Artisanal Bread Baking – Crusty Country Style Székely Battered Boule
The morning mist begins to dissipate as the sun warms the air at the foothills of the Făgăraș Mountains. This is the village of Drăguș, a community with ties to the past. On the empty alley, smoke fills the air, spreading a subtle odor of freshly baked bread. In the backyard annex, 53-year old Sucaci Elena sets things up for artisanal bread baking, just like she does every Saturday.
Although she had already started the fire, the empty oven already spreads a wonderful bread aroma.
The old oven takes 1 hour to heat, slowly releasing it’s heat into the room. “It is a 30-year old wood oven, built by my father in law. In the old days, everybody had one, but they demolished them to build bathrooms”, Elena remembers.
She gets up at dawn to start up the oven and knead dough for the neighbors and herself. “Over the past few years, I have been baking bread for my nephews. The smell of baked bread also drew our neighbors in”, she adds.
She will bake Székely potato battered bread, a tasty Hungarian recipe, greatly appreciated in Romania. It is a big traditional country bread with a thick crust, cracked and battered after cooking.
A recipe borrowed from Székelys, the Hungarian people living in the Romanian counties of Harghita, Covasna and central and eastern Mureș. Hungarian Székely influences on Transylvanian regional cooking may endure to this day in the form of baked bread, sweet bread like kurtos and traditional dishes, such as gulaș, papricaș and much more. Székely baked bread is a type of bread that you’ll find commonly throughout Transylvania.
Homemade Country Potato Dough Recipe With Yeast Leaven
Artisanal Bread Baking – Dough Making
On the evening before, she prepares the leaven from yeast and potatoes. About 8-10 kg are peeled, boiled until tender and mashed. A 50 gr fresh yeast cube, 1 kg flour and water by sight are added to the potato mash. The mixture is left to rise overnight.
Artisanal Bread Baking – Shaping the Bread
The potatoes will make a light and airy bread and add to the flavor. Back when purpose-cultured yeast wasn’t available, people would bake their bread using naturally fermented sourdough that was maintained for years. Once a sourdough starter was grown, it was fed with flour and water and kept for long-term storage.
The leaven expands overnight and, the next day, it is mixed with 10-12 l warm water, 6 spoons of salt, a glass of vinegar and 20 kg flour. The ingredients are well mixed with a dough mixer for 5 minutes. The dough resulted is left to rise for an hour, while the oven heats up.
Then she breaks off round pieces from the smooth dough and weighs each piece. “We have to consider the weight lost in baking. From 2.3 kg dough, I get a 2 kg bread”, she explains. With short and firm moves, she shapes the dough into 17 boules in no time. The wood fire popping and crackling in the oven, heating the room, helping the light and fluffy dough to rise.
VIDEO – Artisanal Bread Baking Crusty Outside and Fluffy Inside
When the dark vault of the oven changes it’s color to white, it is hot enough to place the breads in. Elena carefully turns over each boule and lifts it.
The dough wobbles as she brings it to the oven, places it on a long wooden bread peel and brushes it with water for a nice crust.
Artisanal Bread Baking – Brushing With Water
To prevent it from sticking, the paddle is sprinkled with corn flour in advance. Her husband, Vichente, pushes the bread peel, sliding the breads in the oven one by one.
When all the breads are inside the oven, they close the door and coat it with burning coals, to keep the temperature even. After 90 minutes, the breads are lifted out of the oven.
Artisanal Bread Baking – Pounding the Crust
They are crispy on the outside, soft and tender on the inside. With a rolling pin, the whole family, nephews included, start cracking and beating the thick crust off the bread, until it is completely removed:
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