The Superette

Henceforth bread will be authentically baked in the ‘Bokrijk Superette’, and the flour, leaven, salt, and water ingredients for the bread are all locally sourced. For this formula Bokrijk opted to join forces with the American Sarah Lemke and former 1-star chef Kobe Desramaults. They demonstrate that baking authentically using fresh, local, artisanal ingredients in a wood-fired oven, is still relevant today, and is far from outdated. With the numerous wood-fired ovens at Bokrijk’s disposal, the bar has been set high, thus endeavours are continually being made to produce the best wood-fired baked bread possible. Pivotal to this are expertise and craftmanship, paying particular attention to old techniques, albeit in a contemporary setting.

Within the Open-Air Museum the setting for the ‘Bokrijk Superette’ is Kilbers Farm from Meeuwen. The estate comprised a residential home with an archetypal loose-barn, along with a detatched barn and a baking house, dating from the 18th and 19th centuries.

Leavened bread

Leavened bread is where the dough is fermented by means of yeast and bacteria, also known as leaven. The bacteria produce acids, which give the bread its distinctive taste.  An experienced baker can temper the sour taste by adding, say, a fresh raising agent; such as will be the case in the ‘Bokrijk Superette’.

Besides the leavened bread (800 gr., leaven, rye and currant bread), a limited selection of biscuits will be on offer, based on available, local seasonal produce.  The ‘Superette’ is a bakery and will be open throughout the museum season.  From September onwards customers will be able to sign up for a ‘bread subscription’. This lets you order several loaves per week and collect them from your local trader.

The ‘Superette’ delivery van shall be deployed throughout the region, and as of 15 July will stand every day in the Bokrijk castle car park. Similarly, the ‘Superette’ delivery van will be at the ‘Boer op de Koer’ (Farmer in the courtyard)  in Genk, and at the ‘Marta Market’ in Hasselt. 

Restoration and contemporary architecture

The Kilbers Farm estate buildings have been erected by means of traditional workmanship. The house with a loose-barn, as well as the barn, have a thatched roof. The layout of the Superette was the guiding principle in the barn restoration. This was undertaken by an on-site Bokrijk team. Evidently knowledge of historic timber-framing and wood restoration techniques comprise an integral part of our own tradespeople’s expertise. More information about the barn restoration can be found here.

The new architecture with a monumental chimney is a design devised by BC Architects. Their trademark is building with locally-sourced, sustainable materials. As a young Brussels agency they have already carried out considerable research and acquired vast knowledge of local materials and innovative building methods. Meanwhile they have also built up extensive practical experience in constructing with (adobe) soil in Ethiopia, Burundi, Morocco and Nigeria, and with loam in Belgium and France. For the Superette a loam counter is constructed, the interior walls are made from hemp limestone, and a chimney is built in local brick. The chimney adjoins the exterior of the barn, and two wood-fired ovens are in turn affixed to that: one contemporary wood-fired oven for production purposes, and one authentic wood-fired oven for demonstration purposes. The difference being that in the authentic wood-fired oven stoking and baking occurs in a single space. With the contemporary oven these two functions are separated. Moreover, the heating in the bakery is recouped from the ovens.

Titbit – It’s not the oven that determines the bread’s flavour. The ovens do though lend a different texture to the crust. No steam is added, but the breads themselves create the steam they need. Breads baked in a wood-fired oven are instantly recognisable. The wood-fired oven technique truly makes you work with what you’ve got, and let your dough and oven work in perfect harmony. Without that synchronicity, delicious bread will elude you. Time and again, your fermentation, hydration and oven must be perfect.