By Wolfgang Doster
Summary of the interview with Mrs. Rüd, spokeslady of Seissen and the baking house in Seissen and Head of the Rural Women’s Association Seissen conducted on 4th July 2017.
Seissen was first mentioned in records in 1085 as a donation to the monastery of Blaubeuren. Located on the Swabian Alb, Seissen is a town which has always made up a good basis of life with natural water sources and an ideal crop area although nowadays the water is drawn from the Alb water supply.
Earliest evidence of a village baking oven date back to the 16th century.
Two years ago, the baking house was being restored by financial EU support. The new ovens were being rebuilt traditionally and function perfectly (still without electricity and only with brushwood).
The baking oven gives local families an opportunity to bake their own bread. 50 to 60 people regularly use the two ovens.
Families who want to bake meet the baking house lady at the baking house on Fridays at 12. She has a register and collects the baking fee. If there are more interested people than slots a dice will be tossed to decide who will use the oven at certain times.
Everybody brings bunches of brushwood, their tools and dough and bakes their bread and buns in the two big wood burning ovens available. Also, platz (some kind of pizza) with onions, bacon, greaves and cumin or sweet with currant or sugar but also brioche buns and Christmas pastry can be baked.
The baking house lady (employed by the parish) takes care of a regulated process, empties the ash pan and pays heed to cleanliness and tidiness in the baking house.
In Seissen, everyone brings their own tools for baking. Those are devices with handles as long as the oven is deep which have a long tradition. Kruck, hudelwisch, oven peels, bowls and charger plates for buns as well as brass brooms are being needed. An infra-red measurement device for temperature control is a modern appliance at disposal. Experienced bakers can tell from the colour of the grog stone if the temperature suffices. Also, temperature can be estimated with newsprint being put in the oven for a short time.
For 45 years, there has been a tradition in Seissen to organize a baking house feast in early summer (on the first weekend in July) which so far has taken place 42 times. Lots of local citizens participate and in the very baking house there are 50 to 60 people in action.
From the baking house, approx. 800 breads and different platzs (pizzas, savoury or sweet) are being offered and sold. The local music club and chummy music groups play. Thousands of visitors come from the surrounding area.
The bread baking skills are often imparted to youngsters and newcomers in town. However, in the last years, the number of regular bakers has decreased. It’s not just convenience or lack of time. In the rural housing developments there is a shortage of space to store wood and brushwood but also tools which are the preconditions of baking in the wood burning oven.
The Seissen baking ovens were being restored with EU aid money. The parish is responsible for the preservation. The preceding ovens have served for 90 years. The only thing that has to be renewed in the meantime are the grog stones on the bottom of the oven. Costs for the chimney sweeper and baking house lady are covered by the baking fees.
Spokeslady Mrs. Rüd has a consolidated knowledge of the history of the baking house and the local traditions and customs. She shares this knowledge with the interviewers. By a fluke, in the morning of our visit the ovens are still warm from the feast and two families from Seissen use them to bake bread. In the first run, the temperature in the oven is being raised again and then visitors can watch the different doughs put into shape by the women being dumped into the oven. First many platzs with different toppings: savoury and sweet. The visitors were also allowed to withdraw the first samples fresh from the oven and then 30 breads. It was an informative morning on the culture of bread baking now and then.