On Everyone's Lips
A little way from Steinegg, if you follow the road towards the Max Valier Observatory and hiding behind a small area of woodland, is the Edenhof, where, side by side, Monika and Otto bake their bread in keeping with South Tyrolean tradition. What is special about this is that from ploughing their field and growing the grain through to taking the fresh, fragrant-smelling loaves of bread from their wood-fired oven, these two Steinegg residents still do everything themselves.
Monika Maier is actually a laboratory technician by training and spent many years working in this capacity in the dairy industry.
Perhaps that is why everyone thought she must be crazy when she decided to hang up her lab coat and swap it for a baker’s apron.
After all, Monika did not know the first thing about baking bread!
But when she and her husband set their minds to thinking about how they could add value to the ancient Edenhof, where they live with their two children, their small wheat field inspired the idea of making bread. Without further ado they got hold of a traditional oven and began to test their first recipes.
Perhaps it is giving away the end of this success story if we tell you that the resolute Steinegg native is now known as “Bread Moni”, but the quality of the farmhouse bread quickly helped it gain a reputation and today Moni supplies not only households but also restaurants far beyond the village of Steinegg.
So what is the secret behind the prized flavour of her bread?
An important part is, without doubt, Moni’s instinct, because she knows exactly how her bread should taste! Her palate and the conviction that often less is more help her in this: for example, she relies on the rich aroma of the grain, instead of overwhelming the bread with herbs and spices and in so doing achieves a wholesome and traditional taste experience.
Trust in the basic ingredients plays a key part, and these are another element in the success of her endeavour. This is because the cereal is grown from seed at the Edenhof and every step through to the milling of the flour is subject to strict quality controls and the highest demands from Moni and Otto. Since as good as everything that goes into the bread is grown on and around the farm, the two have full control of their farmhouse bread.
And while we’re on the subject of checks, Otto also takes care of all the machinery and knows how to get the best out of it as well as repair it. He has a flair for the technical and is a real innovator who also works on his own machine patents for the farm work.
At the same time he finds a counterbalance to the farm in tinkering with his motorbikes, whilst Monika, in what little free time she has, prefers to pursue her hobbies in the various clubs and societies in Steinegg.
Another aspect of the secret of the Edenhof Farm Bakery is that as much as possible is done by hand. Of course Moni and her husband use machinery in the fields and for processing the grain; but as soon as it comes to making the bread, the engines fall silent, and their hands do the talking.
The dough for the different varieties is expertly blended and, as soon as the time is right, mixed by hand. It is an extremely physically demanding process, since Moni has to knead several kilos of dough at the same time in the large, oval trough. But, she says, this is the only way that she can keep full control over the dough.
There is no mixing machine in Moni’s bakery, because it would make the dough too uniform and not respect the uniqueness of every mixture. And so, Moni mixes, kneads and forms a wide variety of bread types, from sourdough to Schüttelbrot (a local speciality flatbread containing rye and spices).
When it comes to baking the bread, Otto takes over the tiller, heating up the oven hours in advance with firewood, so that it reaches the right temperature at the right time. The baking process itself requires the utmost concentration, since if Otto gets his timings wrong, he will literally burn the work of many months that began with the ploughing of the field and which now comes to an end with the baking.
Which is why the two are all the more relieved and proud when the fresh bread is taken, steaming, from the oven and its unique aroma fills the room.
When the two stand together at the end of a long day and tap their loaves to be sure that they are all baked through, then it is hard to shake the feeling that there is more to the secret of the bread from the Edenhof than meets the eye.
Perhaps it lies not only in Monika’s sixth sense, the basic ingredients and the manual work, but ultimately in the harmony and love between Monika and Otto – and that is something that can be tasted in every mouthful!
"Mir Kloatznstingl" are stories from Collepietra, insights into what makes us locals, who we are, what we do and love, what moves us. Let the videos move you, too: Breathe our life, feel our pulse beat, feel our feeling for life.
Author: Sonnleiten Dolomiten Residence