Home baking has never been a more popular pastime than it is today.
Men and women are talking about their latest bread or cake success and swapping recipes in cafes, night school and on the internet.
The Portuguese are in on it too with a few of my friends regularly baking bread in their wood ovens because according to them the quality of the local bakers bread has diminished over the years and is becoming an additive rich/content poor copy of its predecessors.
Most Portuguese homes have a wood fired bread oven which is not just used for baking bread but all kinds of delicious roasts and stews. I remember twelve years ago a neighbor (we still don’t know which one) who had baked brua bread left a loaf in a bag on our door handle.
We had arrived home from the shops to find it warm and soft with a delicious crust.
We immediately sat down with a cup of tea and devoured the loaf with butter. I can’t describe the taste other than absolutely delicious!
If you have a wood oven why not bake a loaf or two yourself.
Here’s a tip to make your life easier and save a little too. Ask your local baker for some flour of the type you want and some yeast. Take your own bag and they will sell you the flour cheaper than the supermarkets.
Make your own whole grain or super fine in Portugal.
Or you can go all the way and buy a water powered corn grinding mill. I know of water mills for sale from only 15,000 to 40,000 Euros. Dating as far back as 1763 you can live in some of them too.
Portuguese watermills are different to English mills instead of the vertical water wheel that you see on old pictures these are horizontal and apparently more efficient which is useful with our lower rainfall and smaller rivers in Portugal.
The water is normally held in a stream or lavada which has wooden doors fitted which act like lock gates to dam the water which is used to turn the wheel and grind the corn.
When the desired level (head of water) is achieved the gates are opened and the water flows turning the grind stones.
The thing which hits you as soon as you go inside a water mill is just how simple but highly efficient the whole thing is. Most of the machinery is wooden with a series of cogs, pegs and poles held together with pegs and rope.
Although the picture above looks like an ancient relic the mill works perfectly so why change the design.
Take or example the piece of wood that is at an angle going to the top mill stone. This rubs on the surface of the stone causing the hopper to vibrate slightly this vibration feeds just enough corn into the grinding wheels so that they don’t clog up. Brilliant!
The other thing that amazes me is that the water in the lavada looks like it is moving fairly slowly without any force. You could stand in the lavada when the mill is working. It is the weight of water against the wheel that provides the considerable force to turn the wheel. The water that has just turned the wheel is often diverted in to irrigation ditches to water the land so not a drop is wasted.
If you harbor the desire to be an artisan flower maker the chance to do it is nearer than ever in Portugal