WHAT are you going to do in Moorreesburg for the weekend?” my friend asked, when I said I was heading up to the Swartland the following day. I thought for a moment, and answered: “Bake and eat bread and drink wine.” Even the Catholics would be pleased.
It was a very simple answer which captured the essence of what was in store. My friends Carien Hugo and Craig “Waaarrrpiiig” Waring (yes, it has to be said a certain way, preferably in shouty upper case) live there and bread is their business at Moorrees Bakery. “At Moorrees, we’re more than just a bakery and eatery,” says their website. “We’re an all-in-one experience, bringing together the best of Swartland with an artisanal bakery, wine shop, pub, workshops and self-catering facilities. As a family-owned business, we believe in providing our customers with only the freshest local produce, ensuring you get the best experience with every visit. Come visit us and see for yourself why Moorrees Deli is considered one of the best places to experience warm Swartland hospitality.”
This has a lot to do with them being beautiful, generous human beings and even if I didn’t already know them, I’d be so happy to spend a weekend in their company. This is something that you can do too. Carien hosts sourdough bread-making workshops which can be booked for just the morning (it’s just more than an hour’s drive from Cape Town) or you can level up to a Baker’s (Bakers’?) Weekend, which is more or less what I experienced. More, because, well, friends, and less because it was a public holiday and the Wheat Museum was closed.
Carien and her team (above) bake 500 sourdough breads a week, which is their capacity until the goal of installing a wood-fired oven comes to fruition. The range includes two styles: “One is we mix and fold the day before baking; and poolish style,” explains Carien. The latter is made with a hydrated sourdough slush, and results in ciabatta and the distinctive Koringberg, which are baked on the same day, skipping the long, slow overnight fermentation of the other breads – the 1kg Swartland (30% wholewheat 70% white flour), 1.5kg Kasteelberg 100% white flours (Carien’s favourite because of crust to crumb ratio), a loaf pan bread with slightly different combination of flours, and the Sandveld, which is is a rough wholewheat and seed bread weighing in at 1kg.
The basic sourdough contains just four quality ingredients: starter, high protein stoneground Swartland flour, Khoisan natural sea salt from Velddrif, and water.
There’s more though – sourdough flatbreads (order in the eatery with toppings or buy frozen to take home and get creative), pizza bases (ditto, but not sourdough), croissants, three flavours of cookies, potstickers, plus buttermilk scones and rusks. “Bertha is very versatile,” laughs Carien.
Yes, that is the name of the sourdough starter that lives in Moorreesburg. Her ancestry stretches back 40 years to Israel and when she came into Carien’s life she was named thus. This is part of the process of baking sourdough: naming your starter something meaningful, to establish an emotional bond. It’s a living thing and needs to be fed (literally) and nurtured like a pet or a child.
Carien named Bertha after her Sub B teacher. “Tannie Bertha was strong, beautiful and loving and made a huge impression on anyone who met her,” says Carien. “It’s not just food. This is why in a way it feels like part of my purpose in this life is to reconnect people to their food, know that food made with the intention of love is tastes better.”
To this end, Carien aims to impart knowledge of how your bread comes to your table, and she believes at least one person in every family should be able to bake a bread, something which features significantly in almost every culture in the world and has been for thousands of years. Embarking on a sourdough journey does require commitment, however, something I wasn’t sure I was up for…spoiler alert: I have my own starter (Miss Sophie) and have baked two imperfect yet perfectly edible, quite delicious breads. Carien is so kind and nurturing and tells me not to be hard on myself, and shared that she baked about 12 breads before she found the sweet spot. I guess I am the designated family baker now.
The Baker’s (going for the singular since it was just me) Weekend includes two nights’ accommodation in a cottage adjoining the eatery. It sleeps four in air conditioned comfort (a big selling point in summer). Carien took me on a little tour of the area (where the Wheat Museum, only of only two in the world, would be incorporated), before we came back to the bar where Warpig was playing records, and we drank wine (Carien’s background in the hospitality and wine industries ensures there is always good stuff on hand – and there is an off-con licence for the wine shop) and ate potstickers made with sourdough discard. You’ll learn all about this by-product in the workshop. A bit later, we scoffed flatbreads and drank more wine. When I went back to the cottage, I found a butter and a mini ciabatta; there was wine in the fridge – my initial assessment of the weekend was holding strong.
The next morning, breakfast was served at the eatery, although I’d already had more ciabatta, some of a chocolate chip cookie, and a buttermilk rusk, because I couldn’t decide on one, or even two, before we moved to the bakery for the workshop. Carien is truly one of the most patient people I’ve known. Not only did she answer questions over and over, but has imparted help and tips via WhatsApp ever since.
For the workshop, we received dough which was almost ready to be put to rest overnight, so most of the hard work had been done for us. For those staying over, their bread is baked the next morning for a very satisfying result, but day visitors take theirs in a cooler box to bake at home.
Here are the details for the workshops and weekends. Moorrees breads are available at various outlets and markets in the Swartland, and it would be lovely if Cape Town could drum up sufficient support to make a bread run to the city worthwhile. Keep up to date on Facebook and Instagram @moorreesdeli
BREAKFAST & BREADMAKING
Arrive at Moorrees at 9.30am for breakfast and coffee in the eatery and meet the rest of the bakers.
Move into the bakery at 11am to be taken through the sourdough bread making process, till around 12.30pm.
What to bring:
- A teachable attitude
- Apron and non-slip shoes
- Cooler box that is big enough to store your container (it’s a colander) to take home and bake the next morning
- Perhaps a friend to share the experience
What you will take home:
- Simple sourdough workshop skills and information
- Starter kit that contains your own sourdough yeast starter, container and stoneground flour for the first feed
- Recipe to start baking
- Your first dough to bake at home
- The start of a baking community
R700 per person all inclusive (does not include extra food/drink or supplies). You can purchase 5kg or 12.5kg stoneground flour.
Upcoming dates: February 3, February 24, March 2, April 6.
BAKER’S WEEKEND (for four people, can be increased to six)
- Friday afternoon: Check in at the Baker’s Cottage at Moorrees from 2pm, but before 4pm to experience the Wheat Museum. The Baker’s Cottage is a two-bedroom unit, one double and one twin with one shared bathroom
- Friday night: Experience sourdough flatbreads from the Moorrees (drinks for own account)
- Saturday morning: Enjoy a good breakfast at Moorrees and get ready for the Simple Sourdough Workshop (see above) till lunch time
- Saturday afternoon/evening: Free time – Carien and Warpig can suggest a few things to do in the area or just chill at home. Ask about a cheese/charcuterie platter and wine options on check-in
- Sunday morning: Coffee and sourdough croissants before going back into the bakery to bake the breads
R10000 all inclusive for four people; package can be upgraded to six people with extra double accommodation off-site for R15 000 all inclusive.
- February 9-11
- March 15-17
- April 12-14
- May 17-19
- June 21-23
- July 19-21
- August 16-18
- September 20-22
- October 11-13
- November 15-17
Bookings via Whatsapp 072 237 6000 or [email protected]