Thursday, March 24, 2011

Maori Style Bread

There are days where I am ten feet tall. There are weeks where I only want to wear a mini skirt and rock some heels while strutting everything I have.

Sometimes I have great hair that curls perfectly and shines golden hues in the sun. Someone once told me that my hair looks like wheat fields.

Those are the days, the days that make it all worth while.

Other days take effort.

There are other times when everything I touch falls on the floor, spilling its contents in one million directions or shatters into twenty bazillion shards of lethal glass.

My dog runs off to far away lands.

I can wear the same pair of black leggings for days on end with the frumpiest flats I can dig out of my closet.

My hair is often ignored, dry, there is grow out, dirt, frizz and general lack of control.

But I can pretend that I wear the perfect shade of lipstick that is always perfectly applied, I dress to the nines every morning by 6 am and life just seems to roll smoothly. I never over eat and there is always wine left in the bottle. I will always be a size 4. Always.

Sometimes my bread comes out of the oven in perfect condition, worthy of note and makes it into our meals. Other times I try and sabotage the bread every step of the way. Every. Step. Not intentionally, maybe I just need a challenge from the greater bread goddess. Whatever.

This dough almost went in the trash before it made it to the oven.  It made it to the oven, kicking and screaming.

This bread was doomed from the get go when I neglected to peel the potatoes. I honestly don't peel potatoes, we hardly even eat them but when they do grace our tables I make sure they are young and have very thin edible skin. I wasn't about to give them the time of day they deserved. Actually, you can hardly notice skins (fibre my friends, thank me in the morning...). Honestly I don't know where I went wrong, I measured to the gram, but somewhere along the line my dough was way too wet and I was unsure if I really should add at least another cup of flour. I should have. Also never put the rising dough over the exhaust of the oven while it is on. It may be warm, a little too warm...... Blah blah blah.

I made it this far - the bread was going into the oven. Surprisingly, the bread puffed and became a beautiful golden color. The cooled and sliced bread was incredibly moist, a perfect candidate for a sandwich or just a schmear of salted butter.

Rewena paraoa (Maori bread)
makes one large loaf

"Rewena is the Maori term for the fermented potato mixture used as a raising agent to make this effect it's a type of sourdough. It's difficult to find the exact history of this bread, but it has been suggested that a flat unleavened bread was made with ground-up bullrush plant and water, baked over hot rocks. Traditionally, rewena is baked for large gatherings and the loaf is simply torn apart for sharing amongst friends and family. I have added a little fresh rosemary for flavour because this bread has little salt and can be bland. Stencilling the iconic New Zealand silver fern onto the loaf by dusting with flour and baking gives this loaf a truly New Zealand identity. This rewena needs to be made two to three days ahead."

100 g potato, peeled and thinly sliced
165 ml water
extra water
165 g strong bread flour
1 tsp liquid honey

400 g strong bread flour
1 tsp salt
20 g liquid honey
1/4 tsp instant active dried yeast
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves, roughly chopped
150 ml water
330 g rewena, as above
additional flour, for dusting
4— 5 ice cubes, for creating steam in the oven

To prepare the rewena, place the potato and water into a saucepan and then boil until the potato is soft, leave the lid off. Mash the cooked potato in the water and add extra water until you have 250 g in total. Put into a bowl and cool until lukewarm. If the mashed potatoes are too hot, it will cook the starch in the flour. Mix in the flour and honey to make a soft dough. Cover with plastic wrap and set in a warm place until the dough ferments. After one day you'll see a few bubbles on the surface, after two days a lot. You can use it after two days or up to three, if you'll leave it longer it'll be over its strongest point.

To make the dough, put all the ingredients into a large mixing bowl and, using a wooden spoon, combine to form a soft dough mass. (You may need to adjust with a little more flour or water.) Knead the dough in the spiral mixer for 8 -10 minutes (starting on speed 1 or 2, halfway on speed 3) until the dough (almost) clears the sides and the dough is smooth and elastic.

Place the dough into a lightly oiled large bowl, cover with plastic wrap and leave in a warm place. Once the dough has almost doubled in size (this will take approximately 1 hour), tip the dough onto the bench dusted with flour and gently knock it back by folding it onto itself three to four times. Return the dough to the lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and leave for a further 30 minutes in a warm place.

Fold the dough to form a large rectangle. This doesn't need to be exact, just as long as it's tight and compact. Place on a baking tray lined with non-stick baking paper and cover with plastic wrap. Allow to prove for approximately 60-120 minutes, depending on room temperature.

(optional) Cut a silver fern-leaf or Maori moko design stencil out of stiff paper. Remove the plastic wrap from the dough and place the stencil on the dough's surface (I sprayed the stencil with pan coating, otherwise it would have got stuck on the dough), then with a fine sieve filled with a little (white rye) flour, lightly dust flour over the stencil so you are left with a pattern on the loaf. Carefully remove the stencil. Using a sharp knife or razor blade, cut around the edge of stencilled pattern.

Preheat the oven to 220ÂșC with a baking tray or baking stone inside (the stone should really be hot!) and a small ovenproof dish on the bottom shelf. Place the loaf in the oven and quickly throw 4-5 ice cubes into the small ovenproof dish and close the oven door.

Bake for 10 minutes and then turn the tray around, reduce the oven temperature to 200°C and bake for a further 20-25 minutes, or until the crust is a dark golden brown and the bottom sounds hollow when tapped. Remove from the oven and place on a cooling rack.

(adapted from: “Global Baker” – Dean Brettschneider)


  1. Size 4? Really? There are people out there with size 4? Harumph...Hand me that bread honey! It betrays nothing of your worries, just looking perfectly right!

  2. I think this bread is beautiful, Michelle...perhaps a reminder that sometimes our own perceptions of ourselves are wrongly skewed, and we're actually not as hopelessly messy as we feel! I love to hear your thoughts. Thanks for sharing this recipe, too! I've never heard of Maori bread but would love to try it for the sake of that land/people I do love so!

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  4. So glad there was a happy ending! It ain't over till the bread comes out of the oven!
    We all know these days... though I wouldn't dare to shock the neighbourhood by strutting around in a minu skirt hehehe. Thanks for baking with us!!

  5. Well, I don't even think I'm going to get the chance to make this...March has flown by!! It looks lovely and I wish I could try a slice :D

  6. Your bread is so pretty and quite successful Michelle, and you write beautifully as well.

  7. Thanks for all the kind words! It was a wonderful loaf in the end, I devoured half and left the other half with my brother.

  8. Hoho so glad I didn't miss this one!
    The bread looks absolutely perfect!
    Love your way of saying everything that could go wrong did ... at least that's the way you saw it only to have just perfection from the oven. We're often a bad judge of ourselves. I hardly ever peel a potato; my mom always said that was where the vitamins were ;-)

  9. That bread looks beautiful. Perfect.

  10. I can never stop admiring the way that bread wants to be bread.

    Well done, insisting on putting your Rewena bread in the oven even though you thought it wouldn't work.

  11. Oh my, I'm amazed at what a beautiful color those peels lent to the dough (I'm assuming it was the peels.) ☺ Surprised you didn't have more holes with a wet dough like that. Kudos for crossing fingers and baking it off.