Sunday, January 21, 2007

Rewena Bread - the beginning

Rewena Bread - Stage 1: Making the 'Bug'

After persistent badgering and negotiation (with absurd promises made on my part of producing grandchildren within the next five years), my mother very kindly showed me how to make rewena bread, a Maori favourite. Rewena paraoa (potato bread) tastes sweet and has a slight sour/tang flavour to it, a result of the long period of fermentation it undergoes. A bug or starter is created a few days before the actual baking of the bread, using flour, water, sugar and potato (the potato serving as the leavening agent). This is left to ferment which, when finally added to the rest of the bread ingredients to make dough, produces a wonderfully textured, flavoursome loaf.

The starter can be maintained for an indefinite length of time. Once you've made dough, a piece of it can be removed to make the starter for your next batch of bread, adding flour initially and then water and sugar to keep it alive. My mother talked of how as a child, bread was made every two or three days for her and her seven(!) siblings by my grandmother, using a starter which had been kept for as long as she could remember. This article on bread in Wikipedia talks of how some traditional bakers in Europe have starters which are several human generations old!

This, clearly, is a project that will take a few days. To make the starter, you will need:

-1 medium sized potato ('rewa' in Maori), sliced
-1 cup water
-2 cups of flour
-1 teaspoon sugar
-lukewarm water, on hand

Place your potato in a pot with the cup of water (with the potato being sliced, the cup of water should be sufficient to cover it). Boil until cooked, then leave in the pot until lukewarm (DO NOT drain the water). Mash the potato.

Gradually add flour and sugar to the pot, mixing all the while until the ingredients are combined resulting in a firm, batter-like paste (you will have to add lukewarm water to the mixture as it gets dry). It will have very small lumps - don't worry, these will break down as the mixture ferments.


Pour the starter into a clean, sterilised agee jar or similar container, cover loosely and leave in a warm place to ferment. Hopefully, it will increase in size so make sure your container is large enough to accomodate it. Over the next day or so, the starter will have to be fed to maintain fermentation: 1 teaspoon of sugar and half a cup of lukewarm potato water. Once it starts to rise and form bubbles, it's time to add the rest of the ingredients to make rewena bread. Come back soon to see if it works!

UPDATE: Don't salt the water when cooking the potato - it negates the fermentation process. Also, if you're able to find some, try using Maori potatoes (taewa maori), of which there are several kinds (PDF file) - try experimenting!

32 comments:

Tim said...

Nigel! If I start the starter (bug) tomorrow, how soon should I expect the rest of the recipe to be posted? Should I wait till then to start the bug? I have tried starting a 'starter' several times last year - all with no success so am looking forward to giving this a go.

Bron said...

This is exciting, Ise can't wait to see the final product!

Nigel said...

Tim, I should be posting the rest of the recipe (ie, making the dough) on Thursday. My mother insists that three days is the minimum length of time you need to leave the bug to ferment, thus enhancing the flavour. I'm relying on her skill and ability here - arguing with a middle-aged, kitchen-hardened Maori woman is an exercise in futility. I'd go ahead and make your starter tomorrow.

Bron, I just hope it works - cross your fingers!

Arfi Binsted said...

Nigel, you're the hero!!! i'm going to print your postings out. will try it. hopefully i'm as good as your mum's. thanks for this!

georgie_girl said...

what do we do next thanks in doing it now

Anonymous said...

My buggy died, I don't know what happened to it. I followed this recipe on day 1 all was good, day 2 it overflowed everywhere, day 3 it looked like lifeless, day 4 It smelt like rotten corn, but because it was such an effort to get to this stage I made a bread anyway, it didn't rise plus it tasted soooo sour it was such a dissapointment what did I do wrong?

Anonymous said...

kiaora.. I have been given a bug also to make rewena bread, my problem is the same as the above person, today my bug looks lifeless, it has the bubbles foaming but it is not rising??.. and latley when i have been making the bread, it has been very firm? is that becasue im adding to much flour?? hope you can help me too..

Nigel said...

If you're not getting bubbles & there's no activity (ie, no bubbles) it's probably dead, in which case you'll need to start again. Whereabouts do you keep the bug? It's not too cold/warm is it?

Lou said...

Going to make a bug this weekend, though will have to create some artificial warmth! Welly is freezing! Will have my mum up about the recipe too...

Leanne said...

Hi Thanks for detailed info.
We are trying today to make the bread for our Matariki study.
We will let you know how it goes.

Nigel Olsen said...

Lou - I'm watching your progress...

Leanne - Awesome! Do keep me posted please.

Anonymous said...

is it normal for it to smell really bad after 3days?

darrencuz said...

my misses does her bug and man when it comes out of the oven bro ya need a chainsaw to slice it, i cringe when shes says honey i made you your favourite, rewena bread,man i think thats why my teeth are falling out ha ha hope my misses doe"nt read dis,any way im looking foerward to giving it a go myself bro one for the boys and trying your recipe out cheer bro pass that cooking buzz on to your kids and there kids and so on.darrencuz

Skullduggery said...

