My daily bread

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Mathias Kroeger, I salute you!

I haven’t met Mathias but I have eaten his bread, and I have to tell you, it’s the best I’ve ever tasted. And although I don’t know Mathias, and haven’t talked to him about his bread, I know enough about it to be going on with.

I know it’s made here at the Helios bakery on Waiheke Island, and I know it’s made from organic ingredients. I also suspect that he bakes his breads in an old-fashioned solid fuel oven, because that’s the best way to achieve such a crisp all-over crust.

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And look at that crumb texture! It’s perfect! I think this slightly open weave, for want of a better way to describe it, is the sign of a truly great loaf, and probably also of an un-kneaded one.

The taste is great. It’s lovely eaten fresh, and it makes excellent toast. It lasts for ages.

This is the wheat loaf, but Mathias also makes rye and spelt bread. Maybe other ones, too. I want to try them all before I leave.

If you want to try to make perfect bread yourself, the best way I know is to use the Doris Grant recipe. Mrs Grant was a champion of fresh, natural ingredients and minimal processing of food, and she maintained a running battle with major food companies in the UK for more than 60 years. In attacking agene, which was added to flour to make the bread easier to bake, she declared: “If you love your husbands, keep them away from white bread . . .If you don’t love them, cyanide is quicker but bleached bread is just as certain, and no questions asked.”

One of her most celebrated achievements was the Doris Grant loaf, which is very simple to make, and requires no kneading (in fact it can’t be kneaded: the mixture’s too sloppy). Here’s the recipe to make three 1kg loaves.

THE DORIS GRANT LOAF

1.6 kg flour
1.25 litres warm water
30g salt
30g sugar
30g fresh yeast
60g butter

Three 1 kg tins

Mix the salt and flour in a large bowl and put this to warm in a gentle oven. (It doesn’t much matter if you don’t warm it, but doing that speeds up the whole process.)

Crumble the yeast into a basin, and add the sugar and a quarter of the water. Cover the basin and leave the mixture to froth, and then stir it to dissolve the sugar.

Pour the mixture into the flour, and add the rest of the water. Stir until it’s mixed, grease the tins, and spoon the dough into them.

Leave until the loaves have risen by one third. Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour at 205C (400F). It’s a good idea to take the loaves out of the tins and return them to the oven for five minutes or so, to make sure the crust is crisp.

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