As some of you may know, Ben has flown the bakehouse for a couple of weeks to help with an exciting project in Kenya. He’s helping to train a team of bakers for a brand new bakehouse in Maili Saba, a lodge around 20 miles from Nakuru, Kenya’s 4th largest city. The bakery will operate as an extension of the valuable work of two charities; UJIMA and PEEK. Offering a real environment for young people within their programme to receive practical training as well as a viable means of earning revenue for the charities.
In this post Ben reports back after the first week to let us know how he’s getting on. Photos to follow….
Today was the final day of a 2 day baking workshop for a group of potential bakers. They have been selected via the Ujima and PEEK charities and principally Madeleine Bastawrous, the driving force behind UJIMA bakehouse.
Madeleine spent several years in Nakuru with her husband as he established the PEEK eye care programme which is now gaining momentum as a revolutionary means of using technology to restore eyesight to the many in rural areas who do not have access to diagnosis.
During their time here in Kenya they noticed how limited bread and bakeries are (there’s basically a white or brown tin loaf). Little consideration is given to improving quality, variety or nutritional value. The breads contain sugars, oils and other additives and are undoubtedly not a healthy option, but there are a considerable number of people, ex-pat and local who are crying out for a change. Madeleine and Andrew spotted this opportunity and began to dream.
They contacted e5 back in summer 2013 and we invited them to join us for a bread class. During the class Mads shared her vision for a Maili Saba bakehouse and I offered my services, which is how, 18 months down the line, I come to be here. On my first day I headed into town on the hunt for flour accompanied by the director of the new bakehouse, Redempta; she’s amazing with people and great at organising, which is just as well.
Happily, serendipity had struck the evening before when Shanti Shah came over to my table and wished us a good evening, it transpired he owns two bakeries in town. I’m not sure what he really thought about our project, I was quick to assure him it was a small bakery! Next day, Redempta and I rock up to his place and have a look around. Tobias, the baker tips us off about Pembe Mill, and later that day we find the depot in town. 90kg is the only size they offer so we load up the truck with the flour as well as picking up 20kg of wholemeal flour from supermarkets.
The training took place at Maili Saba. The bakehouse itself has been kitted out with fuse switches for oven and mixer, and tiled from floor to ceiling. The equipment should arrive next week, so for now we used the lodges kitchen.
To begin with I tried to put the group at ease, if a hapless fool like me can get a bakery going they have to be in with a good chance! However it was in the kitchen that we really started to relax.
The starter I had brought from London had been refreshed the day before to make a 100% hydration leaven. The next day it looked fantastic, bubbly and elastic. An overnight kitchen temp of 14C allowing for a long, slow ferment.
We made a range of breads, 73% hydration white, 83% hydration wholemeal, and bit of a wild card, an 87% hydration with white and wholemeal at 50:50 ratio. As well as a yeasted ciabatta dough using a biga prepped the evening before following a browse of Hammelman’s book with the kitchen team.
We were using a charcoal oven which we hadn’t quite cranked up enough so breads didn’t get the oven spring I would have wished and sealed quickly in a dry heat. However they did work, and there were favourable comments from the guests and trainees we served it to at dinner that evening.
Day 2 has been more upbeat! We worked on bagels, a Maili Saba white at 75% hydration and the Mailia Saba Wild at 87% hydration. As well as using up leftover leaven to make some delicious crackers, seasoned with rosemary, sea salt and black pepper and finished off with some awesome multigrain loaves as well.
This time we fired the oven hard and got some great tanned crusts and big spring. Everyone went home feeling they’d learnt about the history of our bread culture, the biology of grains and science of sourdough, and with a big bag of bread to share with friends and family.
Next week we’re back to it! Hopefully with a commercial bread oven and a pitch at a local school where we hope to offer samples and drum up interest.
Stay tuned for pictures and the next installment…In the mean time you can find out more about PEEK at this link; http://www.peekvision.org/index.html#about