In Hopefield on the West Coast, creative ladies are conjuring up sugar and spice and all things nice
Words and Pictures Keri Harvey, www.keri-harvey.com
(1) Bread of Life
‘Baker’ or ‘bread maker’ would not be top of mind when you first meet vivacious artisan baker Mathe Hettasch. “My grandfather was a baker back in Germany,” she says with a smile, “so it’s in my blood. There was no escape.”
Mathe started Once upon a Bread four years ago because she believes that “good, fresh bread is not for special occasions, but for everyday enjoyment.” She talks passionately about the meditative process of bread making, as she kneads and shapes dough into big balls, and places each ball in a small wicker basket.
The next day the dough balls are turned onto a peel, scored with a lame and loaded into her prized German oven to transform into individually created artisan breads. Pure rye, plain, olive and thyme, seeded, sesame, brioche, baguettes and cinnamon twirls are all on Mathe’s bread menu – and it goes without saying that they are all from stone-ground flour, chemical-free and delicious.
Her bread making is a long-term commitment – a full 36 hours start to finish for each batch of bread. “My sourdough culture is four years old and I feed it flour to keep it alive. So you could say the bread is living and the natural stone-ground flour I use, along with the slow fermentation of yeast, means the bread is much more digestible, nutritious and pure than shop-bought bread. Nothing unnatural is added to it.”
Mathe sold her first batch of three loaves at the local Hopefield Saturday Market back in 2010, and hasn’t looked back. Now she often bakes more than 60 loaves a day for markets and delis along the West Coast. From Darling and Yzerfontein to Malmesbury and Langebaan – not forgetting Hopefield – her artisan breads are snapped up by foodies and health-conscious shoppers.
She’s often up at 04h00 baking for the day, but Mathe says kneading and baking is her spiritual therapy. “You know, we Germans love bread, so it comes naturally to me.” She laughs, and adds: “Do you know that bread also feels your mood? If you bake in a bad mood, it will flop; so for good bread you have to bake with love and passion. You can clearly taste the difference.”
076 120 8026, [email protected]
(2) Soothed by Herbs
As Nicola Viljoen picks wild herbs on the family farm, in the shade of her straw hat, she is clearly in her element – close to earth. Nicola has been working, cooking and brewing with herbs since the last century – 1999 to be exact – when she made her own bath salts. “Actually, as long as I can remember I have made my own natural creams and potions. It’s a lifelong interest and passion that was named Hopefield Herbs in 2012.”
Nicola hand-picks wild rosemary and sage, pine and lavender for her products. Pure oils are added for their beneficial properties, along with hand-harvested, sun-dried salt. “Everything is natural and pure,” says Nicola, “and there are unusual combinations too – like black pepper and clary sage (Salvia sclarea) bath salts.” Apart from a wide range of bath salts, Hopefield Herbs also makes a foot scrub, tissue oils and an unusual pet-calming oil for stressed cats, dogs and horses. To create calm, simply add a few drops of oil to a supplied glove and stroke away the stress.
“For me, herbs are not a treat but a tool,” says Nicola, who exudes vitality. “They will benefit most people who use them. But,” she emphasises, “there will always be the exception. What’s important is that the herbs do no harm.”
Imagine bath salts that detox, invigorate or console, promote courage and connection, freedom and a general energy. “There’s plenty of synergy between humans and plants,” adds Nicola, “more than just swopping oxygen and carbon dioxide. To me, it’s a gift to work with herbs and I believe the possibilities are endless. Yes, there are many more products to come, but the business will remain personal, high quality and affordable. That’s important to me.”
072 297 2222, [email protected]