The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts


pmccool's picture


Or to Eureka Mills, if you are more fluent in English than in Afrikaans.

We spent the past week on vacation in the Western Cape Province of South Africa.  Along with spectacular vistas, fynbos, animals we’ve never seen before (who knew that bontebok and blesbok would be so difficult to differentiate?), rolling farmlands, orchards, vineyards, calving whales and two different oceans, we managed to fit in a visit with Nico Steyn, miller and manager of Eureka Mills. 

It was really a happy accident rather than the result of any forethought.  We had stopped at a farm stand, noticed several bags of Eureka Mills flour, and read the address: Heidelberg.   And then it hit us—we were standing in a shop on the outskirts of Heidelberg!   After locating a telephone number, we called and made arrangements to visit that afternoon and see, as Nico put it, “how we make what we think is the best flour in South Africa.”

For those who might be in the vicinity someday, Eureka Mills is located just south of the N2 highway at the Karringmelkrivier (Buttermilk River) exit, west of Heidleberg.  And it is easy to spot: there is an enormous grain elevator visible from the highway which, so far as I know now, has nothing to do with Eureka Mills.  Since it was the biggest and most obvious grain-related structure, I aimed for that and drove right past the mill, only noticing the sign at the last second.  Eureka Mills is a much smaller and bare-bones outfit; as Nico said, a “one-man band operation” that looks like it is one of the buildings of the farm from which it sprang.  All of the buildings were erected by mill staff (including the new expansion that is in progress) and all equipment was installed by mill staff.

Eureka Mills was born in 1998 because two farmers were frustrated by the low prices they were being quoted for their wheat.  They recognized that they could get a much better price for their product if they converted it from raw grain to flour.  As the mill’s output has grown over the years (it currently produces about 100 tonnes/month), additional wheat is now purchased from other growers in the area to supplement the original farms’ production.  Nico joined the mill in 1999.  He had been interested in a career as a chef but, when that didn’t develop, started working at the mill to generate some income.  He has since worked his way up to the miller/manager position.

The wheat used by Eureka Mills is a hard red variety.  Since the area is short of the 35th parallel in latitude and has more of a Mediterranean-style climate, the winter and spring designations used by European and North American growers don’t quite apply.  Nico describes it as a “pre-winter” wheat.  The resulting flour is approximately 11% protein and contains nothing but wheat.  No malt.  No added vitamins.  No bleaches.  Just wheat.  Visitors to the mill (“All foreigners” a bemused Nico remarks) include James McGuire and Jeff Hamelman and they have been astonished to find a flour of this purity.

The milling process has just a few steps.  The incoming wheat is first screened to remove any stray pebbles that might have gotten in.  It is then screened again to remove any other non-wheat materials.  From the screens, it is mixed with water (tempered) and stored for 18 hours to achieve a 15% moisture content.  After tempering is completed, the wheat is sent through a series of 3 roller mills that separate the outer layer of bran from the inner endosperm and germ.  The endosperm and germ are then ground between two granite burrs in a stone mill.  The resulting (unbleached) white flour is packaged as either white bread flour or as cake flour (roughly equivalent to All Purpose flour in the U.S.).   As I’m writing this, I realize I didn’t ask what differentiates the two white flours.  If it all comes from the same wheat, there can’t be much difference except, perhaps, in the fineness of the grind.  Brown bread flour is made by reintroducing a portion of the bran and wholemeal flour is made by recombining all of the bran.  Nico explained that they had learned that running the whole grain through the stone mills resulted in the bran clogging the stones, which costs them about a day of lost production by the time everything is taken apart, cleaned, and reassembled.  Hence, the initial passes through the roller mills to separate the bran before the grain reaches the stone mills.  Lest I leave you with the impression that the milling is easy, here's Nico's take on the process: "The flour is like a woman; what worked with it yesterday may not work today."

Although none of the grains used by the mill are certified as organic, Nico explained that the growers exercise careful soil conservation practices.  Typically, a field will be planted to wheat for two consecutive years.  It will then be planted with canola (seeing hundreds of hectares of the yellow blossoms is dazzling) for a year.  Following that, it will be left fallow for 2 years.  All of the plant material that remains after harvest is worked back into the soil with toothed implements, rather than with plows or discs, to minimize disruption of the soil structure.  As a result, such fields host plentiful earthworms and other beneficial organisms that are not present in a heavy cultivation/heavy chemical use regime.  Soils in this region tend to be very thin and lacking in organic matter, so such practices are essential to long-term productivity.  I remember driving by one field in which the farmer had gathered rocks into large piles and the soil still appeared to have more stones than dirt.

