Baking Mosbolletjies and bridging the gap between generations!
Baking my mosbolletjies began as a thought, something on my bucket list and turned out to be a highlight in my kitchen. Baking my mosbolletjies started as a solo event and it touched the hearts of so many and I think that is how Ouma Mina would have wanted my experience to be.
Baking, I know you can do, but I also know that I have lost quite a few of you know, because you are wondering: What the heck are mosbolletjies? Mosbolletjies are made from dough leavened with the must of grapes. Mosbolletjies can either be eaten warm with soft butter or dried in the oven to make rusks. The first Mosbolletjies was made by the French Huguenots and in texture it is similar to the French Brioche, but the taste is quite unique and delicious.
The thing is , it is impossible to just wake up one morning and say: “Today I’m baking mosbolletjies!” Well, let me clarify that, it is possible, but then you will be baking a version of mosbolletjies and not the real deal. The only time when you can really be baking mosbolletjies, is the time of the year when you will be able to get the fermented must from grapes, which is the three to four months when we have grapes available.
The idea of baking mosbolletjies, has been brewing in my mind forever. It was just something that I knew, I had to try at least once in my life. Then after reading a few recipes for baking mosbolletjies, I would put the whole idea on hold again, it always seemed like such a schlep! It is a 2-day process, heck who has time for that. These days we throw flour, water, yeast and salt in a bread machine and 2-3 hours later we have a home-baked bread.
Riaan Badenhorst from Kwêka, challenged me on Facebook to make some mosbolletjies! At the time I was knee-deep in work, but took on the challenge, because it has been on my bucket list for so long. May I just say at this stage I was unaware of the fact that I will be needing grape must for the authentic mosbolletjies. There are some people who make them with yeast and others with fermented raisins, but the more I read, the more adamant I became to try the the real McCoy! Where to find the grape must? I then remembered a fellow Chick That Chow, Elzette du Preez who is the winemaker at the lovely De Grendel Wine Farm. I contacted her and she said she will only have must for another 2 weeks or so, then it will be wine! So off I went to Elzette with two plastic bottles and on my way home these bottles started bulging and my car smelt like the cellar I’ve just been to. All the time while driving I had this excitement in my gut, I was all of a sudden obsessed with baking mosbolletjies and no 2-day process was going to dampen that.
At home, I had to work fast, because by now the bottles were about to explode, the “yeast” for baking my mosbolletjies was waiting for no man ( or woman for that matter).
I found that recipe I was looking for at De Wetshof where Francina Blaauw is the award-winning cook/baker. What a fascinating story she has to tell!
recipe from De Wetshof Farm
2.7 kg flour
15 ml salt
60 ml aniseed
750 ml milk
125g margarine or butter
4 x 250 ml (4 k) sugar
1,125 liters (4 1/2 cups) grape must – strained through a sieve
Pour flour into a large bowl and add salt and aniseed. Heat milk and butter to a boil and allow to cool to lukewarm. Add eggs and sugar, whisk and add to flour. Add the grape must , knead lightly and then knead well for about 15-20 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and elastic and no longer sticks to your hands. Francina’s tip: Keep an extra bowl of flour and a cup of must next to you while you knee. If dough is too sticky, sprinkle a little flour. If it seems too dry, wet your hands with wine and knee further. Cover bowl with a cloth and leave to rise in a warm place overnight.
Preheat the oven to 180 ° C. Knead dough the next morning. Brush a little melted butter on your hands and roll dough into tennis ball-sized orbs. Pack against each other in breadpans which you have treated with non-stick spray and leave pans in a warm place to allow dough tp have its second rising. Once the pans are almost full, place mosbolletjies in the oven and reduce oven temperature to 140 ° C. Bake for 40-60 minutes, until golden brown and cooked through. Brush with sugar water and turn out onto wire racks. Eat buns freshly smeared with butter or dry it out for mosbeskuit.
Deliver three large loaves with 12-14 balls in each.
Last week I was honored and so privileged to have the 5 3rd year students from the Institute for Culinary Arts here at my home. I had to teach them about food writing and blogging to be more specific. I wanted them to write about an experience, something they remember from their childhood, a extraordinary dinner experience or just an awesome ingredient. What better way to inspire them than to let them walk into my house with the smell of mosbolleties baking…. this is what they wrote:
3rd Year ICA
Now live in Stellenbosch to follow his dream to be a chef.
“Bread, one of the most simple, yet moody and unpredictable items to make. Bread and I go hand in hand, literally from all the kneading I have done, from sourdough to ciabatta. I’ve had bonding sessions with most styles of bread and joyfully eaten most of them with farm-fresh butter. Surely a chef’s delight.
I thought I knew most of what there was to know about bread, from the texture to the taste to the golden appearance. Nothing prepared me for the surprise that greeted me in Nina’s Kitchen on Tuesday morning.
Mosbolletjies were laid on the table in front of me. I have never seen such an awkward looking bread in my life. It had similar characteristics to the the classic plaasbrood, but I kept pondering about the taste I was about to indulge in.
Mosbolletjies was the name given to this almost alien-looking bread. To English speaking people, maybe the South African Brioche. I got my little “happie and studied the texture and appearance. The cloud-like bread immediately melted in my mouth and the sweet sensation was enough to give me a very naughty smile on the face. I thought I had an idea of bread and how to make it, but mosbolletjies proved to be legendary and a memory that will stick forever.”
