The harsh winter wind scours along the paving stones in hibernal Namur. Fortunately, we are almost there …
A few minutes later I push the door open, after which a warm gust of sweet-scented grains envelops us: Tumminia, Rosello, Petit Épautre and Maiorca. Welcome to Boulangerie Legrand!
Angela, the wife of baker Dominique, comes to my sister and me and is very enthusiastic about our visit. Awesome, a Walloon bakery where Sicilian temperament can be felt in both the people and the grain. Angela comes from Catania (Eastern Sicily) and ensures that old cereals from Sicily find their way to Belgium. Via Valdibella, a small-scale cooperative of organic farmers, the most beautiful grains come from the warm south. Between the bags of old grains we meet the Brussels-based baker of Atelier Matinal, the director of Slow Food Namur, the English teacher of Angela, the bakery is buzzing with energy!
Angela imports the organic grains, grinds them herself and her husband, son and daughter process them in the bakery into beautiful bread and pastry. I notice that there are only whole wheat loaves in the bakery. As if she is reading my thoughts, Angela explaines: “the old types of cereals such as Tumminia are particularly suitable for processing whole-grain flour. If we sow all grains into flour, we would have to throw away a lot, sin …!”
From pastry to bread, Angela overloads us with all the products they make from Sicilian gold: from brownies of antique grain to beautiful floor baked sourdough breads. I already knew some cereals from Sicily from my visit to baker Davide Longoni. The taste of the grains is amazing, all intensely spicy and sweet. Angela sees that we enjoy and laughs at us.
We indulge ourselves in cookies from Petit Épautre. A cloud of fresh almonds seems to pass my mind and I wonder how that is possible. “This is the same as “Einkorn” right? We now also grow that in the Netherlands!”. Angela laughs and answers “Yes, that’s right, but the taste of this grain is not comparable to what we grow here in Northern Europe”. She explains that the climate and the volcanic soil of Sicily are the base for the intensely sweet taste of their old grains: “They get more sun, just like the place where they originated”. It finally makes sense. Einkorn originates from warm contours: ten thousand years ago it was already grown in the area between Euphrates and Tigris (present-day Syria and Iraq) and it has never liked cold climates.
I can’t wait to bake with the grains myself, my sister already provides: “we go home with lots of flour”. And indeed, a great meeting and 40 kilos of ground old grains richer we drive towards the Netherlands.
For now I like to share a first recipe. My version of “boterkoek”, a Dutch butter cake with the oldest grain in the world. Gâteau au beurre de Petit Épautre.
- 250 grams of whole wheat Petit Épautre flour
- 200 grams organic dairy butter
- 160 grams organic cane sugar
- a good dash of salt
- 2 eggs
- Heat your oven to 180 degrees.
- Mix the flour with the butter, sugar, salt and one egg. Knead until a smooth dough has formed.
- Grease a cake mold of about 22-24 cm in diameter with butter. Form the dough into a round piece and make sure the mold is evenly covered with it.
- With a fork, make a pattern, as you like, in the dough.
- Beat the second egg and spread the top of the cake with it.
- Bake the cake at 180 degrees golden brown in 25-35 minutes. Check after 20 minutes of baking if the edges and top do not start to get too brown. If necessary, cover the cake with aluminum foil.