Monday, May 10, 2010

Daily Bread

Katrin and I have grown very depressed about the state of supermarket bread. The loaves are always too damp, prone to mould and require heavy-duty toasting. Unpleasant! Googling “easy brown bread loaf” yielded this excellent recipe—one of the simplest breads I’ve ever made, with a good crust and sturdy yet springy crumb. Perfect for sandwiches, ideally the open-faced variety: try sharp cheddar with quince chutney, or cream cheese, sliced tomatoes and caramelised onions.

(I also recently tried Jim Lahey’s no-knead bread, but this one was far and away the winner—mostly because you don’t need to futz around with preheating dutch ovens or wait 12 hours for the dough to rise.)

Very easy brown loaf
Adapted from Lindsey Bareham in The Times

1 tbsp mild vegetable oil
1 tsp honey (or brown sugar, or molasses)
10g dried yeast
425ml warm water
225g whole-wheat flour (Josephine Mill)
225g white bread flour (Eureka Mills)
1 tsp salt (Khoisan Trading Co.)
13 x 20 cm loaf tin

Generously oil the loaf tin. Stir honey into 150ml of the water, then add the yeast. Leave several minutes to grow foamy. In a big bowl, mix together flours and salt. Create a well in the middle, add the yeast water and the plain water, and quickly stir to make a sticky, wet dough. Do not knead; simply scrape into the prepared loaf tin. Allow to rise for 1 ½ - 2 hours, or until the dough has risen almost to the top of the tin. Half an hour before the dough is ready, preheat the oven to 220C. Place inside the oven and bake for 50 – 60 minutes, until the top is dark brown and the base sounds hollow when tapped. Cool on a wire rack. Make sandwiches galore.


gec said...

Since I discovered this blog and the endeavour that my friends have set out upon, my head has been spinning with a lot of questions about both regional eating and sustainable living. I grew up in Stellenbosch, and even though I’m sure this project has its challenges, I thought to myself, it seems fairly doable. In fact, given enough time and money, and perhaps allowing for a slightly wider radius in some regions, wouldn’t this be a fairly doable thing in most parts of our country?
But what about countries with a very different situation, like Japan, where I am living at the moment. Japan is about three times smaller than South Africa, but has a population about two and a half times bigger. So it’s the world’s tenth most populated country with a population density of about 336 people per square kilometre, against South Africa’s 41.
I think water plays a big part in the size of Japan’s population. It often seems ridiculous when people talk about “the rainy season” here. Generally it rains at least once a week. So it seems pretty rainy to me, all the time.
But whereas Japan has enough water, food is another story entirely. It may often look like people are farming everywhere, because residential and agricultural land are very mixed, especially in the countryside, but really Japan is a very hilly country—I can’t say mountainous, I’m from Stellenbosch—and a lot of flat land is occupied by towns and cities. Add to this problems in the agricultural industry and a national diet that has changed to become more western—you know the drill, meat, fast food—and you get the current food self-sufficiency rate of 39%. We were recently very aware of this when the somewhat late arrival of warmer weather sparked news reports about the rise in food prices.
But living in the countryside as I do, and having a market and shops that sell great local products, I do try to eat locally. It’s cheaper and the products are often of a higher quality than what I can get in the supermarket. But this is very different from Tokyo, and I’m sure many other large cities around the world. So with all of this said, I have some questions about our sustainable, organic and regional food ideals.
1. What happens now, with about half of the world population urbanised, to regional food production? What if all you can see for a 50 kilometre radius are buildings? (I mean check out Tokyo on Google maps.)
2. What do we do out of season? Eating regionally in summer and autumn is great, but in winter, even with winter crops, the pickings in many parts of the world can be pretty slim.
3. What are countries with land or climates unsuitable to agriculture, or large populations to do?
4. And then a slightly different question: how affordable are the regional and organic products that you guys are buying? Can they fit onto the average South African’s shopping list?,+Japan&ll=35.998008,140.125122&spn=2.153113,4.22699&t=h&z=9

Anri said...

Hey Ingrid

Thanks for your stunning comment and the questions I'm sure a lot of readers have on their minds. Before I start addressing some of them, let me just share the link you sent me with everyone: It's an article about a local restaurant project in Tokyo, which just shows that regional food systems just need a bit of love and attention to get off the ground.

Ok, so back to your questions. I think the mistake we often make is to try and find an ultimate solution that will work everywhere. That is probably also why we are in so much trouble at the moment, it is because we wanted to create the ultimate food system. That kite just won't fly anymore. Sure it worked for a while and enabled us to produce more food than ever before, but ultimately we were going to run into trouble. Mainly it is because we didn't take into consideration that the resources we needed for food production was limited and needed to be used and recycled sustainably so that we can keep using them. These resources include soils and water for example. Today 60% of all ecosystem services are either degraded or used unsustainably. That's according to the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment Report that was done in 2005. Furthermore, even though we are currently producing enough food to feed everyone in the world, 1 billion people are hungry and another 1 billion are overweight. That's according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, which just shows that our food system is not only environmentally destructive, but also socially skewed. That all said, going regional isn't necessarily a quick fix to it all. We can for example have regional food systems that are run by militant groups or regional industrial and chemical food systems, which won't be a step in the right direction at all. Going regional does however present us with the opportunities to regain control over our food systems and take responsibility for it, if we do it with the intention of maintaining a sustainable food system. And yes, it will take some change of behaviour on our part. I'm also not completely against all imports. As you rightfully said, some areas just don't have the capacity to produce their own food. I do however think that we must rearrange our systems so that we produce as much as possible locally, taking into consideration environmental limitations and distributing the food equally and locally, before we focus on exports. At the moment most food systems operate to export food first to then acquire enough capital to buy imported food. It's a delicate balance. If you rely only on imports, you're vulnerable to fluctuations in the global market and if you rely only on regional food, you're vulnerable to weather fluctuations like floods and droughts. Nice ne? Not an easy one, but I'm sure we can do it. And then finally, about the affordability part, keep checking the blog. I'm planning on doing a cost analysis between the local organic Waldorf market and Die Boord Spar soon.

Much love my friend, Anri