Annika Korsten bakes bread, but not just your run-of-the-mill white spongy stuff, she bakes organic, gluten-free buckwheat loaves that are packed with flavoursome goodness and she sells them at the Nelson Farmers Market as well as to a couple of select cafes.
I must admit to having made gluten-free bread at home using rice flour and while it was fine when it was fresh from the oven within a few hours I could have used it as a brick to build a house, so when I came across a deliciously moist gluten free bread that will last for a few days I wanted to know how it’s made.
Annika told me it can be difficult to make because without gluten you need to use different techniques to make sure the bread is both tasty and will keep for a few days.
She brings a science background to her breadmaking, having a Masters of Science in Ecology from Otago University she understands the science behind the product, but she says baking also involves a lot of intuition.
“Others use the recipe I have but say it doesn’t taste like mine. It isn’t just following a recipe, you need to use your experience and intuition to know what feels good and right and what doesn’t, and then have the courage to follow your intuition when maybe the science says this won’t work.
“Science can prove anything and disprove anything.”
Annika is originally from Germany and in 2008 arrived in New Zealand where she lived in Dunedin for the first ten years before moving to Motueka in February 2018.
After university she worked with a youth organisation and she credits that work experience with helping her figure out what type of person she wants to be, “I wanted to connect with people more rather than just being a theoretical scientist, I love talking to people and working with a youth organisation was both rewarding and challenging.”
Annika now lives on a shared block of land in the Motueka Valley so she is also very close to the commercial community kitchen at the Riverside Community where she makes her breads in the steam oven available there.
“This is a kitchen that is available for people in the local community to use and I love the cooperative nature of the shared facility. It means I don’t have to have all this expensive equipment to make the breads while it is still a very small business.”
So how did she get into making her delicious gluten-free breads? “I had a health issue and started eating a gluten free diet a year ago, this meant I had to say goodbye to my beloved sourdough bread (and I am German!) but I remembered a recipe that uses buckwheat to replace the sourdough I used to make at home so I started baking it for myself.
“Then I shared it with friends and my friend Kris told me I could sell it. I said, yeah whatever, but had always wanted to start a food business so he planted the seed in my mind for turning this into a small business.
“I had a really supportive community around me that was prepared to try the products and they paid enough to cover costs of the ingredients while I got established.
“It’s a really local thing, I started with pre-orders from people in the area who know me and these pre-orders are still the main base for my business . It means I make to order so don’t have any waste. Even if I have loaves left after the Nelson Farmers Market locals in the valley will buy them. ”
“It’s a two day process to make the loaves. Making a sourdough with buckwheat using a natural fermenting process takes time. I started with a couple of customers, now I have a significant group of followers ”
Annika initially developed a plain buckwheat loaf but soon added a turmeric loaf to the range. She wanted a sweet loaf too so she developed a fruit loaf where the raisins provide the natural sweetness, “you can toast it, so it gets nice and crunchy and that helps the buckwheat flavour come out more.”
Her turmeric has a small amount of black pepper to activate the goodness in the turmeric, “a lot of people don’t realise that black pepper used with turmeric enhances the absorption in your body”
At the market people often ask her what’s in the bread, “it’s a yeast free bread too, as well as being dairy free, egg free and added sugar free”, so what’s in it?
“I like to say just love and air, but just a few natural ingredients, when people try it for the first time they love it, it’s a moist bread and can freeze well.”
Annika’s bread loaves are gaining a very strong following and people often ask her when she is going to the Saturday Market but she wants the business to grow organically without it being too big, “I want to keep a connection with my customers rather than just someone else selling a product.”
“I don’t have this goal to be a big business, the community that supported me when I started loves what I do and gives me lots of ideas, it’s a whole different approach to doing business and lets me sustain the lifestyle I want. I can connect with my community without working myself into the ground, I don’t want to go back to a stressful life.”
“Bread isn’t just about food, it’s about community and bringing everyone together, and the woman who introduced me to this way of eating, Irma Jager, and I are running a workshop to share our philosophy. We will talk about conscious eating and we want to empower people to choose what works for them as individuals, to trust their instincts when it comes to food.”
“We believe people want to learn what food suits them, eating by choice not by habit.”
The workshop runs for a full day at the Riverside Community Centre on the 18th May and all meals (from breakfast to dinner) are prepared by the participants. You can find out more and book via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Whether or not you want to learn more about eating by choice not by habit there is one thing you do need to do – try some bread from Annika’s Bakery, it is simply delicious.
Published in the Nelson Mail 24.04.19