3rd year student ICA
“Arm man se Brioche is wat Nina dit noem soos wat sy die mosbolletjies uit die oond haal, want the genarasie sjefs wat voor haar staan, ken glad nie die Voortrekkers se skuinskoek, souskluitjies or mosbolletjies nie. Ek kyk ena Nina se brioche-replika en dink by myself: Die brood is darem baie vaal vir so ‘n eier ryk brood. Boonop laat die anys my dink aan miet wat soms in meel voorkom. Om die waarheid te sê, ek het klaar besluit, ek hou nie van dit nie, omdat dit my laat dink aan ouma se skuinskoek waarvan ek nie hou nie, wat in groot koekblik-hoeveelhede Desember vakansies na ons gestuur is.
Ons gaan sit om die hout tafel en die brood op die houtplank word aan my gegee. Ek breek die brood en in ‘n oomblik is ek vyf en in ouma se kombuis, waar jy kos met jou hande mag eet. Daar’s ‘n warmte wat daarmee saamgaan. In hierdie broodbreek sien ek haar gasvryheid en sy word vir my Tannie Nina.
Die kors is glansig en die brood se karringmelk soet is hemels met die anys. Geen botter is nodig nie. Vanoggend het broodbreek om ‘n tafel my herhinner dat ek altyd sal hou van die stylvolle klas van ‘n klassieke brioche, maar dat ek , maar dat ek nooit my liefde vir ‘n arm man se brioche, my ouma se kombuis en bloot Suid-Afrikaanse kos sal verloor nie.
Ek wens ek kan ‘n stukkie vaal brioche afbreek en saam huistoe neem.”
3rd year student ICA
Aspiring pastry chef and wants to eventually work in media as an editor.
“Mosbolletjies, of vir my, meer bekend as ouma se brood. Dit was altyd die beste deel van my skoolvakansie. As Ma sê ons gaan vir ouma kuier. Dit was ‘n opgewondenheid wat ek tot vandag toe nie kan beskryf nie.
Ek kon lang ure in die kombuis sit terwyl my ouma agter die stoof en oond besig was – die reuke, die geure en definititef die eindprodukte was altyd finominaal.
My passie vir kos het in daardie kombuis begin, in die klein Vrystaatse dorpie Ficksburg.
Daarom as ek op ‘n dag soos vandag mosbolletjies eet, vat dit my dadelik terug na my eerste skoolvakansie wat ek kan onthou – pure nostalgia.”
3rd year student ICA
” I am tall and blonde and I adore food. I love the beauty which lurks in natural ingredients, the way something feels as I brush my fingertips over it. I wish I can absorb the smells through my skin and let it permeate my blood with its perfumes. Food is beauty. It is pleasure, it connects, it binds
Food is love.
Every family has their own communal tongue. A palet of flavors which defines the union of people who have lived and shared a life under the same roof. If I eat a dish at my best friends’ house, I can immediately taste the food wasn’t touched by my mother’s hands and it doesn’t warm my heart in the same way it does at home.
When the time came for me to get to know my new step-father, I had to be open to the food and tastes of the new step-family. Mosbolletjies is something Gran and I always patiently dried out in the bottom compartment of her oven. The whole house would smelled sweet and aniseedy. Once the soft, feathery mosbolletjies have yielded all their moisture and dried into brittle bark, my gran would make me a cup of strong Five Roses tea with milk and sugar for love. I would dunk a glorious rusk into my tea…the rusk sucks up all the liquid and in turn I suck the liquid from the rusk – a habit which is not the best of etiquette, but enjoyable nonetheless.
This is my memory of mosbolletjies. The new family is loud and big and funny. On a particular Sunday we bought a fresh loaf of mosbolletjies. I saw how my new grandad took a bread knife and started sawing into the mosbolletjies like a mad axeman. Then he slathered it in soft butter and a smudge of earthy, salty Marmite of all things. Can you imagine the horror?
Well, I tried it nonetheless and to my surprise I loved it. I guess that’s what happens when two households com together – you share your knowledge, your truths, your loves and your tastes. You learn to love in a communal way – and that I would say is priceless.”
3rd year student ICA
Aspiring pastry chef, wants to work in Boutique Hotels and Game Reserves
“Toe ek die mosbolletjies uit Nina se oond ruik, neem dit my terug na die Delaire Golf Estate in Banhoek as die druiwe seisoen begin. Met die eerste proe van die mosbolletjies, is ek weer ‘n 4-jarige dogtertjie wat op die Faure Engineering se hoof huis in die kombuis saam met ouma staan. Die soliede hout tafels met rooi, wit en blou tafeldoeke bedek en die plastiek tafeldoek om die ander te bedek. Die koolstoof in die hoek met die vars gebakte brood in. Alles lyk groter van waar ek staan, want ek is net 4.
Die mosbolletjies word een-vir-een afgeskeur en die veeragtige tekstuur lyk soos boekblaaie. Die anys laat my dink aan Pa se Liquorice All Sorts. Ons sit almal in oupa se agter tuin op die groen gras onder die grootste akkerboom en deel die stoom warm mosbolletjes.
Vandag onthou ek weer vir ouma en die koolstoof, die soliede hout tafels en hoor my een Akrikaanse onderwyseres wat vir ons die gedig van DJ Opperman lees: Ek sien haar in anys!”