What kind of bread do they eat in South Africa?

When I lived in Johannesburg in 2002 the bread was abysmal.  Lots of white sliced and I cannot recall a decent baker.  I know that baking at altitude poses some challenges, but the are not insurmountable, and I could only conclude that the Johannesburgers has become used to white sliced bread in a bag – like so much of the world.

It was with interest, therefore, that I learned about the emerging bread Cape Town just in time for my visit there.  The relaxing holiday turned into a Bread Safari and I visited and talked to most good bakers and learned a little bit about the South African bread culture, old and new.  Let’s start with old…

Both the Xhosa and the Zulu make something called Steamed Bread, Steamed Dumpling Bread, Imbiza, or Amadombolo.  This is a levened bread made without an oven – as in many rural areas and poor urban areas there are no ovens.  I am guessing this bread is rather puddingy in texture, but I will have to revert back and let you know once I have had time to try it out.  (Alternative:  you try it out and let me know).  The recipe, which was given to me by Alicia Giliomee the incredibly talented chef at Vergelegen Wine Estate,  is here.

Meanwhile, here is a charming representation of the recipe on an embroidered tea towel that is displayed in the District Six museum.  The lady who works there has told me to let her know when I am coming back so she can make me some to try.  This is a very living bread.

Bread in africa
Recipe for steamed bread - from the District Six museum

More on the Bread Safari tomorrow:   Cape Town bakers awake!  Stellenbosch rocks!  Kalk Bay a la Francais!

Bread in Stellenbosch
Oude Bank Bakkerej, Stellenbosch
The Crew at Jason Bakery
Bakeries in Kalk Bay good bread in Kalk Bay
C'est la vie in Kalk Bay


2 thoughts on “What kind of bread do they eat in South Africa?”

  1. I was fortunate to get a family recipe from a woman we visited in Swakopmund, Namibia. Her bread calls for brown bread flour. In America I cannot find this. What is it and is there a substitute?

    1. Dear Diane, where are you living? In the UK you can get stong brown bread flour (which in the UK is a blend of whole and white wheat) which is the same thing as brown bread flour. You can also get strong whole meal flour in the UK. In the US, I am not sure. I know you can get white “bread” flour which is strong (for bread) but I don’t know if you can get brown or whole meal bread flour. If in the US I would use 50% strong (white) bread flour and 50% whole wheat flour if you cannot get strong brown or whole meal. Does that make any sense at all???

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