NOZETI’S LOAF

 

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The loaf weighs 4 kg. It measures 27.5 cm across and is 9 cm deep. . The upper crust is thin, the colour of toffee. The crust below is thin and burnt. The crumb is white. It comes wrapped in a voluminous white damask cloth. It is the best bread in the world,

Untoasted, it smells like no other bread. It smells of babies and boiled milk, wax and yeast, charcoal and mimosa. The crumb is dense and springy and tastes slightly eggy with a hum of sweetness. The thin burnt under-crust adds a not of refreshing bitterness.

It toasts to an even shade of biscuit. The surface has a fragile crispness. Beneath this thin wheaty rime the substance is chewy, almost sticky. The sweetness is more pronounced, but the flavour is deep and mellow, with a refreshing lick of bitterness from the burnt under-crust.

It is a joy to eat on its own, but it dances with raspberry jam or blackcurrant jam or apricot jam or marmalade or honey in the way that Fred Astaire danced with Ginger Rogers. It’s fabulous as a soldier dipped into an egg. If you want to, I would guess it would make the perfect toasted slice into which to mash your avocado before sluicing a splash of ‘balsamic’ vinegar over it (not a variation of which I’m particularly fond). Or it can be used, as my daughter uses it, toasted, as a platform for cucumber, cheese and chilli sauce. (Great heavens!). It’s that good.

I have no recipe for this bread, but I know that it’s baked in a hole in the ground by Nozeti, a Xhosa lady in Hamburg on the Keiskamma River in the Eastern Cape of South Africa.  She is 60 years old, and a martyr to arthritis and a dab hand on What’s App.  She takes pride in her baking, but makes little fuss about it. She’s a genius.

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