The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

Hi from Cape Town

JonJ's picture

Hi from Cape Town

Hi from Cape Town, South Africa!

Although I've been baking for most of my life, it has been mostly cake, pastries and sweet yeasted breads.

However, like most of the planet I've fallen quite heavily for the sourdough bug (probably because I love my sourdough and couldn't easily go out and buy it during lockdown). Didn't think at the outset that I would bake so much bread.

So, it has been about 50 lockdown bakes in now (if I include a few non sourdough bakes) and there are two things that I do a bit differently, things that I've picked up because I would describe myself as an experimental baker.

1. I've been playing around with using psyllium as a binder for baking higher hydration gluten-containing sourdough. It is said that South African bread flours are more elastic in comparison with international flours. What I do know is that most of the brands are medium-strength flours with a protein content of around 11.4g/100g so I've been looking at VWG and/or binders like psyllium to help with higher hydration breads. While there is some content I could find about using psyllium in gluten free breads, or 100% wholewheat breads, there isn't much out there on its use with regular bread flour style sourdoughs. So, I've been actively experimenting. It is amazing what it does to the texture and stetchability of the dough, and it is quite different in effect to VWG.

2. Fridge ferments! Why isn't this more common? It is so low effort and produces a great even crumb for the super patient. Plus, the low temperature ferment means it is easier to not overferment and timing the end of fermentation doesn't need to be so precise. I've been trying out variations now of a friend's recipe that involves around 96 hours (or less even - 72 hours is also good) of fridge time. The dough is out for about 2 hours after mixing: one hour for an autolyse or rest (after all-in-one mix), and another hour to build strength. Then into a tub in the fridge. Shaped around 24 hours later (for the shaping it will be out of the fridge for half an hour to an hour), then bannetons go into the fridge for a further 48-72 hours. And that's it, in a nutshell, with a fridge temperature of around 5 deg C. Is it just that I have a freaky starter that can still grow in the fridge, or is this a secret method of baking no one talks about, or do people find it less appealing because there are faster options?

This is a great community, thank you all for sharing your knowledge and kindness!

idaveindy's picture

Welcome to TFL.  

There is another recently new user from S.A.  Maybe she will chime in and share tips of local ingredients.

My dough still ferments in the fridge too, both bulk ferment (first rise) and final proof (2nd rise).

This is especially true of doughs with a portion of whole grain.

I've read somewhere on here that you need to get the fridge temp to about 3 C to really slow down the fermentation.


mwilson's picture

I look forward to seeing your bakes! And I think your experimental (outside of the box) approach will appeal to many...


pmccool's picture

And welcome to TFL.  I had the privilege of living in your beautiful country for a couple of years, though I resided primarily in the Pretoria East area.  Cape Town and the surrounding communities are spectacular!

My experience with SA flours was that I needed to reduce hydration levels from what I was accustomed to in the US.  Since every flour is different, your experience may be different than mine.  You can read about a test that I ran, here

I never used any other binders than the gluten naturally in the flour, so I'll be interested to see what your experiments yield.


JonJ's picture

Hi Paul, thanks for the welcome. Found your study particularly interesting as it gave me an idea of how to do a side-by-side comparison using smaller laoves. I've been doing a two-loaf comparison with full sized loaves with most bakes - so, making two loaves with one different factor and comparing that, which has meant slow going to learn what works best, your way would be faster!

Found it interesting that you were using SA brown bread flour which is a bit of an enigma for me too, and I've been eating it my whole life. My theory as to what it is is that it might be something like AP+12% bran added in afterwards? If you left SA in 2010 you probably also missed the newer millers aiming for the artisinal market , for example 'Eureka' flours which are a range of unbleached stoneground now more widely available in supermarkets. Still no widespread availability of organic flours, or strong flours, but would love to be proven wrong and perhaps I need to just find a mill selling on the side to the retail market. Also on the subject of wholewheat, is it a particularly South African thing to have 'nutty' wheat flours (with a higher amount of coarse bran) or do you also have them where you stay? And I have a bag of wholewheat flour that has bran flakes and germ in it too; how common are germ containing WW flours internationally, the risk of going rancid surely means they're less common, surely?


pmccool's picture

So far as I have been able to research the matter, it appears that the major brands (e.g., Sasko, Snowflake) recombine their white bread flour with a percentage of the bran.  Snowflake says that theirs includes 12% bran while Sasko says that theirs contains 10-15% bran.  Snowflake also produces a Nutty Wheat bread flour with a higher bran content, at 18%.

