The origins of bread spans more than a thousand years and it’s the world’s most widely consumed food. Even in our everyday language the use of ‘bread’ shows the relevance we place on this staple food. We say ‘Bread is the staff of life’ is to expound on the fact that food is necessary for people to survive. Bread is indeed life.
In Ghana, bread is undeniably a strong staple food with many local bakeries found across the country. Personally, I grew up on tea and sugar bread but I preferred sugar bread more with thick peanut butter spreads and a big cup of tea. This has however evolved into brown bread. Wheat bread is what we call Brown Bread. I would climb any mountain to get excellent fresh bread, that’s one thing not many people know about me. Well, I would go the distance to get great food but to get quality bread? I would run the distance! So I recently run from Frafraha to Agbado, a small town in Palladium Down, Jamestown because I had been reliably informed of a bakery baking bread using a most distinctive traditional baking technique spanning several generations. This was something I had to see and taste for myself.
I am forever drawn to the use of traditional cooking techniques and just like the family business which bakes pork in the clay oven, this bread was also being baked in same. That’s not all. The dough is allowed to prove ( the resting period for dough to rise) on…guess what…leaves. Not just any leaves but the ‘waakye’ leaves we all know and love. Isn’t that an incredible piece of information?? I know right! Now this bread is called Baa Mli Blodo (Bread Baked In Leaves) by the Ga’s. It’s so named after the ‘container’ it’s baked in. And after tasting it, I was suddenly cast back into a memory so old; the days of sitting in my Dad’s shop at Cow Lane and he calling the bread seller passing in front of the shop. I would rise up from my little bench and watch the bread seller tear apart the conjoined bread, slice it open and using the knife slice off a bit of butter and spread it quickly in the opened bread. I would eat two ofthat. It was that unforgettable flavour which cast me back and I couldn’t believe I had moved on in life and forgotten my Baa mli blodo. What unintentional self-inflicted punishment!
I had no clue of where the bakery was located but I knew Palladium pretty well as it was our daily commute from Mamprobi to the suburbs of Ridge back in the day. So using my friend’s landmark of Nana Apaa Electrical shop, I parked in front of a nearby shop and walked a bit to make enquiries. Gosh! I haven’t seen these lion statues in ages! I need to find out their significance. Maybe the house belongs to a Ga Chief?
I asked the first person I saw and she pointed to a bakery ahead of me. Great! This was going to be easier than I thought. As I got closer to the ‘bakery’ it rather turned out to be a gas oven bakery by the roadside baking sugar bread. I asked the baker if he knew of the bakery where they baked in leaves and he pointed me in another direction. This time, I had to walk through the compound area of several houses and pass behind a few unwalled houses. I came across a clay oven and thought to myself, ‘ surely this is the place.’ I was mistaken again. How many bakeries are there in this neighbourhood ? I made a third enquiry and luck shone on me! I found myself in the One-In-Town Bakery and immediately I was overpowered with the incredible aroma of freshly baked bread.
The bakery not only bakes Baa Mli Blodo but they also bake in modern metal trays.
I had a chat with the chief baker Maame Konadu the baker artist who inherited the bakery from her great-great grandmother. You can watch it all in the video below.
I was not disappointed with my experience. The flavour of Baa mli blodo is unlike that of sugar, butter or tea bread. With the exclusion of artificial flavourings, less yeast, a longer proving period and the use of the leaves gives it a distinctive taste.
From the mixing stage, kneading and then the shaping followed by the baking was truly an eye-opening unforgettable experience I would forever hold dear in my heart.
Maame Konadu was busy interacting with sellers throughout the morning. Each bread loaf (standard size) costs GHC1 whilst the bigger ones are GHC4. Stacks of bread were sold almost ever 10minutes.
Appearance influences our senses, did you know that? For me, bread which doesn’t look browned enough is not baked properly. I like my brown looking gorgeously browned a little beyond golden brown. A rich browned crust atop the bread gives it that crunchy look desperate for a deep bite.
That’s how the bread looked after the 20mins baking. I packed bag and baggage into Happy Town. I was sold. For life. What a Bread!
I was so reluctant to leave the bakery. I was caught up in the conversations between the kneaders busily cutting and shaping the dough, the sellers wrangling for the best looking bread and the clamour from the clay oven process. It was a typical Ga house where friendly insults get hurled faster than the flight of neighbourhood flies.
It’s so important to educate our children about our culture and how things were done. I couldn’t help but marvel at this one yr-old toddler who looked ready to start his own bakery. This exactly is how children learn and why we must teach them how to discover their talents.
This time-honoured bread baking technique must not disappear. We easily adopt Western cooking techniques & equipment and with the same ease throw away traditional cooking techniques calling it ‘colo’. Why do we call it ‘colo’ just because it requires a little patience and extra effort? Could a bit of innovative thinking recreate new kitchen equipment by moulding both traditional & modern cooking technologies? I think it’s possible. The flavour of food from using these ‘colo’ techniques cannot be compared with food prepared using electric or gas equipment technologies. A great example is the taste of pepper ground in an asanka and how distinctive and more tasty it is than being ground in a food processor/blender. Unbeatable.
Want to have a personal palate experience for yourself? Call my new friend Kweku on 0277339815. You won’t be disappointed. Food from Ghana is the absolute best! No hype!
Have you tried Baa Mli Blodo before? What are your thoughts on the use of traditional cooking techniques for modern day cooking? Should we do away with them or modify them? Do share in the comments below.
* If you love my content and would like to get exclusive access to my work before it’s published to the general public, get free consultation to conduct a performance review for your brand’s social media assets or you would like to be a guest for one of my food tasting events, then here’s your opportunity to be a patron of my blog. Click here to see what you get as a patron and what it’s all about.