We are going to Copenhagen. There are 6 of us. Eyal (head baker), Pete (stalwart), Will (philosopher), Franzi (pastry chef) and BenG (taster) and me (chaparone).
Why Denmark? Why Copenhagen? Asides from being a nice city by all accounts, the Scandi’s are bread connoisseurs. They have held onto a tradition of slow fermented sordough breads, principally using rye flours. They also have a small, but established, group of farmers and millers specialising in old varieties of grain (wheat/spelt/rye) which we are less au-fait with in the UK.
We are in the fortunate position of having some good contacts, including one Per Grupe a farmer some 40 minutes outside Copenhagen and the famous Meyers bakeries have invited us for a trip.
Denmark, lets face it seems to do things well. So we’re going for a break, and to soak up ideas and inspiration so that we can enter 2014 firing on all cylinders.
Following the impressive metro train journey (shiny) we quickly checked into the Generator hostel and despite the impending snow were keen to begin exploring, and so set off find Meyers bakery and meet with Jens the production manager.
On route we spotted a nice looking bakery, with a similar name, it was called Emmerys. We bought a chocolate rye bread, along with a seeded wheat bread and another rye bun. The nicest was a the slightly seeded sourdough which had a lovely thin crust, but all of the breads seemed quite salty. The guys working in the shop were friendly though and happily told us about the breads.
Meyers looked good as we walked in, and soon Jens had us down in the bakery space, which was set down from the shop area and visible through a window. He was incredibly generous with his time, talked us through all of their different breads, how they are made, why they do certain things and their sourcing of grains. Interestingly they use their rye sourdough leaven primarily for flavour. The high acidity reducing the activity of yeast, so that fresh yeast is added to the rye after the dough is mixed. The cinnamon buns were very popular amongst us, as was the offer to join their bakers early the next morning.
And so the next morning the e5 bakers joined the Meyers bake shift observing how the bulk fermentated wet doughs were simply cut and shaped before being put directly into the oven. These wheat breads were made using spring sown wheats and had soft crumb and crust and a great mouth feel. Very delicious!
Next it was back to the hostel to meet Sofie Romme, chef and guide for our trip. She arrived in a battered minibus and suddenly we felt like a band on tour as we made our way to Nordisk bakehouse. Lennart, the owner and main baker had been warned of our arrival. We settled into the cosy cafe, eyes fixed on the burning logs in the wood fired bread oven.
We were brought plates of delicious cheeses, smoked ham and chutney, chocolate cake and cinnamon buns. All freshly pulled from the oven only hours before. Lennart is developing along similar lines as e5, in that he is building his bakery up step by step, and is a true ‘giver’ loving the simple act of handing over something his hands have made. However, we couldn’t dally as we had to head out of Copenhagen to Per Grupe’s Farm.
The minibus was soon driving through large expanses of arable land with next years crops poking their heads up and then our map said we had arrived. We were actually at a neighbour’s house, but instinctively Per had come looking for us and we heard him hollering before meeting the man. So it was we found ourselves in a tremendous barn. A long table was set with a spread of cheeses, sausages and lashings of biodynamic apple juice from a neighbouring farm. Per held the table as we crammed in yet more food.
He explained how yesterday himself, Fintan and Paul had milled 6 different varieties of grain. These flours were now bagged, and lined up for us. Our task was to devise a method for assessing the merits of each flour once baked off as a loaf of bread. Which meant we first had to come up with a recipe. Per had prepared us his sourdough the day before, so we had a litre of nice, active leaven bubbling away. We plumped for a 75% hydration dough, with 5% of the water being added with salt after a 30 minutes autolyse. We made all of the doughs with commercial yeast, and the 3 extra doughs with just the sourdough and no added yeast.
We folded the dough at 1/2 hour intevals and they were put in a fridge after 3 hours. We now left Per, Finton and Paul in peace for the night, eager to bake our loaves the following morning.
All of the doughs were nice and active when taken form the fridge the following morning, some as much as doubling in size, others slightly less. We tipped them onto a floured surface, divided, gave a little tuck and fold, and popped on a tray into the oven. We were quite happy with the results. Probably our dough should have had a higher hydration, but asides from that we had consistent bread with which to do a taste test.
It seems we went a bit low hydration wise overall, and in hindsight should have headed for around 90%. This meant all of the breads had a slightly tight crumb. Flavour wise, there were clear favourites, number 2 and 5, whilst number 4 although a beautiful colour had a kind of weird taste which none of us fancied much.
Before we left Per gave us a a tour of his fields, autumn planted spelt, test plots, and then the milling equipment and various types of farm equipment. I think we were all surprised at how much work goes into sorting and cleaning the grain, let alone all the tools needed to grow, plant and harvest it.
We left beaming, amazed at the farms warm welcome to us Englaenders.
As we hit Copenhagen Sofie tracked down a boutique cake shop, it was very stylish and again we were invited into the kitchen for a look and the baker gave a quick speech. The macaroons were delicious. Next we went to BROD, here the loaves were reminiscent of the breads made by ourselves.