Do you sometimes catch yourself in the bread section of the supermarket enjoying the aroma of freshly baked bread? In fact, the smell of fresh, still steaming bread has a magical attraction and it beckons us, Lithuanians, for a reason – even the Greeks, who might be called worshippers of bread (they serve and eat bread with every dish), would agree that we have profound bread-baking traditions.
We are used to buying the bread we eat in the nearest supermarket nowadays. And if it’s still warm – that’s a real plus! Although our grandparents and grand-grandparents would just laugh at that – in the old days the real occasion was when women raised bread dough at home themselves, kneaded it with their own hands, put in a lot of love and baked the fine-cut loaves at home. This is how the smell of oven-baked bread used to tickle the family’s noses. The preparation and baking of bread was passed from generation to generation as a sacred ritual, continuity and preservation of Lithuanian traditions. But we should not be upset that most of us could not experience this. Oven-baked bread is still a possibility today.
GIt might be hard to believe now, but the oven predecessor was a simple fireplace, it didn’t only warm and protect, it was also the cornerstone of food preparation. The first people then put stones around an open flame or started it in pits dug in the ground. With the development of civilisation the environment improved – ages have passed since the oven took the shape we have today. Lithuanians started using smoke ovens in the XVI century. Some were made for heating, others – for using in the kitchen, and the wealthier people had another one in their home – especially made for baking home-made bread. The oven had a very important place in our ancestors’ homes, the art of building them was passed on from generation to generation, and bread recipes were safeguarded by families and only passed on to daughters and daughters-in-law.
And finally, as candlelight was replaced with electrical lighting, the old, traditional oven was gradually replaced by gas and electrical ovens. Talented Lithuanian housewives learned to bake home-made bread in them, but the longing for oven-baked bread remains till this day.
From the first look of it the oven looks a fairly simple structure from bricks or rocks and clay. In fact, the construction of an oven needs thoroughness and knowledge. Nowadays several masters in this area can also be found in Lithuania – mostly self-taught or the ones who received their knowledge from their fathers and grandfathers. The Internet also has plenty of information on ovens, and especially Russians, Italians, Greeks and Americans have a lot of knowledge in this area. So, if you are ready to bake home-made bread (and not only that!) in an oven – everything is possible. Adomas from Vilnius, who still remembers the taste of the oven-baked bread made by his grandmother, just recently built a modern bread oven in his country house, where he can also cook a turkey or potato pancakes perfectly. Infinite passion and determination even led him to America. Don’t worry, the all-mighty Internet helped in this case. “I mostly looked for information online. I had to put in a lot of hours reading articles about ovens and their construction. I even acquired several books on this. While surfing the web, I stumbled on an American’s website, who builds various ovens for baking bread and preparing food. I wrote him an email and explained that I want to build an oven in my country house. I quickly received his email with useful advice. Finally, I purchased the drawings for a small oven from him, which ensured that it would be constructed properly, and most especially, will be hot”, – Adomas shared his experience.
Of course, obtaining drawings is not enough. Adomas also had to find a team of builders, who would know how to read the drawings and construct the, quite unusual, structure. His search yielded results. Adomas got acquainted with Darius Juška, who, along with his colleagues, had accumulated a lot of knowledge on the constructing of bread ovens, furnaces and fireplaces in Lithuania. With his help Adomas managed to fulfil his dream – after a long period he could taste the delicious home-made bread baked according to ancient traditions.
As specialists have noted, a bread oven can be constructed indoors as well as outdoors. Therefore it can decorate not only your home, but the yard as well. And there’s no doubt that the bread baking process would attract the interest of the whole family, their friends and even the neighbours.
As Adomas said, it is a great opportunity to spend time with family and friends and just relax in a comfortable and meaningful way. “When we gather for baking home-made bread we discuss its’ importance for our traditions, as well as the traditions of other nations, also we try new bread recipes, or improvise, or create our own. Every time we’re amazed at what a unique and tasty meal bread is”.
We also have a wood oven on our premises, the “Malsena Plius” flour producer. Not only do the employees bake bread here – the little ones, who come here on tours, are frequently buzzing around it. With the help of our specialists they learn about the bread baking process, knead bread themselves, bake the loaves they made and of course eat the fresh bread they made.