Eureka Mills also produces rye flour, rye meal and crushed rye because of customer demand.  That rye is imported, since the local climate is not conducive to rye cultivation.  If it hadn’t been for my whining in one post about not finding rye flour locally, I might not have known about Eureka Mills.  MiniOven did some research on the Web, found out about Eureka Mills, and got me pointed in the right direction.

Nico works closely with a number of artisanal bakers (mostly from France or Italy, he notes) and with distributors to extend the use of Eureka Mills products.  He is frequently on the telephone with bakers, responding to their questions or requests; something that he values as much as they do.  South Africa is going through a dietary shift that, in many ways, is both parallel and linked to its social shifts.  Brown bread flour was not previously taxed, therefore it was cheaper for institutions (schools, prisons, etc.) and low income persons to use for their baking needs.  It now has a stigma as “poor peoples’ food” and the growing demand is for baked goods made with white flour.  At the same time, as more people have increasing affluence, there is also a nascent willingness to spend more for artisanal breads.  Most of the master bakers producing those artisanal breads are either Europeans or have European training, hence Nico’s comment that visitors to the mill tend to be foreigners.  Those bakers want to have a product they can trust and a person on whom they can rely to address their needs.

If you would like to visit the Eureka Mills website, the address is And, if you are in South Africa and would like to buy some of their flours or goods made with their flours, you can find a list of distributors and bakers on their website.

Future flour (the green fields in the middle distance, not the grasses in the foreground:

Wheat fields


The primary (stones) screen:


Secondary (trash) screens:

Secondary (trash) screens


Roller mills:

Roller mills


Stone mill (foreground) and sifter (background, right):

Stone mill and sifter


Cleaning up at the end of the shift.  Anything that lands on the floor is sold to a local farmer as cattle feed.:

Cleanup at end of shift


Mill expansion in progress:

Mill expansion


Nico Steyn, miller:

Nico Steyn


SaraBClever's picture

I keep my own blog with my sisters at, but as I have a question about this bread I figured I'd repost it here too!  I'm not sure if that's how TFL community works/if others do this as well?  Do people keep parallel blogs around here?  I think my bread stuff is a little technical sometimes for the rest of my blog, though here probably pretty basic stuff ;-)  All in the name of better bread, right? 

Anyway here is the post (link is

This bread, Dark Pumpernickel Bread with Raisins, from Dan Leader's Bread Alone, was a lot of fun to make.  However, it takes a LONG time-two ferments rather than one (that's three rises) and 1 1/2 hours in the oven. 

I halved the recipe (and Lord knows how I would have kneaded all that dough if I hadn't) and as the rye starter I maintain (from Dan Leader's Local Breads) seems to be different from the Bread Alone book in composition (and since my starter is drastically smaller in amount than required for this recipe), I built the necessary proportions using the rye sourdough elaboration from the Local Breads recipe for Whole Rye Berry Loaf.  (I added about 5oz of water rather than the 4 oz called for in the pre-ferment as the Bread Alone sourdough seemed wetter).   I meant to only add 9oz of the final starter but ended up adding the full amount which was nearer to 11 oz.  This turned out not to be a problem, as far as I could tell. 

The recipe gives a wide range of flours, I stayed within the lower end of this range.  This seemed to work out well.  The only problem was that I think my oven got too hot over the long baking period, so as is obvious, the crust was burnt.  The inside is just fine, and I was thrilled by the dramatic oven spring.  Plus it's the first pumpernickel I've made that was truly dark (which is what I think of for pumpernickel).  It was quite sweet from the molasses and raisins, and deliciously moist:  I was happy to eat it plain.  I put half in the freezer as this is one massive loaf (and I only made a half batch!  Unbelievable.  I'll have to keep this in mind when making more out of Bread Alone-Leader is clearly baking for a crowd!)

Final question:  if anyone uses both of these books, do you know if the starters are interchangeable, as they seem to be different formulas to me?  If you use a local bread starter, how do you convert to the Bread Alone starter (not only in the hydration proportions but in the quantities required!?)


chahira daoud's picture
chahira daoud


I just wanted to show you something that i started to make as a treat on parties buffets....It is a soft sandwich bread dough but i baked it in a big "ghee tin" then sliced it and cut each slice in four or even eight portions and started to fill it with whatever sandwich filling.

In the second pic I made two big loaves one is white and the other is brown i made a mix between white flour, whole meal and rye. Then sliced each one and create a new loaf one layer white bread with meat or chicken filling and the brown layer sandwiches filled with smoked salmon or tuna...It is a nice idea to present sandwiches...every one loved it you are the pics



The first pic was for a loaf before slicing it and i decorate its top...and the second one for a ready one made from two loaves and ready to serve.

I do not know if it is a new way or it is an old one but I think that i did not see it on the web before.

