Baking session with Stefan Elias
Wherever I go to eat, bread will always be an important criteria in the overall evaluation of the dining experience. Baking bread is a craft on its own, and that’s why, if you ask them, most of the pastry chefs prefer not to call themselves bakers. But yet, whenever a restaurant does venture itself in the bread baking they often succeed. I can’t think of a lot of food I enjoy more then a simple toasted loaf of bread with a tasty melting butter, and perhaps a good spoon of jam, but that’s dispensable when the bread is awesome. Some research and valuable advices led me to consider Chad Robertson and Alex Croquet as being bread heroes. Chad Robertson runs Tartine Bakery in San Francisco in the US, and Alex Croquet has a bakery in Lille and in Wattignies, France. Sure thing, they both appear on my list to visit, but first I want to discover the best bakeries in Belgium and learn to bake a basic loaf myself.
Stefan Elias, being the former baker of Bloch, a famous and successful Jewish bakery in the city centre of Ghent, I thought he would be the appropriate person to teach some of the basics of baking. In our city Bloch still calls to the imagination, but regardless of how beloved and captivating it was, Jacques Bloch decided to turn the page after a 108-years old story of passion and devotion, but unfortunately also of deportation and oppression. Luckily, it was at a certain moment at the end of the Second World War, that the neighbour and local chocolate maker Jean Daskalides could prevent this little piece of cultural heritage from being burned by a furious mob. Chocolate saving pastries, a coincidence? I think not! Thank him, otherwise I wouldn’t be able to feel nostalgic about the delicious chocolate cake I liked so much…
Stefan often tells me about how impressed he always was by Bloch’s ardour and know-how, but honestly, I believe he probably also got infected by the same virus when I see and hear how passionate and devoted he is. No surprise he eternalized Bloch’s most wanted recipes in 3 clear cooking books, the spirit lives on.
On a sunny Sunday afternoon Stefan shared some of his knowledge with me and guided me through a couple of the recipes in a private baking session at his place. In case the pictures should invite you to get to work yourself, the recipe books are some of the few to instruct you with correct weights and measures. Meanwhile, here’s already a recipe I recommend you to try on a lazy Sunday afternoon, and hey, it happens to be called Sunday bread.
Until recently I was used to bake all my bread myself, because I wasn’t satisfied about the bread that is sold in our city, but on an unlucky day my Kitchen Aid was turning a bit too wildly and waltzed unnoticed to the edge of the countertop till it dropped with a loud smash on the floor. No worries, I’ll get it fixed soon…
Some useful links you might like if all you need is bread:
Chad Robertson's bakery in San Francisco (US): www.tartinebakery.com
Alex Croquet's bakery in Lille and Wattignies (France): www.alexcroquet.fr
And here are some of my favourite confirmed bakeries in Belgium today:
A bakery in Ghent of one of my favourite Chefs Kobe Desramaults and his former sous-Chef Rose Green: www.indewulf.be/desuperette (in Dutch)
A bakery in Antwerp by Julien Burlat: www.domeweb.be/domestic (in Dutch)
A bakery in Brussels by Charles Reboulet: www.charliboulangerie.com