The word deer mentioned in everyday conversations no longer evokes the image of the elegant game animal running in our forests but rather a loaf of nicely baked and fragrant bread enticing us from the shelves of stores and bakeries. This is not unusual at all because the Jelen bread is among the most recognisable loaves of bread in Slovenia, as well as one of the most popular and thus Žito’s bakers bake more than 155 tonnes of it every month. The white, semi-white and wholegrain Jelen variants have now been joined by their youngest crispy brother, Jelen bread with seeds. We visited the Žito bakery in Vrhnika and observed the step-by-step production process of the delicious Jelen bread with seeds from the basic ingredients …

jelen-s-semeni1Žito’s bakers knead the new Jelen bread with seeds with three types of flour: semi-white, rye and brown wheat flour to which they add water, yeast and salt. This is blended together with carefully selected pumpkin, flax and sunflower seeds and oats, wheat and barley flakes. The work is then left to the big mixing machine which gently kneads the dough mimicking the movement of hands. “It is important that the prepared dough rises for some time because then the dough develops flavour,” say Žito technologists adding that the bread is a living thing, so we should give it enough time to mature.

Risen dough is then tossed from a large vat onto a big wooden table. There, the bakers cut it into smaller chunks and weigh it since each individual chunk must weigh more than 90 dag so that it has 80 dag after baking. The loaves are kneaded between two conveyor belts and on the receiving end two bakers are waiting to dip every loaf on one side in the water and then in the mixture of seeds and flakes.

jelen-s-semeni4The loaves are slightly dusted with flour and moved to baskets of boxwood as our grandmothers used to do because boxwood is a natural breathable material and therefore the dough rises properly; the baskets also make a nice loaf shape. Since leavening significantly influences the flavour and texture of bread, the bakers move the baskets to the leavening chambers with precisely set temperature and humidity levels which depend on the current situation in the bakery.

jelen-s-semeni5During leavening the loaves rise to the edge of the basket, the bakers then toss them onto the counter, brush away any excess flour with a small whisk and notch a recognisable cross sign on the top of the bread. Each loaf comes with an edible wafer (starch label bearing the name of the bread) and thusly prepared loaves are transported to the appropriately preheated furnace using a computer-controlled robot.

jelen-s-semeni6A specialty is fireclay ovens (chamotte), which mimic the action of the old baker’s furnace. Due to a combined special radiant heat and the heated fireclay plate, the bread crust is nicely baked and crispy and the crust is tender and soft. The baking time is set in advance however, baking is constantly monitored by an experienced baker, who on the basis of their experience and knowledge decides when the bread is baked just right.

jelen-s-semeni7From the furnace the baked loaves travel to a cooling coil in an adjacent room where the bread is cooled slowly. Cooled bread is then stacked in baskets and supplied to store shelves across Slovenia. Due to the carefully composed recipes, observing trends in modern technology as well as our grandmothers’ tradition each and every Jelen bread develops rich flavours, the firm bread crust forms recognisable pores, while the crust stays pleasantly crunchy.

jelen-s-semeni8Because of the added seeds and flakes, the flavour of Jelen bread is even richer. And the prolonged preparation process allows extended freshness, so you can eat it with pleasure for days on end!

text: Dober tek