Making bread

In the summer 2012 when we bought our house in Isumi I never imagined how much it would be a life changer. At first it was purely a fancy project to have a Japanese house and a garden, a place to do little DIY projects (since there’s nothing we can do in a rented apartment in Tokyo) and interior design… but these 6 years have provided us with a lot of opportunities for thinking about our life style, what we care for, and we want. But all that I’ll write about later. One thing, among a few others, I really got into is making bread (why and how is there). Handmade bread. Hand kneading is such a quiet and nice moment to talk and think after a busy day in the garden, at the seaside or on the tennis court. At first I was just trying to make bread and brioche with regular flour I could find in the supermarkets but I wasn’t happy with non organic flours, then started to bring back organic ingredients from our trips to France: fancy flours, dry sourdough, dry yeast, seeds and cereals. But this solution was not sustainable since my travels to Europe are irregular, that most of the organic products are usually contaminated with pests and they don’t suffer the Japanese climate to well in particular our house temperature variations and humidity variations are quite dramatic. From 2deg to 28deg and from 10% humidity to 90%. I’ve started back then to keep them in the vegetable drawer of my fridge, which is exclusively used for that now. You can keep them very long and without any pest and they don’t loose their taste. But little by little I learned about the locally produced flours and organic flours have started to appear on shelves here and there. Hokkaido is a very nice wheat producer and they have high quality flours. Cuoca offers a great variety of products when you make bread and a variety of Hokkaido flours (they also have French). I personally don’t shop online, I’d rather go to the shop in Mitsukoshi Nihonbashi where I can buy also fresh yeast and choose the flours I like on the spot. But one other great source for finding flours is when traveling around Japan. If you travel a bit in the countryside you’ll discover that many other regions than Hokkaido produce wheat, but likely at a lower scale, and are only sold locally at farmers cooperatives. Try “michi no eki” 道の駅 and JA fresh products markets, they are always a great place to find local food and locally produced rice, beans, and flours… I remember buying amazing black wheat flour near Shiojiri in Nagano prefecture and some super fine white flour in Nasu in Ibaraki prefecture. Options for making bread locally makes me feel better, they are more fit to the Japanese climate and I don’t have to carry kilos of flours anymore with me on my long haul flights! I still carry other staples that I can’t easily find in Japan… recently it’s been semolina, dry fruits, olives, olive oil, but that, it’s another story!

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