Last week The Cultured Community had a discussion on bread. Something that has been apart of civilisation since the first days.It is argued we moved away from our nomadic roots to start cultivating grain for production of bread or though others will argue it was in fact beer. Either way bread is a very big part of the human diet for millennia. We asked the community, “what is it about this fermented product that brings so much joy?What makes a great loaf?”. The response elicited quite some response from communities members that are extremely passionate about the art of converting flour and water into tasty works of art.
George Newman, store manager at the NFP The Homebrewers Shop, picked up on the link with beer and how people use to make their own bread as part of there daily tasks.
George goes on to describe that the first commercial bread makers were bakers and apprentices whose purpose was to make quality bread for their communities. Then capitalism demanded growth and large grocery stores started to consolidate business and along came, “managers and marketers (that demanded faster), cheaper, easier, etc so they squeezed the suppliers so the suppliers got creative raw materials were tinkered with in the most diabolical ways to reduce costs and increase output but sacrifice quality in ways not immediately perceived”, laments George. He notes that it has got so bad that, “bread became mere shadows of their former selves and we hardly noticed even when we where becoming increasingly unable to enjoy beer or bread like we did years ago without feeling sick or physically uncomfortable for a myriad of reasons”.
George happily quipped that It’s not all doom and gloom, just like with beer and other lost artisanal human endeavours, “Fortunately like craft beer there are now also more and more dedicated passionate individuals that are committed to baking the best possible breads and exploring new flavours and rediscovering lost flavours in this most ancient of prepared foods”.
One of this dedicated passionate people is Karl Tessendorf, who shared his great bread jounery with the community.
Like many who become passionate about fermenting he was inspired by someone who was a master at his art. Karl fondly noted that Paul Hollywood was his inspiration and back in the beginning of 2017 he was exposed to a bloomer loaf that he was desperate to emulate. “I made that fucking bloomer loaf seven times in one week. I followed the recipe perfectly but mine just would not come out like ol’ Paul’s loaf. His was so perfect, so beautifully risen and well shaped”.
It took Karl sometime to perfect that bloomer but by then the baking bug had well and truly bitten. He has learnt that baking is not simply following a recipe and getting the desired result, its a feeling, it’s an acquired skill, “baking is a subtle art of dexterous hand movements that take years to perfect”
His journey took to him through various iterations of bread from buttermilk to soda but he has now settled on what is rapidly becoming the poster child for the bread revolution, the mighty sourdough.
A chance meeting with another bread mentor Neil Jonker at Africa Burn lead him to take part in a three day sourdough course. He created his own starter from scratch. Impressive but what is that? This is were it gets real interesting and were harnessing natures wonders is the art. A starter or mother is simply flour and water left at warm temperature to the elements. Bacteria and yeast start to colonise the doughy mixtures and you get yourself a symbiotic colony of microscopic invisible bakers who have the potential to create bread of heaven.
Karl named his baking colony, Lazy Bastard, as he’s his constant reminder to not be lazy and bake rather than buy shit bread Then stepped in another mentor. Jason founder, owner and baker at the popular Cape Town Jason’s Bakery, suggested he put Lazy Bastard on a strict rye diet. It did the trick and Lazy Bastard name change to just Lazy and and started to make glorious loafs of Karl’s dreams.
Karl highly recommends getting into baking sourdough, It’s the most incredible thing I have done in ages and I don’t think I will ever get tired it. With nothing more than flour, water, yeast and bacteria you are able to coax a lifeless lump into something that you can feed your family with, gift to a friend, or have an endless supply of epic toast”
Another passionate home baker, Matthew Hurst is mesmerised by the art,
He continues to note that a blend of scientific approach and art is what makes baking so rewarding as it speaks to both sides of the brain, “Sure, we understand the science behind it more, but the basic process has never changed. I also love the mix of art and science as with most other fermentation pursuits”.
Matthew also acknowledges bread’s symbolism for community and sharing, “The fact that breaking bread is a symbol of fellowship, of community and of coming together means we need bread more than ever in these supposedly divided times, which is why it’s great to see the resurgence of bread making as a hobby”.
Well there you have it. If this does not inspire you to start baking bread well then I don’t know what will. Rid your bread bin of the the bland government loaf, toss out Sasko Sam and get your starter going. The journey awaits and I am sure George, Karl and Matthew would be happy to share their lessons of the art and science of baking.
Being part of The Cultured Community not only exposes you ongoing discussions around all things fermented but we also organise meetups and tastings with various fermentation gurus and entrepreneurs. This week we visit Paul Hartmann, founder, owner and baker of Woodstock Bakery. He showed us around his incredible bakery which has an impressive wood-fired baking over called ‘Stella’. He demonstrated the process of baking sourdough and spoke passionately about the resurgence in bread making in South Africa, lead by passionate people that have revived the almost forgotten art. Spending time with people that have invested their life into there passion is inspiring. Thanks Paul. That visit has set off a few more people on their bread journey. You taste his amazing bread at Raith Gourmet and Tasha’s
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Website coming soon with blogs and podcast with industry experts and passionate home fermenters. The journey has just began.