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Brighton Bake Off star Jürgen Krauss on monstrous creations

09.german baking jürgen flour 1

As well as a windy wedding and musical mastery…

The Bake Off

Jürgen Krauss was the star of The Great British Bake Off in 2021, his semi-final departure triggering over 100 complaints from dismayed viewers and turning him into a baking celebrity overnight. His new book, German Baking, features cakes, traybakes, tarts, and breads from his homeland – from apple marzipan tarts to the classic Black Forest gateau – and is peppered with wonderful stories of his early life in the Black Forest.

German Baking Book

His love for baking began during his childhood when he and his brother baked with his mother and grandmother. “My brother and I would join my mother in making Christmas cookies. We would make the pastry – usually some kind of sugar cookie pastry – and she gave us complete freehand in shaping things. We would make monstrous things that nobody would want to eat, but it was just so much fun,” he laughs

After The Bake Off

Since the Bake Off, Jurgen has been in demand to appear at foodie festivals and baking demonstrations as well as running baking classes at the Open Bakery in Kemptown. He still works as an IT professional 80% of the time but since the pandemic, he only has to travel to London from his home in Brighton two times a month. But does that leave more time for baking?

“I’m still baking once or twice a week, but in fact being at home more is a double edged sword,” he says. “You get the benefit of not having to commute, but at the same time, you are more accessible to family. I find balancing that almost a greater challenge than with the commute!”

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German Baking Zimtsterne Lights

Jurgen’s journey to Sussex began at school where he enjoyed learning English and a family holiday brought him to the Lake District, which he loved. But it was a chance meeting much later that convinced him to move to the UK.  

“I was still living in Germany when I became interested in the Feldenkrais method of movement, where the idea is to make flexible minds by making bodies more flexible,” he explains. “I was bored at my job so looked for a Feldenkrais training course, and there happened to be one in Lewes. I came over to study and there I met my wife who was also studying on the course. We had about a six month long-distance relationship and eventually I moved over [in 2003] and we were married on the cliffs at Seven Sisters. It was an important place to us as we had been for many sunset walks there. On our wedding day, it was stormy and rainy, but once we kissed the skies opened up and we danced on top of Haven Brow.”

Back to reality

Since the Bake Off he has had many incredible experiences and not just all to do with baking. An accomplished trombonist, he has an open invitation to play at Glyndebourne with the second trombonist of the London Philharmonic. They met when he was invited to make the orchestra a 90th birthday cake and presented it to them at a concert at the Brighton Dome in October last year. But it’s not just Jurgen who is musical; Sophia, his wife, is a violinist and his son Benjamin, 17, has followed him on the trombone.

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German baking Lebkuchenherzen

“I’ve taught my son trombone pretty much all his life and now he’s interested in going and studying music to be a jazz trombonist,” Jürgen smiles. “Both my son and I play for the Sussex Jazz Orchestra, which is a community band. It’s open – you don’t have to audition – and it’s huge fun.”

Although he has lived in Brighton since moving to the UK, Jurgen and his family like to get out into the Sussex countryside for long walksn. After the intense time of the Bake Off, his understanding employers gave him an extra week off which he used to reconnect with Sophia and Benjamin.

“We took the bus to Chichester and then walked from there all the way to Winchester on the South Downs Way. It took us three days and one night we stayed at Langrish House. They used to have a factory in the garden where they built the nose cones for the concord and it was also the site of a big battle in the civil war. A really interesting place!”

Christmas Inspiration

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Christmas Stollen

With Christmas coming up it will be time to start baking all the seasonal cakes and breads that are featured in his book. I ask him what he would recommend as a Christmas present for any prospective – or experienced – bakers, and the answer was much simpler than I expected: “A dough scraper! They’re these rectangular pieces of metal, sometimes called a bench knife, with a plastic handle. Make sure it’s smooth, not serrated. You don’t need any measurements printed on it. It just needs to be a straight, smooth edge. It’s so useful to portion dough, but it’s also useful to clean the work surface and anything else!”

German Baking by Jürgen Krauss, published by Kyle Books. Photography by Maja Smend

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Denise Taylor

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