Arnd Erbel: "Ich backe, also bin ich!"
I bake, therefore I am

In one of Germany’s oldest bakeries, Arnd Erbel produces bread, pretzels and Lebkuchen in the traditional way. With no additives or baker’s yeast. We met the only “free baker” in the country

Baker Arnd Erbel

In the early hours of the morning, the aroma of freshly baked bread, chocolate and spices wafts through the streets of Dachsbach. The fragrance can be traced back to Backstube Erbel – one of Germany’s oldest bakeries. Here, the staff and trainees are preparing the bakery goods for the day ahead.

They are led by master baker Arnd Erbel. He is the twelfth generation of his family to run this business, founded in the year 1680. Using tried and tested traditional recipes, he creates and sells Bavarian products that have been avidly consumed in the Free State for more than 250 years.

Bavarian pretzels and their myths

Many of his creations have a long tradition in Bavaria – such as the gingerbread, the shaped bread and the pretzels. They are closely associated with Bavaria both at home and abroad. However, there are many different stories about their origins: One legend states that in the year 610, the first pretzel was baked during Lent by a monk in a monastery in the south of France. The distinctive shape represented arms crossed in prayer. According to another tale, the pretzel is a successor of the bread ring, and dates back to the 11th century.

Despite these contradictory histories, one thing is certain: The world’s oldest pretzels have actually been found in Bavaria by archaeologists. With less fat than in other regions of Germany, thicker arms and a torn surface, the pretzel has become a staple Bavarian snack. Arnd Erbel is well aware of their importance and bakes them every day for his customers, using tried and tested recipes. He is preserving the Bavarian baking tradition, but constantly introduces new ideas to give it a distinctive style of its own.

Free baker with heart and soul

The master baker takes a sustainable approach to his products and is utterly devoted to them. For Arnd Erbel, his daily work is far more than just a job – it is his life. That much is clear from the ingredients he uses: Instead of simply getting his flour delivered, he goes out to the fields himself. “I tremble, rejoice and suffer with the crops, anxious to see what the weather will do and whether the corn will ripen well,” says the master baker. Changing weather conditions, different seasons – Arnd Erbel takes the grain as it comes rather than relying on standardised flour.

Und ab in den Ofen!

Artisan baking – then and now

He is a “Freibäcker” (free baker) – the only one in Germany to hold this title. It means he can set his own standards and is completely independent. Free to choose his own ingredients with no preservatives, Arnd Erbel simply follows his intuition and his senses. Even in the preparation he bucks the trend: His baking is all done without the aid of modern machines.

Feeling the dough with his hands, tasting the individual ingredients, sensing the heat of the oven on his skin: “These are the most wonderful, sensual sensations,” explains an enthusiastic Arnd Erbel. He follows the tried and tested methods of his predecessors. Precious traditional knowledge, which he in turn passes on to his trainees. Visitors to his traditional bakery find themselves being transported back in time. They see the love that goes into the products, along with the highest culinary aspirations and irresistible aromas.

"Backwerke ohne Firlefanz, aus Roh­stoffen von über­durchschnitt­licher Qualität"
Der Freibäcker mahlt das Getreide per Hand

From toddlers to top chefs

His bakery goods are more than just a matter of taste: Arnd Erbel’s attention to detail and the quality of his products have long been delighting guests in gourmet restaurants. The master baker is proud of that achievement.

Yet he gets the same pleasure from thrilling all his customers – children, pensioners and top chefs alike. For Arnd Erbel the important thing is that everyone enjoys it. “For me, the positive feedback is my true motivation, rather like the applause for an artist.” And that is what he is: an artist who is preserving the treasures of the Bavarian art of baking for the next generation and involving his guests in that enterprise with every last crumb.

Traditional baking craft by Arnd Erbel

Get to know more of our Bavaria Insiders

"Waidwerk" Chef Valentin Rottner

Michelin star chef Valentin Rottner

Wood sorrel in the sorbet, moss as decoration, home-shot game on the plate. The working philosophy of Valentin Rottner from Nuremberg

Read more
Auszeiten sind auch für Sonnenberg sehr wichtig

Abbot Beda Maria Sonnenberg

As Abbot of Plankstetten Monastery, Beda Maria Sonnenberg is also a librarian, archivist, novice master and teacher of religion. We visited him

Read more
Eine ordentliche Ladung Kuhdreck reicht für mindestens zehn Bilder

Art with cow poop by Werner Härtl

The illustrator and artist Werner Härtl paints rural scenes with fresh cow poop as paint and gold leaf for refinement. We looked over his shoulder

Read more
Schon als Kinder halfen die Kathi und Michael im Betrieb

Fisherwoman Kathi Mayer

Katharina Mayer takes up a 300-year-old family tradition: as a fisherwoman on the Danube, she catches pike, catfish and pikeperch

Read more
Das Geschwister-Trio Portenlänger

Gastro trio Xaver's

Jakob, Theresa and Xaver Portenlänger run “Xaver‘s” restaurant in Munich. A restaurant that feels like a living room, as hearty as it is stylish

Read more
Bergbauern und Hirten schützen alpine Kulturlandschaften

Shepherd and opera singer Florian Karg

All summer long Florian Karg works and lives as shepherd in the Allgäu mountains. In wintertimes he returns to the stage as an opera singer

Read more

News from Bavaria

Get first-hand tips on stories, travel reports and events!