Bake the best bread in South Africa for R6. Bernard Preston must be off his rocker I hear you thinking; a loaf of sourdough normally retails for about fifty rand. If it’s too good to be true then it simply cannot be done; period.
But it is true; I have been baking bread sporadically for thirty-years, and daily for the last ten so it's not all hubris and BS.
But yes there is a catch.
I was first introduced to wheat by a farmer in the Bergville district; a man by the name of Barry Sclanders some thirty years ago. A fine person, he convinced me there is a huge difference between freshly milled 100% meal and the so-called wholegrain flour that is available from the supermarket.
He was right but I did not realise just how spot-on until more recently when I discovered that by international agreement, millers can remove up to 40% of the bran and germ and still call it "wholemeal." It’s a big, fat monumental lie.
So I inveigled a nephew into bringing me a very heavy mill from Germany, one that is still in daily use having had no repairs in all that time; a little maintenance, yes. And so I bought a 50kg bag of wheat from Barry.
What he didn’t warn me about was the weevil but that
is a story for another day; in short storing your wheat berries for two weeks in a deep-freeze kills all the bugs and their eggs. It is a vital part of baking the best bread in South Africa or anywhere else for that matter.
And so began a journey with baking that continues to this day; only recently I learned how much a teaspoon of lemon juice in the dough improves the texture of your slice. Bread experiments are not only fun but eventually lead to your own unique loaf.
Barry alas is no more but I am still able to purchase 200kg of winter-wheat every year in December from a Bergville farmer. It costs R4 per kilo, delivered at my door, though I will admit to throwing in a couple bottles of natural honey as a sweetener.
In 2020 we bought 500kg but the price has risen to R5,800 per ton; it was still a bargain.
In 2022 the price will go through the roof with the war in Eastern Europe; I'm glad to say we have a large amount in stock.
The very inferior supermarket "wholemeal" flour costs four times as much; I’ve been to the mill myself, but they refuse to divulge just how much of the bran and germ they extract. That is sold separately to the companies that manufacture supplements; and to the pig farmer.
The bran is rich in betaine; it's a vitamin-like nutrient that has been used in pig food for over fifty years to prevent marbling of the fat. It would help those suffering from adipose too.
Millers also remove the important fats, vitamin E and much of the protein from the flour; is it any wonder that research now shows that fully a half of the children in some communities are permanently stunted?
This National Panasonic bread-maker had baked many thousands of loaves without a hiccough; then alas nearly 30 years later the paddle seized and damaged the machine beyond repair.
I bought a new one but twiddle the paddle every time before setting the baking-tin in the machine.
To bake loaves like these there are three major expenses. The flour, the yeast and the electricity; plus a few other items like butter and salt.
If you really want to have the very best bread in South Africa, in the world I’d say you have to add a tablespoon of hummus; and perhaps two more of butternut-soup and a scoop of sourdough starter.
400g of wheat costs me R2.30 in 2021; that's enough for one loaf.
The yeast I now purchase in bulk from a Swiss company, costing about R1 and the electricity if you have a bread-machine is another rand; a lot more in the regular oven.
That came to less than R5 to make a loaf weighing over a kilo in 2013; the standard in SA is only 700g. If you supply your own hummus and butternut-soup you can add a little more to the bill. That's now risen to six rand in 2021.
Then the cost of the sourdough starter for wonderful flavour and pre-digestion of the gluten is that of quarter of a cup of flour; add a teaspoon of raw honey and you have a loaf that tastes so good that it will take your breath away. It really is the very best bread in South Africa and it’s doubtful you will find better anywhere in the whole world.
You will find that one slice of real bread is enough; perhaps another half.
This is the best bread in South Africa but there is a catch; you need a mill and must locate a farmer who grows the wheat. That's if you want it for R6 per loaf.
Interestingly the heart association endorses whole grains like those used to make this bread but even the best from the shops falls far short; it is refined and will certainly raise your blood glucose alarmingly if you are the slightest bit insulin-resistant as a great many South Africans are. And that has been particularly worrying during the pandemic.
The refined-starch used to bake commercial bread is strongly associated with obesity and diabetes.
A stone mill costs about R6000 from Go Natural
in Somerset West; watch Gumtree for a small oven. Many start the
journey but few are willing to commit five-minutes to have the very best
bread in South Africa. At a saving of forty rand a day for a loaf that will
certainly be inferior to yours, the appliances will be paid off in one
year if you bake daily.
So where do you begin so that you too can enjoy what the Brits are calling real bread? Purchase a little dedicated oven and flour from Champagne Valley in the Drakensberg; if it takes your fancy then you start your own journey of discovery and greater wellness. Freshly-milled 100% meal is available from Reko Hilton Famers' Market.
If it works for you then you can start hunting for that wheat farmer and your own mill; but first read this page on real and fake bread.
Less than a half of people on the so-called industrial diet of today get enough magnesium from their food; yet it is absolutely required in more than 300 important biochemical reactions in the body. We simple cannot be strong and fit without this vital mineral. The best bread in South Africa made from unrefined flour will supply much of your needs.
Bulgur is also a true whole grain made from wheat but quite tiresome to prepare in your own kitchen; it requires many hours and large amounts of energy to dry the cooked grains. They then have to be ground, so you need a mill.
This fried bulgur wheat with turmeric is far simpler; nutritious, tasty and wholesome. It's not been milled.
Some folk struggle with pain and bloating after eating bread; it is quite likely caused by the enzymes added by commercial bakers and not the gluten.
Allow your best bread to cool completely; the starch retrogrades. It is less likely to disturb the tum and is less fattening.
Understanding the meaning of gluten is important for all who are painfully trying to avoid wheat; it may be quite needless.
Having gone to the trouble to source the berries, if you enjoy a mild tipple then brewing this 1 gallon wheat beer recipe makes some sense; it's easy and all you need is a large glass bottle.
It also makes an excellent probiotic supplying a broad spectrum of friendly yeasts to the colon.
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