AppreciationThe real stuff

The real stuff

Reading time: 2:30min | Why bread baking is a winner for the whole family.

Every here and then, with longer breaks of a few years, I bake a loaf of bread, mostly with a baking mixture I’ve bought in a supermarket. Suffice to say I never achieved a convincing result.

This changed recently when a friend of mine, she’s Russian and adventurous when it comes to baking, showed me her sourdough and gave me a slice of fresh home-made bread to taste. Her outstanding bread was proof that proper bread can be made at home. That was new to me and inspiring. Let’s discuss for a second what the term proper means to me when talking about bread.

I’m half Austrian and have a long-standing relationship to Upper-Bavaria or, to be more specific, to the Lake Chiemsee region which the people down there call the Chiemgau. This is of some relevance because we Southerners have a clear idea of what great bread is. We don’t consider toast to be bread and any other white bread of its ilk neither. We think that the industrial perfection of toast is a bug and not a feature. We do respect French baguette and think of it as a nice variety (that’s mainly because we love the French people). But baguette could never be a meaningful substitute of proper bread in the long run.

So, why my Russian friend of all people ushered me to bread baking? Well, Russians, like Germans, Poles, Austrians and other north-east Europeans love bread with that unmistakable taste of rye or dark wheat (you can taste the field, the rain, the soil, the sun). We love that crust which does the term crust justice and that subtle inimitable sourish aftertaste of sourdough. No bake-mixture comes even close to this.

Real Bavarian bread is an animal of its own. It’s a local speciality and hard to buy elsewhere in the world. Perhaps that’s because of the seasoning. Caraway, anise and coriander are the herbs that give the bread that particular taste and are not everybody’s taste. And don’t forget the rye flour. Classic Bavarian bread is a Mischbrot, meaning it contains both wheat and rye. If you are into the real thing, you have to give it a try.

There are many experts out there who are much more knowledgeable than I am. There is this Tyrolian who runs a pretty sophisticated blog. His recipes work well, I’m talking from experience. He’s not only a bread expert but also on cakes and tarts. Plus he’s an artist in food photography, which is his occupation and makes his blog a yummy visit. His writing is in German but if you want the real thing you gotta compromise…

For my friends from the UK, the inevitable Jamie Oliver has a post on sourdough in case your translation engine has gone AWOL.

I find baking bread a manly engagement which is, of course, the best reason for women to do things. The downside for many men with bread baking is the fact that there is no need for in-depth internet research and no need to buy expensive equipment. Most families have all the tools you need already in their kitchen. But the alchemy of the sourdough, the challenging kneading and folding of the dough, the complex ripening period, the gemütlich aroma when baking, the savoury taste and the assurance to be your family’s real breadwinner should be motivation enough. My daughter can’t wait for the next bread I bake.

Lastly, is it worth to bake your own bread? Strictly seen from an economic and ecological point of view, very likely not. But you get a healthy product and a happy family. And if that isn’t priceless, what is?


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