Ibán Yarza has a restless nature and has had many, many different jobs. He has a degree in journalism, worked as a tour bus guide, filled minibars in hotels, can talk about Kandinsky's paintings for an hour and a half and conduct guided tours at contemporary art museums.
In 2005 he discovered bread and is now an expert. On Thursday he’s giving a lecture at the Escola d'Hoteleria de les Illes Balears in front of around 40 students and the event is being streamed at www.facebook.com/IDI.Institutinnovació under the title 'Los panes de Balears Inside & Out.'
There are hundreds of different styles of bread in Europe and the Balearics have their specialities too.
“Here you can sample bread from so many sources, not just from Spain, but also from the Mediterranean. In Algeria there is a bread that’s called Mahon, which is a festive loaf. In the Pitiüses there is a dry bread that’s cooked twice, called crusts, which is eaten with a peasant salad and is similar to a bread from Crete. The Mallorcan ensaimada is one of many rolled and spiral sweet loaves found in the Mediterranean and there is a similar one in Turkey called saïm, which is made from sesame fat instead of lard. In other places on the Peninsula and in Italy there are lots of unsalted breads.
The ‘llonguet’ is a popular type of bread which can be cooked in extreme heat.
“At the beginning of the night a wood-fired oven is really hot and if you put a loaf inside it gets charred, so you need a small bread that absorbs the excess heat and gives a little moisture," explains Yarza. "In France they call it avant cuisson, which means before cooking. The Catalan coca de forner or the Aranda de Burgos cake are similar breads; I love these products that are special and there is an invisible thread that links them with others."
Brown bread is much more popular with consumers in the Balearic Islands than white bread which Yarza says is unusual.
“It's fantastic, I am surprised and I admire the fact that although the most famous breads in the world are white, such as ciabatta, baguettes or candeal, that there is no fear of brown bread in the Balearic Islands even although it’s denser,” says Yarza. “People in the rest of Spain tend to prefer fluffier bread with additives. Brown bread has no salt, so it's absolute purity and it seems to me that the bakeries in the rest of the world could learn a lesson from the Balearics.”
During the coronavirus lockdown a lot of people headed for the kitchen to break the boredom and social media websites were awash with recipes and advice about how to make your own bread.
"Before March I had 50,000 followers on Instagram and within a few days they doubled; I made videos and hunted out recipes from my books, it was very didactic,” explains Yarza, who says the most common mistake when people make their own bread is using too much yeast.
The shelves of supermarkets were emptied within minutes during the State of Emergency and hordes of shoppers were buying up everything in sight, including bread which they put in the freezer, but is that a good idea?
"The Cellar in Can Roca, which has been named ‘Best Restaurant in the World’ on several occasions, serves pre-baked pre-frozen bread,” claims Yarza. “Xevi Ramon does it, it’s one of the most expensive breads and he sells it to the best restaurants in the country. You can make a mother dough bread in a wood oven that's really good and one that’s frozen that’s also really good.”
Yarza says artisanal bread has become very fashionable which he believes is a reflection of society, but is adamant that it's the smell of freshly baked bread that people find so irresistible.
"It's fundamental, I’m not interested in a bread that doesn't smell,” says Yarza, whose favourite accompaniment to fresh bread may surprise some.
"You don't buy bread in my house, I make it myself and the best thing to have with it is a fried egg, but it’s forbidden to use cutlery in our house, we take a piece of bread in each hand and ‘attack’ the egg with no mercy,” says Yarza who admits "if I had to choose just one type, I'd opt for rye bread.”
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