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24 November 2015 - Maike Bialek

Something typically Bremen for Christmas (including recipe)


Bremer Klaben

Bremer Klaben
Bremer Klaben © Bremen Blog

“Please send us a recipe for a typical Bremen delicacy”. OK, so the people from the Dutch magazine were quite clear in what they were after. The editors wanted to run an article on Bremen – much to our delight – and were looking to add a little extra in the form of a practical tip for their readers. We were pleased about that, too, but it did present us with a bit of a challenge.

We have loads of texts on the Bremen Town Musicians, on Roland, on the Weser river, and on many other sites of interest in Bremen, but we were totally unable to find a single recipe with exact measurements. And a recipe for what? What did we think would attract visitors? Kohl und pinkel perhaps, a local dish whose name doesn’t exactly make the mouth water – at least not until you’ve tasted it. Knipp? Kluten? Labskaus? After a joint brainstorming session it became clear that there was only one candidate – klaben.

Klaben is quite similar to stollen cake, which is why this blog post fits quite nicely with the coming festive season. But in Bremen klaben is enjoyed all year round.

Now that we had found what we were looking for, we needed a recipe. And we couldn’t just copy a recipe because of copyright issues. So we decided to take bits from the recipes that we did find and created our own that we thought looked particularly yummy. Now we just needed to put the recipe to the test. The copy deadline for the Dutch publication was approaching fast and we found ourselves under pressure. Fortunately, a colleague from our conferences department came to our rescue. She told us that her husband was willing to bake a klaben according to our recipe that same evening. Our prayers had been answered.

When she turned up with the freshly baked goods the next morning, it was clear to us that the recipe, and its practical application, had turned out very well indeed. Samplers from a variety of departments can testify to that. So, a big thank you to Gunnar, who helped us immensely at such short notice, and we now hand over to him to give us a first-hand account of how it all went. And guten appetit to everyone planning to follow our recipe (the full recipe can be found at the end of Gunnar’s account):

I’ve baked a few cakes in my time, but my wife’s request was a new one on me!

One afternoon, the Bremer Touristik-Zentrale asked me – I should say my wife did, as she works there – to test their own recipe for klaben. How could I refuse?

So off I went to go shopping.

Ingredients for the Bremer Klaben
Flour, sugar, raisins and, not to forget, cardamom – the recipe for klaben is quite easy to follow. © WFB/Maike Bialek

And this is how it’s done:

Place the flour, milk, sugar, vanilla sugar, butter, yeast, salt, lemon rind and the cardamom into a large bowl and mix well with a dough hook.

Bremer Klaben - recipe
Put all ingredients in a large bowl and knead nicely with a dough hook. © WFB/Maike Bialek

Important! Preheat the oven to 60 degrees centigrade (OK, so I haven’t taken a photo of that :)). Now turn it off, cover the dough and place it in the oven to prove.

Then knead the dough again

Bremer Klaben - the dough
Knead the dough again. © WFB/Maike Bialek

… and add the rest of the ingredients.

Bremer Klaben: The dough is ready
All the ingredients are in the dough. Now it must rest. © WFB/Maike Bialek

Leave the dough to rest and prove (around 30 minutes to an hour).

Bremer Klaben: ready to bake
The finished dough in a loaf pan. © WFB/Maike Bialek

Transfer the dough to a well-buttered baking tin and bake for around an hour at 170 degrees (you can also add an egg glaze if you like).

Bremen 'klaben'
A winter treat from Bremen: ‘klaben’ fruit loaf © Bremen Blog / Maike Bialek

All done! Ideally you would roll the klaben in a tea towel and store it in dark place for three weeks to let the flavours develop.

But my wife, her colleagues and I couldn’t wait that long – simply delicious!”

Yours, Gunnar

And here is the BTZ klaben recipe (made by us and tested by us). Enjoy!

The Recipe

Bremen klaben

Place the flour, milk (lukewarm), sugar, vanilla sugar, butter, yeast, salt, lemon rind and cardamom into a large mixing bowl and knead well with a dough hook. Heat the oven to 60°C briefly, switch it off and then put the covered dough in to rise. approx 20 mins.
Then knead the dough well and work in the remaining ingredients.
Leave the dough to prove. approx. 20 mins.
Once it is ready, place the dough in a greased loaf tin and bake for around one hour at 170°C. 65-75 mins.
Preparation time: 30 mins.
Proving time: 1 hour. (approx. 40cm x 25cm casserole)
Rectangular tin


1kg flour
2 small packs of dried yeast
100g sugar
250ml milk, lukewarm
450g butter
1 pack of vanilla sugar
Grated rind of 1 lemon
1 pinch of salt
1 teaspoon of cardamom ground
150g almonds chopped
50g candied orange peel
100g candied lemon peel
750g raisins or sultanas
2cl rum

You can also find other typical dishes from Bremen on our website. And if you’ve tried one of our recipes please let us know how it went!

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