The Bread Exchange // Berlin
The delicious smell of freshly baked bread gives me a warm feeling of comfort. Catching it in the street can make me stop and take a deep breath. It’s a simple delight. Bread is one of the most basic, every day dishes we have, part of pretty much any food culture on this planet from what I know. Sadly, the quality of the bread we find on our grocery shopping tours is clearly going down the drain. Even in Germany that used to have an enormous variety with many local and regional types of bread. Anyway, no whining will turn back time, industrial bakery chains with their standardized products have replaced hand-crafted baking long ago.
What’s even more sad to see is a new generation of self-service bakeries flooding the cities, trying to become the tastemakers with slogans like “eat yourself rich”. Hello??? Better look at the maths before eating yourself brainless: If I buy 2 loafs of bread per week and save €2 on each loaf: How long does it take until my savings sum up to, let’s say €10.000? Hey, just FIFTY TWO years! 52 years of eating sawdust with a little salt and a lot of other stuff I don’t even want to know about. What a bargain! Don’t take me for an ignorant, I am well aware of the many who have to think twice before spending 50 Cent. My word, it’s not for them marketing agencies twist their brains and create such slogans.
The good news is: There is a charming little counter-revolution happening in Berlin, named The Bread Exchange. Starting in 2009, Swedish-born Malin Elmlid has turned her private kitchen into a pop-up bakery: She is producing bread based on nothing else but sourdough: Wheat flour, water and salt – that’s it. Seems fairly easy, but sourdough bread is a tricky thing that requires primarily two things: Experience and patience. Both are rather hard to find these days, reason why most bakeries use ready-mixed ingredients for their dough: Open the bag, stir into water, done. Not so Miss Elmlid, she decided to go for the good, old, traditional way that doesn’t need extra yeast or other little helpers to make the dough soft and fluffy. Instead, bacteria and yeast that are naturally contained in the flour do the job. Sounds simple? Well, it’s not. Miss Elmlid went through a countless number of experiments with natural sourdough bubbling in every corner of her flat until she found the right mixture, the right temperature, the right resting time and the right amount of kneading at the right time.
Baking sourdough bread is a project she’s doing for the fun. But actually it’s quite hard work, too. So what would be a fair price for a loaf of bread that takes minimum 24 hours preparation time with folding and kneading every 20 minutes in the early stages? Miss Elmlid decided: Her bread is priceless, money can’t buy it – and founded The Bread Exchange, subtitle: “Everything is not for sale”. The idea is that people offer her something in return for the bread. Can be anything, as long as it shows dedication and good intentions, like ingredients and spices for her bread, fruit from your garden, a jar of home-made jam, a place on a guest list, a helping hand with repairing her bike… Be creative or find her little wish list and more information on the project on http://elmlid.com. You can also join The Bread Exchange Facebook group with impressive 1.269 members. Bottom Line: If you really want to eat yourself rich (instead of brainless), The Bread Exchange could be a great choice in terms of added value.