Home tastes wonderfully like bread

Grinding flour, kneading dough, shaping loaves, baking bread: There are still a few enthusiasts in Ötztal who spare no effort to get authentic bread out of the oven like long ago. In the Ötzi Village we find all the archaeological models for a very healthy and sustainable production of the world's probably most important food.

Bread is life

His mill should be full of life, Ernst Kuprian decided after he had crafted a grain mill based on old models on the site of a former ruin in 2010. Therefore, he also built a farmer's bread baking oven right next to it. Today, the mill rattles on the rushing mountain brook at the campsite in Huben every Monday - while the bread-baking oven is heating up.

 

Organic stands for logical

Traditional miller Kuprian grinds corn or grain, organically cultivated by a farmer friend in Ötztal. In the bakery next door, which is heated to 30 degrees Celsius, Ms. Mathilda prepares bread dough according to her grandmother's recipe. She shapes it into loaves, puts the pieces of dough on wooden boards sprinkled with bran, which she and a helper store temporarily on a wall shelf so that the yeast dough loaves continue to rise until they are baked.

Sautens BBQ Championship 2018
Sautens BBQ Championship 2018
Sautens BBQ Championship 2018

Baking bread is heavy piecework

Outdoors at the oven, baker Bernhard works in a chord together with assistant Petra. She puts dough pieces in pairs on the wooden scoop. He places about 100 loaves of bread per baking process into the oven and takes them out crispy after about 20 minutes - it smells deliciously.

Bernhard heats up again in-between the baking cycles, removes the embers from the oven and cleans its bottom accurately. Several women pile the loaves in boxes and baskets, selling the hot bread to walk-in customers or guests who have waited while enjoying a beer and snack on the terrace in front of the mill.

 

Farmer's bread has been food supply for ages

A gentleman from Oetz loads three large boxes full of bread loaves into the trunk of his car at the campsite in Huben. "We freeze them so that we always have a good supply of the best bread in the whole valley," he states.

Most farms in the valley used to bake brad in stock. The great difference to today: The loaves were air-dried on bread shelves to preserve them, smashed into bite-sized chunks for consumption and then softened again with milk.

Sautens BBQ Championship 2018

New life for old mills

Each village once had its own mill: A bread-baking oven was mostly shared by several farmhouses. In addition to Huben, there are newly restored mills or new ones based on the old model in Piburg and Obergurgl. They look romantic, but their wheels usually stand still. "Grinding corn and baking bread like it used to be is fairly exhausting and time-consuming. Our team of seven works primarily out of enthusiasm," says Ernst Kuprian, whose mill and baking oven are active every week in summer.

In Piburg the chance discovery of old millstones and the awareness of tradition led to the reconstruction of the historic mill and oven. Since 2014, after a hundred-year break, everything revolves around grinding and baking bread in Piburg once a week. Every Friday in the summer months, guided tours of the mill and bread baking for children are part of the entertaining program.

The over 300 year old grain mill with oven at Pirchhütt's Mühlbach brook in Obergurgl was reconstructed in 1990. Grain never grew in Obergurgl due to the high Alpine location, therefore imported grain was ground into flour and bread was baked in stock once or twice a year. With a bit of luck, you can watch Pirchhütt's rattling mill and bread baking that takes place only once in summer.

The bread of prehistoric times

Ötztal was settled since the Neolithic Age and has therefore been familiar with bread - the basic food at that time. Once a week in Umhausen's Ötzi Village during the summer months, you can experience how our ancestors of some 5000 years ago grinded primordial grain into flour between two stones, processed it into bread dough with the help of spit or fermented fruit as a leavening agent and baked flat bread on special slabs of slate or soapstone.

Guide Eva places bread patties made from prepared dough on the hot stone slab, showing old tools such as the winnowing fan for separating the grain from the chaff. She explains the construction of the old clay ovens, turns the flat breads from time to time and finally taps on the underside with her knuckles.

"If it sounds hollow, the bread is done," she explains. Quite interesting. Even the bread baking experts of the 21st century still use Stone Age methods for cooking although they are used to top modern electric ovens.

Traditional bread from the Local Heritage Museum

Five families used the old bread-baking oven in the Local Heritage & Outdoor Museum in Lehn near Längenfeld. Today, in the summer months, museum attendant Christian heats the historic oven every second Friday morning - also a mill from the old days is connected to it - in order to bake bread like long ago. Also the recipe for the dough is very traditional, it consists of a mixture of rye and wheat flour and is seasoned with homemade bread clover. You can buy the freshly baked Ötztal "Breatlen" in front of the museum between 10.00 am and 12.00 noon - while stocks last!

Farmer's bread recipe

Ingredients

300 g spelt flour
300 g rye flour
300 g wheat flour
21 g fresh yeast
18 g salt
8 g honey
8 ml of apple cider vinegar
1 tsp sugar
3 tsp bread seasoning
Approx. 0.5 l of lukewarm water

Preparation

Prepare starter dough: Crumble the yeast. Stir until smooth with 1 teaspoon of sugar. Add 2 tablespoons of flour and enough lukewarm water until a thick dough is formed.

Leave in a warm place for approx. 30 minutes. Mix flour with salt, honey, apple cider vinegar and bread spice. Add the starter dough. Mix with lukewarm water and knead the dough until it bubbles. Leave covered for 90 minutes.

Form loaves out of 250 g of dough. Place on a slightly greased and floured baking tray. Cover and let rise another 30 minutes. Place a bowl of water in the oven preheated to 180 degrees Celsius (top heat and bottom heat). Bake the bread for about 45 minutes.

Guest author: Isolde v. Mersi

Isolde von Mersi comes from South Tyrol's Pustertal valley and lives in Vienna now. As a popular reporter and book writer for Austrian and German magazines and publishing houses, she explores a huge variety of cultural, culinary and naturalistic treasures of the Alpine countries and its people.

She has been feeling at home in Ötztal for many years already as she contributes to the ÖTZTAL MAGAZINE on a regular basis. And she has found many friends in the valley.

Isolde v. Mersi
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