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Beesham Soogrim and Manfred Enoksson.

It all started with a post on my Facebook wall: I wrote that I intended to take a baking class with a renowned Swedish baker.

“Don’t waste your money!” was the surprising comment from my talented bread pal Beesham Soogrim, “He does not bake with sourdough only, you would not like it.”

Alright, I said, that is kind of true: I have come to be a sourdough bread head, and natural fermentation techniques are what I am really after. Other bread pals got on board and started contributing to the thread. Suddenly, the grand idea of getting together and having our own baking class popped up.

This is a free preview of an article published in BREAD Magazine Issue 16.

Buy the issue to read the full article!

Master baker Manfred Enoksson stepped in, offering to lead the class and share his deep knowledge of natural fermentation and hand-crafted bread baking. Manfred had indeed been the main inspiration and guide to Beesham, a first class vegetarian chef working in Holma, an organic farm in Southern Sweden.

So it went quite smoothly: Beesham would take care of all the logistics, having the possibility to host the workshop in the spacious Holma kitchen and would help Manfred with the tutoring, while I would spread the word.

When the workshop was announced, we were quite nervous: Would we manage to get enough people to Southern Sweden for a sourdough baking class? But how could we have doubted it! The course was fully booked in just a few hours, and so the first Holma International

Workshop in Handcrafted Naturally Leavened Bread happened.

The workshop gathered bread heads from all over the world, creating a very nice mix of cultures with a common passion: bread leavened with sourdough.

A Retreat for Bakers

The magic was repeated last fall when we announced the upcoming dates for a second Holma International Workshop. This time I helped Beesham with the teaching, as Beesham was now feeling ready to spread his wings without his master—even if Manfred remains a great friend and main reference.

Again, passionate bread bakers from different countries gathered in Southern Sweden. Most of them were skilled home bakers, but there was also a young professional baker in training, and a chef. All with the same wild interest in wild yeast.

And they were in just about the perfect place for it.

The workshop was special for me also in another way: it was the first time I actually baked with others. My passion has developed in the solitude of my own kitchen—as is the case for most self-made home bakers. Being with like-minded people sharing the same soulful approach to bread and natural fermentation was incredible.

The way Holma is structured enables the participants and the teachers to stay at the farm, sharing meals and late chats about bread in the evenings. The setting is extremely bucolic. The beautiful Swedish countryside helps to get into this spiritual retreat mood, which I believe is part of the charm of these workshops—and possibly one of the reasons why all of the available spots get sold out in the space of two hours.

Guardians of a Heritage

Holma has also another point of attraction for those interested in real bread: the farm is connected to the local heritage wheat movement.

This connection started ten years ago, Beesham told me, when Arne Sjöström, the head of Holma Stiftelsen, started collaborating with Hans Larsson, the founder of Allkorn, an association devoted to the preservation of local heritage grains and biodiversity. Arne started to grow ancient varieties of wheat such as Ölandsvete, an old variety that Hans has—thanks to a lifetime of research and field work—made known and available to Scandinavian farmers.

So at Holma, Beesham had the good luck of having the best masters: Manfred, the head baker of Saltå Kvarn, the major organic grains distributor and mill in Sweden, from whom he learned the way to natural fermentation, and Hans, who introduced him to heritage wheat and organic farming. To finish this golden wheat circle, Hans also introduced Beesham to Bengt-Göran Karlsson, responsible of the Skåne Region financed project Our Beloved Bread (Vårt Älskade Bröd) that has the main goal of spreading the interest for baking with organic, wholegrain, and heritage flours.

The collaboration is ongoing and last March, after our intensive two-day workshop, in which I got to—happily but rather clumsily—teach some of my Italian breads, we had a morning organized by Our Beloved Bread, all dedicated to Heritage Grains and Health. I was pleased to be one of the speakers, together with Hans Larsson and our overseas bread pal and heritage grains advocate Don Sadowsky.

This coming August, the happy marriage between baking and scientific lectures will be repeated, and again, after spending two days with my hands in the dough, I will have the chance to express the latest results of my search into heritage grains.

Could I possibly ask for more?

This is a free preview of an article published in BREAD Magazine Issue 16.

Buy the issue to read the full article!

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