From Grains to Bread

October 15th, 2013

Every day our master baker, Karen Pretorius, conjures up loaves of bread for sandwiches served at the Greenhouse, for lunch at Babel and to sell in the farm shop.  We grow what we eat and strive that it be true for our bakery as well.


Earlier this year we set out to grow our own grains; wheat, rye and barley. All these grains are closely related and prefer a cool, moist growing season followed by warm, dry weather for ripening.  The recent onset of warm weather caused rapid new growth and seed heads developed quickly.  Very soon we will start cutting the grains for use in our daily artisan breads.

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“I use the best ingredients,” says Karen. “I want my bread to be a window on what’s happening in the garden – like using beetroot, spinach, pumpkin and pear to enhance the bread’s taste and visual appeal; sometimes the bread is a vessel for whole baked onions or garlic.  I use only naturally fermented sourdough, which lowers the gluten content for healthier bread. Plus, it just taste better!”


Karen shares how to make “The Mother”. Mother yeast is a mixture of water and flour, which is left to rise in the open. Spores that cause its fermentation are all around us: in the wind, the trees, on flowers – everywhere! Mix 1kg of flour (wheat, spelt or rye) with 1.5 litres of water, cover with a porous lid and leave in a warm space until you see small bubbles forming on the surface. It’s alive! Now all you need to do is give it another day to become stronger, then you can pour it in into a lightly sealed jar or wrapped up in the fridge for later use. You have to feed The Mother at least once a week by adding 250ml of flour and 125ml of fresh water to the mixture and giving her a good stir. (Recipe from the Babel cookbook)

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