The Seele (“soul”) is a small, oblong bread from the Allgäu and Upper Swabia regions of Württemberg, Germany. Originally, it was a Catholic custom to donate the loaves to the needy on anniversaries of the deceased and on All Souls’ Day. The first known written account of the Seele dates back to the year 1937: Writing in the magazine Das schöne Allgäu, Rector Heinemann describes them as “long, slim white loaves sprinkled with salt and caraway seeds” that can be found in “nearly all bakeries and some taverns in the Upper Swabia and Allgäu regions”.
The production of the Seele requires considerable time and skill when using traditional methods. The dough consists of wheat and spelt flour, water, little yeast and salt. No baking aids or additives are used. A characteristic of the traditional production method is the long dough process that takes up to 24 hours, during which the dough is worked several times by hand. Finally, the dough is wetted and the loaves are shaped by hand. The loaves are placed directly on the floor of the oven using an elongated peel with a narrow trough called a Seelenschiesser (“soul launcher”). This method gives rise to the typical baking and toasting aromas. A Seele baked in this way has a moist crumb and a crisp crust, which is sprinkled with caraway seeds and coarse crystal salt. Due to the amount of work involved, only a few artisanal bakeries in the region still bake them using traditional methods.
A “modern” production method, which differs in key points, is now widely used: The dough is no longer processed by hand, but by machine, which necessitates firmer dough and results in a finished loaf that is less moist. When baked in modern ovens, the loaves lie on trays lined with paper or foil. This leads to a crust that is less crisp than when the loaves are baked directly on the floor of the oven. The use of machines and streamlined work processes in industrial bakeries entail the use of additives and baking aids not used in the traditional Seele.