Crust and Crumb

We can get most anything here in Zambia — fresh non-GMO foods, grass-fed beef, local cheeses and cereals.  There’s even an American commissary that contains homeland favorites, and what they don’t have you can order.

However, one thing that is sorely lacking here is good bread.  Oh, what I would give for Zingerman’s pecan-raisin bread, even if it is $8.99 a loaf.  Or, even a good thick, crusty bread with a chewy and flavorful (preferably sourdough) crumb.

I’ve tried a variety of breads from six different stores here and despite promising labels of “Italian Pugliese” or “Olive Ciabatta” or “Health Bread” they all taste the same — fluffy crumbly slightly sugary bread (think white Wonder bread).  I asked around and everyone lamented that that’s the one thing you can’t find here — that all of the bakeries are pretty much the same Wonder-bread-type bread.

 

Here is a photo of Zambian bread labeled Italian Pugliese.  If you slice it it just crumbles away.

 

 

 

So, the neighbors and I got together and tried a recipe from Peter Reinhart’s The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, a very detailed and thorough presentation of baking the perfect loaf. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We followed the instructions perfectly (T. on the left and our landlady’s mom Y. on the right).

 

 

 

 

Here was our dough in the cloche.

 

 

 

 

 

 

And here was the fruit of our labor.  The crumb was pretty good but the crust was a little soft.  We gave the bread a 5 or 6 for taste on a 10-point scale, with the local bread being a 0 or 1.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then, the stars aligned and coincidentally a Danish woman at the local American school decided to offer a healthy bread-making class — one for parents and one for housekeepers.  The parents class was full but she had room for me if I didn’t mind joining the housekeepers only class.  I’m a housekeeper, I thought, so today I went to her 4-hour class where we made a 100% whole wheat loaf and a multi-grain oat loaf.

 

Here were my fellow classmates.  The main advantage to taking the housekeeper only class is that everyone had a working knowledge of cooking AND we all got to choose an apron and keep it.  I guess the teacher thought those rich housewives could buy their own aprons.

 

 

First we mixed our dry ingredients.  The teacher had a source for organic whole wheat and she ground the whole wheat into flour on the spot for us.

 

 

 

Then we learned how to knead the bread properly.

 

 

 

 

While we let the dough rise and proof, we learned about the different types of grain flours (rice, spelt, oat, potato, etc.), how to grind our own flours, and where to get whole grains in Lusaka.

 

 

 

 

 

After the final proofing we shaped our dough and learned how to make fancy-looking loaves.  It was incredibly easy!

 

 

 

 

Finally, we transfered our finished products to baking sheet and baked the loaves.  (The teacher had arranged to use the ovens of five other neighbors in her condo complex so we could all bake simultaneously.)

 

 

The finished products came out fantastic!  Zingerman’s quality!  I had to go for an extra long run tonight to justify all of the tasting.

 

I learned so much about baking in humidity/dryness, hot/cold weather, and at high altitudes (we’re at about 4200 feet here in Lusaka).

I’m constantly amazed at how the universe responds when you have a genuine desire to learn or do something!

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About Kimm X Jayne

Gravatar Photograph from the exceptionally talented Ben Heine. http://www.flickr.com/photos/benheine/3794765860/
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15 Responses to Crust and Crumb

  1. Dennis Martell says:

    Makes me hungry just reading it. It has been incredible to read your blog. I feel like I am experiencing your adventure. Keep them coming and I wish you much happiness.

  2. Lisa Murray-Johnson says:

    Oh yummy does that look good! Jeff is going to be envious. He loves to bake and is always trying recipes but the loaf on the right I don’t think he’s done before. I love how it looks and want that recipe!!!

  3. Mikey says:

    Your own efforts look really amazing. But how about a bread machine? Same ingredients you have, just less work?

  4. Maureen Witte says:

    Good job, Kimm! The loaves look delicious!!

  5. Mikey says:

    P.S. We’re at 3000 feet here, and were at 5280 in Denver.

  6. Rachel says:

    Morgan has lots of recipes . . . . . . . and has actually gotten to be a great bread-maker. You must have both taken after Grandpa Holle who LOVED his bread. Rachel

  7. Gigi says:

    What an enriching experience! My mouth is watering as I read through your steps and viewed the pictures… I want to take that class! And just think, you had to go all the way to Africa just to learn to bake your own bread. The results there look as good as any Italian or French bakery! Good on ya Kimm!

  8. Michael says:

    Wow, looks like you got really great results. Making your own is the way to go. We have the same issues in China (we westerners) looking for bread. It’s much easier for someone here to learn the name “Pugliese” than to learn how to make bread from Puglia. I recently blogged about the lamentable state of pizza in China, and biting into garlic bread made with French baguette, butter, garlic…and sugar.

  9. Mikey says:

    I thoughtava possible problem with the bread machine – those power outages.

    But I’vegotta new one that might suggest a win-win…

    I think maybe your guards are bored in the middle of the night with nuthin’ to do.
    If you send them to the bread baking class, the they could be proofing and baking your bread at night. You’d wake up to a nice fresh baguette just like in France!

  10. Kristi Valla says:

    YUM! Kimm what a fantastic course and what beautiful breads you all produced! You know I will be expecting you to bake these on my visit!

  11. Kimm X Jayne says:

    Thanks for the encouragement everyone!

    I promise to bake good bread and teach anyone who comes here how to make it. I like the idea of having the guards supervise the rising and proofing and while we used a bread machine religiously in the U.S., doing it by hand was almost as easy and the crust is far superior!

    Michael in China — I read your post about the pizza there! The fruit pizza sounded particularly yucky!

    Rachel — remember when I was little I liked to eat straight butter instead of the bread?

  12. Sandy Firestone says:

    This a great story. Congratulations on making the bread. Perhaps you should sell the bread at the bakery.

  13. Leslie says:

    How wonderful. I would highly encourage you to build an outdoor wood fired earth oven, Kimm. (Do you have enough wood there?) The most accessible book on the subject says you can build one in a weekend. It took us longer than that but it was worth it! Then you will get your artisanal crusts. Oh yes you will. I had days (back when we were still eating gluten) when I made a huge batch of dough and baked some of it in the oven in the house and some of it in the earth oven outside. No comparison. Same batch of dough. It is the high heat and steam that makes those special crusts. And the pizza and calzone… oh my.

  14. Nan says:

    I just stumbled across your blog and I have to ask where can I buy whole grains in Lusaka?? I’m American and just moved here 2 months ago and realized it is difficult here to find “Plain Flour”(All Purpose Flour). I have no problem grinding the grains myself as long as my baked good turn out good. Also, what about white sugar??

    Thank you for any help you can provide. I appreciated your blog on Super Spar, we went and loved it. Sometime this week we will go to the Pick-n-Pay in Woodlands.

    • Kimm X Jayne says:

      I wasn’t ever able to find all purpose flour or white sugar. Do you have access to the American commissary? You can get both there (as well as non-iodized salt). On Fridays about 12 noon at the American School on Leopards Hill Road a lady used to sell freshly ground organic wheat flour, but I don’t know if she’s still there. Good luck!

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