This is the community building for Erschmatt, which had been for many generations the communal village oven, where they baked all of their bread. It is still used as a community building for teaching and functions, and of course the oven.
Susan was our lovely guide and baking teacher, and served us wonderful fresh mint tea and a homegrown meal. The wooden family crests on the back wall represented the families that live in this mountain village, most of which have not changed for generations.
This was the wood fired heating stove in the room that was connected to the oven in the back.
The communal oven would hold 120 loaves and the former inhabitants of the village would bake all of their bread three times a year, then store it in the bread house (more on that later.) They would light the fires in the oven, two to three days before the communal bake, scoop out the ashes and the breads would bake for about an hour.
Every village in the Alps would have one of these communal bread ovens.
They have constructed a new dough trough exactly like the original one, made from pine and larch.
This starter is old, very old. Susan told us that the Romans used to live in this part of Switzerland and remains of the starter were unearthed and resuscitated. This is the original starter that they have used for generations, and 50 years ago, they began to freeze it.
“Bread is older than metal; even before the bronze age, our ancestors were eating and baking flat breads. There is evidence of neolithic grinding stones used to process grains, probably to make a flat bread; but the oldest bread yet found is a loaf discovered in Switzerland, dating from 3500 BCE.” from The History of Sourdough Bread.
This was the starter she used for the baking this day.
She adds salt to a pan of warm water.
She used two grinds of rye flour, one very course, and one fine.
The wooden dough trough has two compartments. In the lower part, she mixed salt and water, and 1/2 of the quantity of the flour and mixed. It takes 3 to 4 hours to rest the dough for the acetic and lactic acids to develop.
The second step in the other section of the trough she added the starter, salt and water, using only the course flour for this step. When it is more than 86 degrees f. it takes 20 min for the bacteria to double.
The ancient room was beautiful.
The starter was mixed completely with the warm water.
to be continued…