History - Traditions
With lots of potatoes, leavened, baked in the wood burning stove, the “barrow wheel” sized old fashioned homemade potato bread will remain fresh for weeks and it is perfect with traditional heavy, greasy foods (stuffed cabbage, gumbo, bacon) and pálinka.
The good bread does not contain any additives and yeast, but it is made with leaven. The whole process takes longer, but the final product is tastier, has a divine flavor and is easy to digest. The bread does not crumble, it is crispy on the outside, concentrating all the good flavors in the inside, and will stay fresh for way longer than average bread.
In the past baking bread at home was an every-day and traditional activity. The bread was mainly baked out of self-grown grains (or some other crops were traded with grains for bread). Every household had its own recipe: the “secret” leaven is added in the self kneaded dough and baked in the own stove. The recipe was – and still is, in some places – learned from the older generations. The local customs and bread-baking techniques are still followed strictly.
Countless beliefs and customs are related to this simple procedure of baking bread. Some of these were still alive in the 20th century rural (and not only) Transylvania. It is important that the bread is really tasty and good: the leavening has to go well. Many rituals were born for a “successful” leavening, together with spells and commands for a good bake. There were (are) days when one is allowed to bake bread, on other days it is strictly forbidden for men and women as well. The leavening had to be a secret procedure, so no one could curse the leaven. There were (are) days when one is allowed to bake bread, on other days it is strictly forbidden for men and women as well. The objects used in the whole bread-making activity were spelled and prayers were said at different times during the preparation and baking. The leavening, kneading, baking and making a cross on the dough before baking and above the fresh bread, after baking, was something normal and natural.
Modern life came with modern technologies, bread baking became an industry. This is why some traditions died and it is so hard to revive them.
Baking old-fashioned homemade potato bread in industrial quantities is impossible; this is why we consider it is a wonder and a miracle every time one has the chance to eat this delicacy.
The potato bread is a distinctive element of the Transylvanian cuisine, the habits and customs related to the bread baking are integral part of the local culture. Those who are lucky enough (or were lucky enough) to taste the bread baked by their grandmothers will always remember its scent, taste, the rituals performed and the whole magical mood that was essential for a good bake. They say that the mood of the baker always influences the quality of the bread. It seems that the secret ingredient is love and dedication, after all.