Wish you like it.

Chahira Daoud 

wassisname's picture


Actually, it's 2 seeds and a nut, but the name is unwieldy enough as it is. 

Digging through my freezer again... I found my mix of pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and crushed walnuts.  I couldn't resist throwing some in the bread, maybe it's the first hint of autumn in the air.

Otherwise, it's a simple overnight soaker/starter sourdough using a 50/50 mix of  WW bread flour and WW Turkey Red.  I let the starter portion of the pre-dough get really ripe, so the first taste had a pronounced tang, but by the next day the seeds/nuts asserted themselves and the sour tang mellowed.  The final balance of flavors was really nice.



And... the quest for fluffiness...

I tried out a multigrain sandwich bread recipe and decided to see just how fluffy a crumb I could get.  Turns out, pretty fluffy. 

It's a straight dough, mostly WW with some rolled oats.  A little honey, but no milk.  I used a tip I read in Laurel's Bread Book and added butter by smearing it on the board as I kneaded.  I think that really made a difference.  I wound up with a little too much dough for one loaf, so I split it in two.  That probably helped lighten the loaf, too.

The result: so fluffy it was hard to slice.  It puts squishy supermarket bread to shame!  OK, so it's not the most versatile bread (I don't think it would even hold a sandwich together) but it was fun to make.  And a breakfast treat, to boot:  a couple slices in a bowl, add raisins, cinnamon, vanilla extract, agave nectar, then pour milk over the whole thing.  Mmmmmm... forget the sandwiches!


breadbakingbassplayer's picture

Hi All,

Just wanted to share with you some rustic baguettes au levain that I made this morning...  I'll work on posting the recipe a little later...  Enjoy!


breadbakingbassplayer's picture

Hey All,

Just wanted to share with you a loaf that I made for my friend Frankie.  Hopefully he will send me some nice crumbshots next week that I can post...  Enjoy!


proth5's picture

Oh, not to TFL.

It was only a week ago that I bid farewell to Okinawa and "my" Marines.  Yes, I was working with the Marines - other details must remain fuzzy, but this one is pretty much out in the open now. It still cuts a little too close to the bone to think about those fine young men and women each one ready and willing to fight "in every clime and place where (they) can take a gun."  War is a terrible thing - but the dedication of these Marines is something for which all US citizens should be grateful.

And I will always "heart" Okinawa. My last big shopping trip into Naha was to the Ryubo to buy items that I can incorporate into my kitchen.  They are all teeny tiny (as is my kitchen - by US standards.)

So I was fortunate to have a week rusticating at my crumbled abode before returning to the demands of my so-called "normal" life.

Seemed liked to perfect time to buy a new range.  I've come to terms that in my current residence, the deck oven is just not realistic and so I settled on a simple KitchenAid convection gas range.  No, no steam assist.

So I am saying farewell to my favorite frenemy - my old range.  I'm getting a bit sentimental about that, too.  I stirred up one last batch of jam and thought of the countless batches of jams, jellies, pickles, caramels, and marshmallows (as well as meals) that were cooked on those burners.  The ones that I had to blow on just right to get to light.  Maybe.  Whose electronic ignition would mysteriously start clicking for no particular reason and stop clicking days or hours later for similarly mysterious reasons.  (The repairman finally told me "Lady, I'm not taking your money.  Get a new range."  It came with the house and was old when I moved in - over 20 years ago.)

Then there was the oven whose every hot spot I knew by heart, until recently when it decided to not bake anything towards the front.  True, it had also started to perform better as a space heater than an oven and the broiler had long since ceased to function.  However, it had been a good old pal and it seemed like I should give it a final bake. (Yes, I have seen the Ikea ad that tells me that I am crazy because things don't have feelings and the new one is better - but I'm in a delicate state of mind.)  So I decided to do a little test on this new "Pizza Crust" yeast.

Fleischmann's Yeast has been promoting this product as allowing one to bake a pizza in 30 minutes because of the conditioners in the packet.  Well, heating the old oven takes more time that that, but except for that, I could test the claim.

I also decided to do the test using the formula on the package because presumably Fleischmann's had spent some money developing the right formula for the application.  I won't reproduce it here as - well, you'll see.

I did note that the formula contained a lot of sugar (1.5 tsp for less than 2 cups of flour ) (and yes, we'll need to deal with volumes here) and a lot of fat (3 tbl of oil) The ingredients were mixed and kneaded for four minutes and then shaped immediately. 

I will have to say that the dough handled quite nicely.  The dough stretched out easily even though it had not rested at all and maintained itself well through a few tosses.  I'm thinking that these dough conditioners now sorely tempt me - especially if the dough was headed for decorative work where taste doesn't matter.

