“The leaven has a lot of tasks”

József Vajda (Pékműhely)

The pairing of bread and wine sounds pretty much commonplace but what can we do if we really like bread? At the Borsuli wine school, we offer it freshly baked alongside the wines for those participating in the tastings, and we also keep an eye on the newly opening bakeries where truly delicious bakery products are sold and we also know that the secret of good bread is leaven. But what’s the secret of good leaven? Our friend József Vajda, owner and baker of Pékműhely, also founder of the Kenyérlelke (i.e. The Soul of Bread) Festival told us about it: 

kenyér kenyér kenyér kenyér

“In old times making bread wasn’t just important but it was an almost sacred deed as well, and the first and most important step was the ‘creation’ of leaven. Leaven is born out of the wedlock of flour and water and its purpose is to make it possible for the bread to leaven. The baker carefully protects the prepared leaven from all kinds of trouble. He covers it, feeds it and looks after it.


It can be made in lots of different ways: cultures made from either yoghurt or grapes or even from onions can be added to the flour, which then starts the fermentation process. However, plain water is also sufficient. At the beginning, it has to be looked after for about a week. This means that every day we add a little water and flour to the constantly fermenting mixture. When it tastes sufficiently sour and fruity, and its texture is loose enough, that’s when it can be used for baking the bread.


Besides starting off the dough, the leaven has a lot of tasks in the making of bread. Basically, different yeast fungi, milk and vinegar acid bacteria live in it; the yeast fungi break down sugar and produce gas out of it, while the bacteria start transforming the different proteins and make them digestible for us. During the ageing of leaven, lots of flavours come alive and its PH-level moves in an acidic direction. This is important from the aspect that it protects the bread from fungal infections, such as mould, which can harm both the bread and the human body. It also helps to keep the bread fresh for longer and makes it easier to digest.


After a week, the leaven can be used for making the bread. By this time, it’s enough to add water, flour and salt to it. That’s what we call bread dough (sourdough). The making of bread dough requires more patience than expertise. A tasty bread can rest and mature for even 24 hours after kneading and before baking. The long maturation time helps the flavours to come to life.

After this, the only thing to do is to put the bread into the hot oven and bake it.”


If anyone got into the mood for baking bread but would rather leave the making of the leaven to a professional, they can also buy it in Józsi’s shop. On August 20, at the Kenyérlelke Fesztivál (The Soul of Bread Festival) at the MOM Cultural Centre, everyone can bake and taste tons of delicious and all-natural-ingredient breads, baguettes and croissants.


To go with the bread: