Three places to get sublime sourdough in Joburg
Within the past decade, no artisanal bread has enjoyed a renaissance quite like sourdough — it has achieved an almost cult-like status.
Baking sourdough is a time-consuming ritual regarded as equal parts science and philosophy. It is famously made using a starter: a wild yeast that not only makes the dough rise, but gives the bread its namesake sour taste.
Sourdough trended during the country’s initial hard lockdown when many people found comfort in the kitchen. This includes these Joburgers, who used that time to perfect their sourdough recipes and have turned baking into a business:
1. MEAT THE MOTHER
Maryke Burger first stumbled upon sourdough in New York in 2014 when she attended a crash course on the art of sourdough by renowned baker Melissa Weller. Burger left with a small jar of San Franciscan starter that she’d use for years to come.
Fast-forward five years and, amid the lockdown, everyone who knew her was asking for bread, starters and lessons. She began posting instruction videos on Instagram. This quickly evolved into her own online store, Meat the Mother, where she sells her breads, starters and other sourdough and baking-related products.
A boutique baker, she makes around eight loaves per batch with flour sourced from small mills. Her recipe comprises a combination of flour, hand-ground buckwheat, and spelt with a hydration* of between 70 and 75%, dependent on the weather.
Her signature is her “Meisie”, an earthy, nutty, dark and hearty loaf. The bulk fermentation and 24-hour proving process results in a deep, tangy sourness while the psyllium-husk base contrasts with a molasses-like caramelisation, bringing sweetness and, of course, a crispy crust.
2. LINDEN LOAVES
Husband-and-wife team Matt and Caro Tapson’s artisanal sourdough business, Linden Loaves, has been a long time in the making.
Matt, an avid baker, has been experimenting with baking sourdough for the better part of the past six years. He has spent hours and hours researching recipes and techniques, and has taken inspiration from the best sourdough makers around the world, including the critically-acclaimed Chad Robertson of Tartine Bakery in San Francisco.
Tapson was so inspired by Robertson’s work that he spent two months building an oven similar to the one Robertson learnt to bake with: a wood-fired Alan Scott retained-heat masonry oven. The results of baking in it were exactly what he’d been hoping to achieve: a loaf with a crust and crumb as described by Robertson.
The couple soon began advertising and selling their bread on Instagram. Recognising the demand, they converted one of the rooms in their house to a full-scale bakery and bake four days a week, producing an average of 150 loaves.
Their recipe calls for stoneground flour and a hydration of between 76 and 78%, and their signature Linden Loaf has a dark, crunchy crust and is soft and chewy on the inside.
You will find their bread at Linden’s Little Deli, Brik Café in Rosebank, and Service Station Café in Melville.
3. VOISIN BREAD & WINE
On the heels of a successful career in the wine industry, Jaco Smit swopped bottles for bannetons (proving baskets) after he began experimenting with sourdough during lockdown.
As he tried different recipes, two loaves became four, and four became six — which saw him supplying freshly baked bread to his neighbours.
Following his newfound passion, he took the leap and opened his own bakery. As luck would have it, he found a space at 44 Stanley that was licensed, meaning he could bring together his wine knowledge with his breadmaking skills. And so, Voisin Bread & Wine came to be.
Inspired by those initial days sharing bread with his voisins (French for neighbours), the name serves as a constant reminder to always be neighbourly.
The shop specialising in interesting wines and, of course, sourdough, is a one-man operation: you’re likely to find Smit feeding starters, kneading dough, or taking freshly baked golden loaves out of the oven.
It’s open Tuesday through Saturday from 10am to 4pm and on Sundays until 2pm. Get there early as the bread sells out fast.
His signature loaf is made using locally-sourced white, wholewheat and rye flour and salt (Oryx desert salt or Khoisan hand-harvested sea salt), with 75% hydration. The result is a classic sourdough with a thin, crunchy, crust, chewy centre and a delicate, tangy, sour taste.
* Hydration is the percentage of water to flour in the dough — higher hydration gives the bread that gorgeously bubbly crumb and thin, crisp crust.