On a crisp and sunny winter’s morning we were on the hunt for a mid-morning treat – a favourite family past-time when visiting the Midlands or Drakensberg region of KwaZulu-Natal. With so many quaint and quirky, modern and elegant or cosy and friendly options throughout inland KZN, there really is something new to discover on each visit, and the Valley Bakery in the heart of the Champagne Valley is no exception.
Words and photographs by Haidee Visser
On our drive through this part of the country we must have driven past the rather unassuming road sign over a dozen times, never thinking twice to stop in – what a shame. As fate would have it, we decided to make the turn onto the short dirt road to find a sprawling old farm house fully converted into a functional flour mill, confectionary and café.
The Valley Bakery was borne from humble beginnings, but what makes it extra impressive is the fact that the flour used in all their baked good is 100% natural. Made by hand in their stone ground flour mill, it is completely free of additives, GMO and bleach and ground by the very owners of the farm. At first used as a ‘test’ bakery for the natural ground flour, the surge in demand for their delicious bread which they supplied to local hotels soon took over, growing into the burgeoning bakery and café they are today. As a family-run business, Valley Bakery now employs over 32 additional staff to assist with the running of their highly popular establishment.
Choose to stop in for something on-the-run and grab a fresh jam doughnut or freshly baked pie, a pack of giant homemade Romany creams or get your hands on a slice of delicately made cake or a simple loaf of farm fresh bread. The options are incredible, and not to mention, equally delicious. For some time-out off the road, take a seat on their sprawling lawn-front patio or cosy indoor dining space, complete with a crackling fire, decorated with local artworks. The café menu offers a range of savoury and sweet breakfasts, home-made scones, waffles, light lunch meals and more.
Valley Bakery is a true hidden gem that is genuinely worth visiting not only for its vast selection of sweet treats, but welcoming atmosphere, local art, stunning views of the Drakensberg Amphitheatre and a large children’s play area, complete with its on zip line.
Address: R600, Champagne Valley, Central Drakensberg, KwaZulu-Natal
Operating hours: Monday – Friday: 8am – 5pm; Saturday: 9am – 2pm
Contact: 036 468 1257
If all of this has your mouth watering, try out the delicious recipe below.
Triple Chocolate Banana Loaf
Keen to try your hand at creating your own mid-morning sweet treat? Check out this utterly decadent recipe:
For the cake
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- ½ cup cocoa powder, sifted
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 3 medium-size bananas, mashed up
- ¾ cup vegetable oil
- ¾ cup brown sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- Half slab of dark chocolate, chopped into relatively small chunks
For the ganache
- Other half slab of dark chocolate (you can use milk chocolate here if you prefer the taste)
- 150 ml pouring / heavy cream
For the cake
- Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius
- Grease a standard loaf pan well with either butter or Spray & Cook or both.
- In a small bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together mashed bananas, oil, sugar, egg, and vanilla.
- Add dry ingredients to wet and mix until combined. Fold in the chopped dark chocolate.
- Bake for 55 – 60 minutes, depending on the size of your oven. Mine is small, and this loaf only needed 55 minutes. The best way to check if your loaf is cooked through, is to insert a toothpick into the cake, if it comes out clean, the loaf is cooked.
- Cool in pan for at least 10 minutes, then turn out and cool completely before icing.
For the ganache
- Finely chop chocolate and place into a bowl.
- Bring cream just barely to a simmer and pour over chopped chocolate.
- Cover with plastic wrap and let stand for 2 minutes.
- Remove plastic wrap and stir with a spatula until chocolate is melted and everything is combined and smooth.
- Cool completely before drizzling over the loaf.
Recipe yield: approximately 8 -10 servings depending on thickness of your slices.