Hi was just wondering about the 1/2 cup of lukewarm potato water to maintain the fermentation? Where/how do you get this?

Thanks

Nigel Olsen said...

Skullduggery - Basically, try & eat spuds during the time you have the bug up & running. Whenever you cook them, pour out some of the potato water, cool, then add.

Darrencuz - How does she do her bug? Is it any different to my way? I'd be really grateful if you could tell me, assuming of course that she doesn't mind. We could do some sort of food swap, if need be!

Anon - It should smell rich & yeasty, almost bread-like.

MaidInAustralia said...

Oh I miss this bread ...thanks for sharing the bug recipe. xo

Lutzie said...

Shouldn't high grade flour be better?
More gluten = more air trapped in the crumb?

Anonymous said...

Kia Ora,
I started mine yesterday and when i woke up this morning it had grew almost to the top i am going to feed today awesome,
Kia Ora Ra,
Karepe

Nigel Olsen said...

Maid In Australia - You're welcome!

Karepe - Make your bread soon, while it's active!

Lutzie - You're right, high grade or baker's flour is perfect. I got it wrong when I said don't use it; I often get high ratio flour & high gade flour mixed up, so thanks for bringing that up.

Keren said...

hi koutou katoa,
i've been making bread for 30 years now, since i was a kid really. all these above are correct in some ways. here's a few tips.

flour - doesn't matter which you use it all works perfectly in it's own way. i use budget and premium the rewena turns out the same.

lifeless - add more flour, sugar and water to reboost it. you really need to use when it's in it's prime (doubled in size), so think about when you want it. the bug has a tendency to work on warmth. if you want it in 4 hours stand the bug in tepid water in a warm place. remember to change the water when it cools. or when using the oven stand on top of the stove.

Nigel Olsen said...

Hi Keren, yeah, using it in its prime makes perfect sense. Thanks for your tips too - very handy. The comments here are an excellent source of information; it can only help folk in crafting a better loaf at home.

Nigel Olsen said...

Cheers, Keren. That's pretty much it in a nutshell.

Marino (Madz) Harker-Smith said...

cool i've always wanted to know how a bug was made. we've always just relied on one that's always existed in our whanau.

BTW potato in Maori is riwai
the word Rewana/Rewena comes from the translit for Levign/Levigna. Just a random fact I know. lol

Anonymous said...

This is a very interesting bread. I have tasted at a hangi party when I was in New Zealand. I'm from Hungary (Central-Europe). I have tried to make this bread strictly following your recipe, but my starter was very-very pungent on the third day (I have started on the last Saturday and now, Monday is the third day). I have used regular European potatoes, but the weather in Hungary is approx. 35 Celsius. My starter have stand on a bench in my garden.

Nigel Olsen said...

Madz - Cheers for that :)

Anon - 35! That's hot! Poor you! The thing to remember is to use it once it's big & active; while waiting will allow it to develop flavour, it could lose momentum & start to collapse.

bubs said...

Hi I was taught to make rewena bread by my mum who was taught by my grandmother, the strong pugent flavour is the raising agent I suppose its like a yeast so yes it is strong, when you make the bread you need to add about 1/2 to 3/4s of a cup of sugar to your dough so that it it not so sour. you also have to add a lot of love when you are kneading the dough and just knead it until all the ingredients are combined, over kneading produces a hard bread when cooked.

budda6969 said...

Good grief I dont even know if this thread is still getting comments. How do you add the potatoe water and sugar when feeding the rewena. Do you stir it in or what???? Thanx heaps

spacifica said...

Morena, Have been trying to make rewena bready for about 2-3 weeks and my bug dies, and then I found your kuia's recipe. Ive started the bug. Now you say it has to be fed sugar and water. Are these on alternate days to each other or together? Most recipes say water one day and sugar another!!! No matter what, Im gonna keep trying as there are some beautiful rewena out there and I want to make it to teach my whanau. Kia ora Carmel :-)

Nigel Olsen said...

Bubs - Very true about the over-kneading. I used to make bread everyday at my old restaurant, so I got to know when it was ready; it was generally silky & supple in appearance & texture. As a rule of thumb, never knead for more than 10 minutes or as you point out, the gluten strands you've developed through kneading are over-worked, & break, making the bread hard & tough.

Budda6969 - Just stir 'em in!

Nigel Olsen said...

Carmel - You'll get the hang of it. Have a look through the thread for people's tips & advice, & maybe ask around your kuia for help - good luck!

Rhonda said...

I have just concluded my bread from bug to bake. Traditionally I should give this one away but I will only give away half. It is just like my Nan used to make it. I have used more sugar then what was stated in recipe. 3/4 cup. My bug was used on the 3rd day. It had a brown watery substance floating slightly below the top but the bug above it had bubbles. I can only add yum yum yum served with butter and golden syrup.

Toots - Hamilton said...

Im on my second day if fermentation and the mixture has increased and the bubbles are visible. I will try and make the bread tomorrow and keep feed feeding the bug. Do I alternate the sugar and potato water each day or can it be put in on the same day? Do I mix it in with the bug or just sprinkle the sugar and pour the potatoe water into the container and let the bug do its own thing?