This Berlin Craft Bakery Brings Ancient Grains Into a Contemporary Context
A restored 19th-century brick factory in Berlin’s Mitte district houses Sofi, a craft bakery created by the hospitality company Slow in collaboration with Danish chef and restaurateur Frederik Bille Brahe. Opened at the end of last year, it aims to preserve and celebrate the natural flavors of ancient grains through honest, low-intervention baking performed by an international team of young bakers headed by Marisa Williams, who trained under master baker Chad Robertson at San Francisco’s Tartine. “Our hands are in dough all day, mixing flour, water, and sourdough culture,” she says. “But beyond that, there’s really not much handling. Working with something so alive, we leave the finished product to develop on its own.”
While the process seems simple, the team operates with a distinctly modern, open-minded approach and an eagerness to experiment. They source ingredients from small organic farms in Northern Europe that share their interest in extended fermentation, which allows for the cultivation of healthier, more easily digestible grains that are rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties. “We focus on flour and have respect for the ingredients,” says Williams, who speaks of the soil that produces the bakery’s grains with the reverence winemakers typically reserve for terroir.
Sofi’s tightly edited menu includes several bread varieties, including a Danish-inspired rye, a box-fermented Berlin loaf, and miche, a large round bread made with specialty grains such as purpur wheat from Ethiopia and øland wheat from Sweden. Other specialties include cardamom-orange morning buns, chocolate sourdough cake, twice-baked croissants, and the Handwerker, a Danish cheese bun served with house-made whipped butter.
Williams estimates the enterprise produces and sells around 100 loaves and baguettes each day, whereas a traditional bakery typically churns out closer to 1,000. Staying small, she says, allows Sofi to focus on craftsmanship at the highest level while remaining accessible to neighborhood residents (it plans to offer breakfast and lunch soon) and active in the local food community. It’s even created its own circular supply system: Sofi delivers old bread to the chefs at the zero-waste restaurant Otto in nearby Prenzlauer Berg, where it’s turned into miso and returned to Sofi, which then incorporates the paste into the its popular miso chocolate cookies to achieve a rich, salty finish. Sharing knowledge, working together, and reducing waste, Williams says, “only makes everyone stronger.”