Scent memories at Johanna’s
Our sense of smell
Our scent memories speak to the innermost part of our beings. They are about security. About goodness and goodies, warmth and kindness. Our sense of smell is the oldest way we have of remembering what goes furthest back in time. And thankfully, according to research, it is mostly positive things that we recall. Maybe that’s why customers at Johannas Hembakta farm café in Stalldalen north from Godby village often take off their shoes and pad around in their stockinged feet. They waste no time stepping straight into the bakery and saying hello if the café checkout outside happens to be unstaffed. Maybe it’s simply that the smell of freshly-baked bread taps into some instinctive inner logic that says that essentially there’s nothing to be afraid of.
“A lot of people wax a little lyrical when they come here. As though they were coming to visit their own granny. Bread, cakes and pastries seem to reach right into people’s souls,” says Johanna Strand, owner and genuine baking nerd. She says that she is incredibly stressed, but you would never know that from looking at her when she is up to the elbows in long-rise yeast dough. You can’t go around being slapdash in a bakery. That’s when you’ll burn yourself or the bread won’t rise and the biscuits will get too hard. “If you’re in a bad mood, you lose your feeling for the bread, so I am nearly always cheerful.”
Johanna bought her first bakery when she was 23. At that time she was employed at a trendy café in the middle of Vasa. A man who ran the bakery in Kvevlax together with his wife used to deliver cakes and pastries once a week and enjoyed hanging around for hours chatting. Now he was going to retire. Might Johanna be interested in buying the bakery business? “Yes, I was, and I did. I ran the bakery for six years till I moved to Åland and tried out being employed for a while. But no, it didn’t work out, and now I’m probably my own boss for good.”
Turnover is steadily rising. An unqualified success. Johanna is delighted that she is baking five times as much as when she started. The aromas of stone-baked biscuits, rye bread rolls, treacle loaves, almond cookies, vanilla buns and spiced orange pastry wreaths mingle and jostle against one another when the oven doors are opened. “I can’t actually say exactly when I knew that I’d be devoting my life to baking bread. I just woke up one day and that’s how it was – there was no alternative,” says Johanna. She laughs. “Maybe I didn’t realise it would be quite as crazy as this. That I would be baking all week, 12 hours a day. I have to live as close by as this so that it can work. Sometimes I feel I hit a state of shock if I’ve been in town and seen a whole lot of people. It’s a funny life I lead, but it’s exactly the way I want it.”
Yesterday’s bread – today’s delicacy
At Johannas Hembakta the bread is soft and the cakes smell delicious – and as for Johanna, she (as the baker would) prefers what is freshly baked. That’s not to say that bread has to be consumed within 24 hours.
Here are Johanna’s tips for giving new life to yesterday’s goodies.
THREE KINDS OF BREADCRUMBS
Bake stale bread of any variety in the oven until it is completely dry.
Mix in the food processor.
Try adding different flavours to the breadcrumbs.
BREADCRUMBS FROM BLACK BREAD
Rich and robust. Good in puddings or to crumble into baking tins.
Or to coat fish with.
BREADCRUMBS FROM WHITE SOUR DOUGH BREAD
To be used as regular breadcrumbs (but note that they add more flavour).
Mix any kind of breadcrumbs with salt, finely chopped herbs and maybe a little garlic.
Brush tomato halves with olive oil and bake in the oven for about five minutes, take out, brush with more olive oil and cover with herb breadcrumbs.
Bake for a further ten minutes or so.