New recipes and updates

Get new recipes
in your inbox

Cuisine Fiend

Find a recipe by ingredient

German souls bread

Fri, 10 December, 2021

Does bread have a soul? They think so in Schwabia, south Germany, where they bake traditional spelt sourdough ‘souls’ bread rolls - Schwäbische Seelen.

german souls bread

What is Seelen, the souls bread?

Schwäbische Seelen, ‘souls’ from Swabia in southern Germany, are long and thin bread rolls or batons, traditionally made from spelt flour or a mix of spelt and white, leavened on a sourdough starter. The name is the most curious, but not the most wonderful thing about them.

It’s not crystal clear why they are called souls. Most likely the name is derived from the Christian feast of All Souls Day (or All Saints Day in some regions). In a parallel to the Mexican Day of the Dead, bread was baked as an offering for the ‘poor souls’, those suffering in the purgatory.

Another story links the souls to the medieval custom of giving a loaf of bread to every beggar (‘poor soul’) in the locality, to ward off the plague. Thrifty Swabians made sure the loaves were as small as possible!

schwabian spelt sourdough souls

What is German ‘souls’ bread like?

The bread is quite gorgeous with thin crust and airy, chewy crumb. It disappears in a jiffy, loaded with ham or cheese, or just generously buttered. After a day or two it can be easily refreshed by spraying it with water and passing it through a hot oven.

There are many variations of the souls as they currently seem to be bang on trend. Spelt sourdough is the classic, but you can also make souls on white bread flour, mixed white and spelt, or rye.

No sourdough starter – no problem: seven grams fresh or a teaspoon of instant yeast instead of sourdough starter will do the trick.

schwabische seelen brot

How to make souls bread?

The recipe that caught my eye comes from Breadtopia but I also glanced at some German websites to cross-reference it ethnically.

The Seelen are surprisingly easy to make – or perhaps not so surprising considering they are full-works artisan. In fact the result of mixing the dough in your kitchen mixer would not merit the chore of washing up.

First things first though: the starter dough or levain should ferment overnight, with the dough mixed in the morning.

There is no need to refresh the sourdough starter before mixing the levain. As long as you have a recently viable sour sitting in the fridge, add spelt flour and water to it and stick it in your airing cupboard or somewhere similarly warm.

The next morning the main dough comes together – combined with a spatula, a spoon or your hands into a very rough lump.

Next, the only hardship is to stay at home on hand for half-hourly stretch-and-fold exercise (though I know people who run errands with the trusty Tupperware tub on passenger seat, if they have to pop out). With every stretch, it should become smoother and more elastic before, finally, it’s ready for an overnight rest in the fridge.

The next day all you need is a sturdy baking surface, a hot oven, some water and readiness to play mudcakes. That’s precisely how the souls breads are shaped: like making mud castles with grubby paws. The less shapely, the tastier they will actually be – or maybe it’s just me making excuses for my lack of sculptural skills.

They are divine freshly baked, with a pat of butter melting on roughly torn crumb but, as mentioned before, they can be readily freshened up in a hot oven.

The recipe below makes only four batons, far too little if it’s to be your weekly bread bake, so simply scale it up to the required multiplication of delicious, crusty-chewy, one-is-never-enough rolls.

german spelt sourdough bread rolls

More sourdough bread roll recipes

My seeded sourdough batons are a little bigger, and more regimented than the rustic souls – very worth your attention though.

And I am inordinately proud of the Golden Gate bread rolls, made with San Francisco-style dough (you’d never guess that would you?). Especially of the name that I came up with for them.

Dimpled and malted, these are extremely delightful French bread rolls.

More German bread recipes

Who doesn’t like pretzels? And they’re all the better for being homemade.

German seeded rye sourdough loaf is a type of blonde pumpernickel and totally delicious.

Partybrot is a checker board of white and brown bread rolls, to pull apart and share.

German souls bread

Servings: 4Time: 1 hour 30 minutes plus proving dough


  • For the levain:
  • 10g sourdough starter
  • 25g whole spelt flour
  • 25g water
  • For the main dough:
  • 50g levain, from above
  • 200g whole spelt flour
  • 25g wholemeal flour
  • 5g salt
  • 200g water (150g + 50g reserved for later)
  • coarse sea salt and caraway seeds, for sprinkling


1. Mix the levain ingredients in a small tub the night before you want to make the dough, and two nights before baking. Place the tub in a warm place to ferment.

spelt sourdough starter

2. Mix the ingredients for the main dough (except the 50g of water) with 50g of the levain (discard the rest or use as a new sourdough starter). Cover the bowl or the plastic container and leave in the kitchen for 20 minutes.

3. Stretch and fold the dough with wet fingers until it’s smooth. Repeat the stretch and fold after 40 minutes.

4. After 20 minutes more (1 hour from the initial mixing), dock the dough with your fingertips and pour the reserved water all over it. Stretch and fold it gently until all the water is absorbed.

german spelt souls dough

5. Repeat the stretch and fold every 30 minutes for 3 more hours. After the final stretch and fold, let the dough rise for 1 hour, then place it in the fridge overnight.

6. The next morning preheat the oven to 230C/450F/gas 8 with a baking steel, pizza stone or a heavy baking tray on the middle rack.

7. Prepare a length of parchment to fit the stone or tray and spray it with water. Turn the dough out onto the parchment in one lump.

8. Wet your hands and divide the dough with sawing motions of the side of your hand like a knife, shaping them into long batons but without lifting the dough off the parchment.

how to shape german seelen

9. Sprinkle the ‘souls’ with salt and caraway and spray liberally with water.

10. Transfer with the parchment onto the preheated stone or tray. Bake for 20-25 minutes until lightly browned.

11. Cool on a wire rack.

NEW recipe finder

Ingredients lying around and no idea what to cook with them? Then use my NEW Recipe Finder for inspiration!

Recipe Finder

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published

Characters left 800
Recipe rating
Email address*
Web site name
Be notified by email when a comment is posted

* required

Cuisine Fiend's

most recent

About me

Hello! I'm Anna Gaze, the Cuisine Fiend. Welcome to my recipe collection.

I have lots of recipes for you to choose from: healthy or indulgent, easy or more challenging, quick or involved - but always tasty.


Sign up to receive the weekly recipes updates

Follow Fiend