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Hugo's Farm Loaf

The Story

Backofen mit Feuer
It was still dark when
the fire in the oven was lit.
Hugo's Farm Loaf: the recipe

About 80 years ago my grandmother, Ida Behrens, started to sell her home-baked bread in her husband Gussy Behrens's shop in Kroondal. The shop, called Aug Behrens (Pty) Ltd, was a general dealership started in 1890 by her father-in-law, August Behrens. Since there was no bakery in the area her bread quickly became very popular. She baked two sizes of loaves; a small loaf which was sold for 3d (2½c) and a large loaf which was sold for 6d (5c).

When Aug Behrens opened a branch at the Rustenburg Platinum Mine she had to ask her sister, Mrs. Marie Penzhorn, to help bake bread for the business. Each of them baked two ovens of bread 2-3 times per week. Kroondal did not have electricity and the ovens were old-fashioned wood-fired ovens; each oven had space for about 30 large bread pans.
It is an art to get the correct, evenly distributed temperature in such an oven!

Kneading the dough in a large bath was hard work and as soon as Ida's son Hugo, my father, was old enough he had to help with the kneading before he went to school in the mornings.
In 1950 Hugo took over the business from his father and when he married Irene Muhl in 1951 his parents moved to their farm and left the young couple in the house behind the shop - with the oven in the backyard. My parents, Hugo and Irene, continued to bake one oven (30 loaves) of bread each Friday for the extended family and for friends because Hugo is convinced that there is no better bread than his own. During the last two years of my schooling I occasionally had to get up at 5 o'clock on a Friday to do the kneading if my father was too busy.

For more than twenty years Hugo and Irene baked their bread every Friday until 1973 when they moved to a smallholding on the slopes of the Magaliesberg and ... unfortunately there was no wood-fired oven!
For a while Hugo ate the bread his wife baked in the electric oven in the kitchen, but something was missing. One day he decided to have a smallish old-fashioned oven build behind the house and since then he and Irene have been baking bread again for family and friends; good, old-fashioned, sourdough bread. The 'new' oven only takes 20 pans and not 30 as the old one did with the result that they bake two, sometimes even three batches of bread.

When Aug Behrens started a bakery on the premises a few years ago, Hugo decided to bake bread on Thursdays and Fridays and to sell some of his bread in the shop. He named his bread: "Hugo's Farm Loaf"!
Hugo's Farm Loaf became very popular and on occasion nearly caused fist fights in the shop when there were more customers than loaves of bread.

The baking stopped for a while when Irene was fighting cancer and needed a hip transplant. Fortunately she is well again and every Thursday, come rain or sunshine, 87th birthday or normal weekday, the two bake bread. Every Thursday family and friends get a freshly baked 'Farm Loaf'.

Sauerteig zum Mehl fügen
Hugo adding the sourdough to the flour.
Der Teig wird geknetet
Kneading is hard work!
Teig abwiegen
Each loaf is carefully weighed.
Die Asche wird rausgekratzt
The ash is scraped out of the oven.
Wood waiting to be used.
Irene and Hugo
These photos were taken on Hugo's 87th birthday - he spend the best part of the day baking his popular 'Farm Loaf', at times with the phone in his pocket to accept the many birthday calls and good wishes.

Happy Birthday, Vati!

Helga Nordhoff (neé Behrens)


Brot in den Ofen
The loaves are carefully placed
into the hot oven.
  Brot im Ofen
The oven is full!
Das Brot ist gar
One hour and 15 minutes later!
Mehr als 20 Brote!
The first batch of bread;
a second batch followed.

Story translated and edited from a leaflet that my father,
wrote for customers who buy 'Hugo's Farm Loaf'.


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