The pizza was shaped, topped and with the aid, of a piece of parchment paper (which I consider serious cheating) because the dough seemed a bit too flabby to be loaded straight from the peel,  loaded onto my baking stone, and baked.

The taste?

About like you'd expect.  The crust had an odd matte appearance and tasted mostly slightly sweet.  It had a fine crumb with none of those big bubbles I usually find in my pizza crust (both levain and commercial yeast varieties).  Really, though, how could it be otherwise?  We all know that it is the fermentation process that gives us the big holey crumb and this dough didn't ferment except for the time it took me to put the toppings on it.  It wasn't awful - it just wasn't good.  The texture was also somewhat lacking.  The crust was - solid, but not crisp.

The speed with which the whole thing came together also was incompatible with my mise en place.  I'm used to having that rest time between pre-shaping and shaping to get toppings together or make sure my work area has been cleaned.

I also find that I enjoy the whole rhythm of the "fold in the bowl" method of developing the dough to traditional kneading.  I've kneaded a lot of dough in my time and I'm still pretty good at it, but the fold in the bowl method is just so much less effort - less cleanup, too.

So, my opinion?  There's a place in this world for fast, from scratch pizza.  You've got hungry kids yelling for pizza?  This is a great product.  You have a pizza that is easily shaped and you have it in 30 minutes start to finish.  Most kids will love the sweetness in the crust and eat it down.  You want something that reminds you of that trip to Italy?  This is not it.

I am sure that the yeast could be used in different formulas to obtain better results (and there was a review on these pages that liked the yeast and the method very much), but the bottom line for me is that I missed the subtle qualities that good fermentation brings to the party.  I'd rather plan ahead and enjoy my usual crust - or go without.

As I write, my old range is headed out the door and a new one is headed in.  I'm looking at a picture of "my" Marines and frankly getting a bit misty.  But life goes on.  We grow or die.  How fortunate I am to have the memories that I do and a future full of memories to be made.

Happy Baking!

hansjoakim's picture

Hi all,

After a great laptop-and-internet-free vacation the last couple of weeks, I've now pulled my starter out of its refrigerator retirement and given it a couple of feedings to get it back to its former self. The first couple of loaves I've baked after coming back, have been some pain au levains with toasted seeds. This bread is based on my pain au levain formula with slightly increased whole-flour amount, and roughly 7.5% - 10% toasted seeds. You'll find a copy of the formula here (written for 7.5% toasted seeds).

For the loaf pictured below, I used 10% toasted sunflower and pumpkin seeds, and applied some oat bran to the top of the batard after final shaping:

Seeded pain au levain

Here's the crumb:

Seeded pain au levain crumb

The loaf is similar to Hamelman's seeded levain in terms of flavour and crumb. After some bakes and trials, I've found that I prefer adding toasted seeds to the dough directly without soaking them first (for seeds where soaking is not necessary, of course). The flavour is stronger, more nutty, and the crumb turns out more open, at least for me. The crust stays fresh and crunchy for longer due to the lower hydration of these un-soaked seeded levains.

Vacation's been great - I've enjoyed hiking, fishing, cooking and reading at my parents' cabin, and the weather's been pretty decent as well. Some favourite books from this summer include Herta Müller's "Atemschaukel" (haunting), McCarthy's "Blood meridian" (how the west was won and where it got us...terrifying), "Sons and lovers" by D. H. Lawrence and some brilliant novels by Finnish writer Kjell Westö. I miss vacation already so I'll have to put some pastry-things together for my next blog post (comfort food). In the meantime I've got a lot of TFL reading to catch up on...

jonalisa's picture

Today's bread was Dutch Crunch. I had never heard of it before and although I've only been baking bread for about 2 to 3 months now, it was pretty simple. Unfortunately, with a late start, the bread came out of the oven after everyone was in bed. (They went to bed early - not that I bake at ungodly hours). It's such a bummer when you can't have *someone* enjoy your bread as soon as it's ready or at least the same day. Oh well, I enjoyed it immensely...crunchy and slightly sweet crust, soft and fluffy crumb. So good. I used the recipe here:

Dutch Crunch RollNote: Update: When I stored these overnight in plastic baggies, I found they had lost their crunch. I recommend baking and serving the same day. ~Joan

Kingudaroad's picture

I'm excited to have this book. I see so many on TFL using it. This seems to be a popular bread so I thought I would give it a go.

Used the book instructions to the letter except I mixed by hand, which I will say, was quite the task with this dough.

I'm happy with the bread out of the oven and it smells as good or better than any bread I have baked. Be back with a crumb and taste update after a bit.

Wow! this bread is amazing. So many subtle flavors all in one place. A very hearty bread but hard to stop eating.

Here's the crumb.


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