As we feel the chill of Autumn gently waft its way into our homes, the familiar anticipation for warm, soft golden carbs grows undeniably in our bellies. Mosbolletjie bread is a South African staple bread that holds all the comfort of a warm brioche combined with the local flair and flavour of the Cape Winelands. Mos – or rather grape in English – is the primitive raising agent at the foundation of this recipe. Derived from the grape juice in the first stage of fermentation before it is strained for wine it is an excellent example of how the ingenuity and zero-waste ideals of our heritage cooks can produce scrumptious results.
Confectionery connoisseur, dame of deliciousness and intrepid entrepreneur – Grace Stevens an award-winning TV chef, guest judge on The Taste Master SA – shares her top secrets to creating superbly fluffy Mosbolletjies:
The proof is in the patience
The humble bread baker is amongst the most underrated of culinary professionals. Often up long before dawn, the profession requires those with a special appreciation for the gentle – if often sensitive – development of live ingredients such as yeast. I have always been fascinated with yeast and its transformative potential to develop both flavours and my patience. When it comes to Mosbolletjies, it is worth taking a page from the baker’s metaphorical recipe book and remember not to rush the proving process. If you are able to restrain yourself, this recipe will reward your patience with the softest, tender crumb. And you will find that the time it takes for yeast to develop also makes a special allowance for you to experiment and indulge in the creative process.
Bake fresh and make your family’s morning
Few things are quite as homely as the smell of bread wafting through the passageway on a crisp Sunday morning. My family and I find the best way to enjoy Mosbolletjies is warm from the oven, around the breakfast table, with lashings of slowly melting butter.
To achieve this, simply do a second proving overnight in the fridge and bake fresh in the morning. The structure of the bread makes it ideal for tearing off a piece to pass around the table until everyone’s tummies and hearts are full of fluffy delight.
Leftover mosbolletjies that are dried in the oven overnight also make for excellent rusks and bring back memories for me of early morning easter road trips.
Aniseed has a glorious sweet, fragrant aroma with a warm liquorice flavour that brings the vibrance of our Cape Malay heritage to this often Afrikaaner bread. However, if the taste of aniseed isn’t your idea of delicious, you may leave it out. I have had the privilege of many farmer’s wives taking me under their wing and confiding in me their tried and trusted techniques. Proudly, many of them make this recipe often using the must from their husband’s grapes. Stating confidently that it is the only guarantee to getting the ultimate flavour. For those of us not lucky enough to be married to winemakers, 150ml of sparkling grape juice will have to be substituted – though it is worth asking on your next wine tasting brunch if the farm does bottle and sell most just after the grape harvest season which usually happens from late summer onwards.
Although the process of proving and rolling this dough on a Saturday afternoon may seem daunting to some of us, you need not do all the work alone. My children, the youngest of which likens the soft squishy texture of the dough to playdough, and I have delighted many hours in the rolling of these soft spheres. Be it around a floured table or a jubilant Sunday breakfast, this recipe has the ability to bring the family together through the brilliance of butter and laughter. And that makes it one of my all-time favourites.