There was also a coarsely ground variety called Krackly Wheat or Krakly Wheat.  I don't recall who produced it, nor did I use it frequently.

Fortunately, Eureka Mills was already producing flour during my time in SA (October 2009 to October 2011).  Their flour was much more to my liking than most of the other brands.  They were also one of the very few, possibly only, mills producing rye products at that time.  I had the good fortune to visit the mill during a vacation.

So far as I am aware, there isn't a direct equivalent in the US for "nutty" wheat flour.  The closest product would probably be what is called "Graham flour" here.  It is named for Sylvester Graham, an individual from the early 1800s who advocated for a fairly radical fruitarian/vegetarian style diet, among other things.  There seem to be two different approaches used by modern millers.  One is to simply grind the wheat kernels into a coarse flour with no sifting.  This probably aligns better with Graham's original intent.  The other is to separate the bran and germ from the endosperm.  The endosperm is then ground to a fine flour while the bran and germ are ground coarsely, after which the different streams are recombined.  Since there is no formal specification for Graham flour, a miller can do as they please; which might be to eliminate the germ for longer shelf life without rancidity. 

Flours that still contain germ are not common here in the US.  Most millers employ roller mills that can separate the various layers of the wheat kernel.  The whole wheat flour that is commonly found on US supermarket shelves is really a recombination of the endosperm and the bran, sans germ.  Otherwise, as you note, the rate of spoilage would be unacceptable to the millers and most shoppers. 

You might want to check into Lowerland, who produce organic flours, and into Gideon Milling.  I don't see that Gideon claims to have organic flours but they are very focused on sustainable farming practices that nourish the soil.  Both are suppliers for Schoon de Companje's bakeries.


JonJ's picture

Hi Paul, the brown bread comment above has crystallized my understanding of what it is. My mother has moved overseas, and has a bag of Nutty Wheat flour in her deep freeze, which she carefully and sparingly guards. You can take South Africans away from africa, but we bring our nutty wheat with us wherever we go.

The Graham flour discussion reminds me of the bag of Indian stoneground wholemeal flour I have (Chakki Atta). From my understanding it is made from endosperm and bran (without the germ) so better shelf life, and very finely milled, no sign of the bran when looking at it. Although I have substituted it for wholewheat at times, it behaved quite differently than my normal wholewheat flours. Very thirsty (related to the different starch, I'd imagine), it soaks up the water when used, with a pleasant smell and seemed to give the bread some oven spring and bounce in texture.

Thank you for your recommendations for flour providers. I've used Gideon flour before (it is really competitively priced [1]) and it is comparable to say Eureka, but interestingly when you're mixing and at the shaggy stage it noticeably doesn't have that wonderful wheaty smell that Eureka has. I'm now looking into how to get hold of some Lowerland - minimum delivery charge from the mill is R1500, but bet there is someone in this big city selling it. Good advice, thanks!

[1] R28.00 ($1.69) for a 2.5kg bag of white bread flour.

Trukren's picture

Hi buddy


I am new to this forum as well and also from the Mother City?

pmccool's picture

And welcome to The Fresh Loaf!  I look forward to hearing more from you.


JonJ's picture

Howzit! And welcome as well. Hope we bake lots of great bread together.

MvM's picture

Hi JonJ,

Nice to meet you on this great platform. I recently moved from The Netherlands to South Africa (Somerset west).  Would love to chat to you about the different kind of flours. I'm into sourdough baking but until now it's difficult to find the right high protein flour as we did have in The Netherlands.

So far I tried Eureka, Champagne Valley. Also added some vital wheat gluten to it to enhance the protein content.  It's ok but not 100 percent. 

So If you could help me out, that would be brilliant. 

Chat soon.

Regards MvM

JonJ's picture

Welcome! Hope you're enjoying the beauty of where you live now.

Regarding local flours, the trick is really to use a low hydration, like 65%. Personally, I like champagne valley a lot, but have difficulty getting hold of it.

I'm also going to send you a direct message for someone who sells interesting (and sometimes stronger) flour.