Let’s face it, despite the so-called ‘Banting Revolution’, there is still nothing better than a slice of fresh bread paired with any number of toppings. I am a fan of a ploughman’s lunch of cheese, pickles, jams, butter, cured meats, and some good, fresh bread. The bread you buy in most supermarkets just won’t do – it’s Jacques’ bread that hits the spot.
Jacques built a wood-fired oven and started baking his artisanal bread in 2009. A chef by training, he saw the trend for artisanal breads rising in prominence. He started off, like many well-known shops now, selling at the market at the Old Gaol on a Saturday morning. Since then his bread has become a Grahamstown staple. Excitingly, Jacques and his wife, Maya, are opening their own shop in Peppergrove on 1 March. They were purposefully vague about the details, but what I do know is that it will no longer be ‘just bread’ and Jacques will be using his other culinary skills.
What do we mean when we say ‘artisanal’? In terms of baking and bread, the term refers to both the ingredients and process involved in production. Jacques’ bread uses stoneground flour, natural sea salt and wild yeast cultures. The process involves a long fermentation or leavening process and the use of a wood-fired oven. The result is delicious and dense bread with a perfect crust. The bakery currently churns out a variety of different breads – ciabatta, sourdough, wholewheat, rye, and pain rustique. The lists goes on and expands as Jacques and Maya experiment with new ideas. Chatting to them, I was interested to learn about two interesting features of the business. First, the yeast cultures that Jacques uses are over 300 years old. With many years in the local Grahamstown environment, these yeast cultures have now developed a unique local strain. Second, the wood-fired oven is fueled by pine off-cuts from a local business in Bathurst.
My favourite loaf? The sourdough. Sourdough bread is made through a process of biological leavening. That means that, instead of using cultivated yeast to get the bread to rise, a special lactic acid bacteria (Lactobacillus) and yeast culture is used. The sugars in the flour are, therefore, broken down into lactic acid and, as a result, the bread has a distinctive sour taste. A far cry from a loaf of pre-sliced bread.
Follow Jacques’ Artisan Bread on Facebook and look out for their opening in March – I think we are in for some surprises.