UIB International Exchange Program
The UIB International Exchange Program offers to all those bakers who are interested in expanding and deepening their professional knowledge to spend time in a foreign bakery. Different ingredients - different products - different ways of working.
Marta and her husband Jose Ignacio, both professional bakers who own one of the very few handcraft bakeries in Spain that use a wood-fired rotary oven, decided to take advantage of this year’s summer holidays to see and learn more about their profession - in a bakery abroad! Marta has been participating in the UIB Exchange Program for several years. She stayed in Norway and Belgium, and this year, her husband Jose Ignacio accompanied for the first time. Their destination was Holland, where they spent three weeks at the bakery Bisschopsmolen (Bishop's Mill) in the city of Maastricht.
The Bisschopsmolen is located in the very heart of the city center, and has the oldest water mill in the Netherlands still in use today. The mill dates from the 7th century and is open to visitors on Saturdays; Marta and Jose Ignacio also had the opportunity to see it, guided by the two owners of Bisschopsmolen, Edo Kruiver and Frank van Eerd.
"Edo and Frank, the two entrepreneurs of Bisschopsmolen, accompanied us in our work," says Marta. "Every day we were taught to make new products, and we always practiced making the ones we already knew and the new ones of each day. When there was little work in the confectionary department, we switched over to bread and learned new ways of forming loaves and were taught the production and completion of each product. After making the products, they showed us if we had made any mistakes, corrected them and explained us how they could be improved. "
Also Edo and Frank enjoyed Marta and Jose Ignacio’s stay: “They are very nice people and it was a pleasure to work with them. Not only did they learn from us, we also got inspired by them. For us, and for any bakery, this kind of exchange is very interesting and enriching, especially when you have guests with as much enthusiam as Marta and Jose.”
Bisschopsmolen produces was mainly bread, but also cakes, butter cookies, chocolate cookies, pies, marmalade biscuits, croissants with and without chocolate etc. Everything was made from high quality raw materials and simple production processes, there were no frozen products.
Marta and Jose Ignacio saw many differences between the products in Spain and Holland.
"The Bisschopsmolen worked with spelt flours, whole-wheat, rye and whole-rye flours, which are characterized by their low content of gluten, while in Spain we mainly use ordinary refined wheat flour. The variation of the breads which were produced depended on the amounts of the different flours that were used in the production as well as the different seeds and grains which were introduced in each dough. The sourdoughs contained more than 60% of water, the fermentation time was short (about 45 - 60 minutes), and as the dough had more wholemeal flours, the bread turns out less spongy as traditional Spanish bread, but thanks to its high content of fiber, Dutch bread conserves longer as it contains more humidity, helps digestion and satiates more.
The cost of production with spelt flour and rye flour is more expensive, because those flours are more expensive than normal wheat flour. "
Within the International Exchanges organized by UIB, the welcoming bakery is responsible for providing accommodation and food for the trainee. Marta and Jose Ignacio had two different accommodations: first in an old convent turned into a Bed & Breakfast, and then in an apartment near the bakery where they could cook themselves, and where they felt even more comfortable.
"The most difficult thing was getting used to the different timetable”, says Marta. “To have lunch at 12:00 or 13:00 o’clock was very early for us. In Spain, we eat between 14:00 and 15:00 o’clock, but of course, that was a very busy time at the bakery." Naturally, with the Mediterranean way of improvising, they found a solution midway between the two cultures.
"On the other hand, our working hours were great," said José Ignacio. "We started at seven in the morning and worked until four in the afternoon – thus we had the whole afternoon free. For us that was a luxury, as in our bakery in Spain we work all day.”
They spent their free time to stroll and wander around Maastricht, a city they found very attractive with its old houses of original structures and the walled historic old town with a large number of shops, hotels, restaurants and emblematic monuments.
"The colleagues at work were very friendly and we made us feel comfortable during all of our stay. We noticed that employees, after their initial professional training, continue their education with training updates, which can even include different knowledge from their previous studies. For example if you are a baker you can start learning to work chocolate or cakes, etc. So usually they all receive further trained and expand their knowledge, which, unfortunately, is not very common in our home country."
Marta and Jose Ignacio conclude: "This was a very satisfying and enjoyable experience for us, on both personal and professional level, and we are looking forward to other stays in the future." They have already decided that they want to go to a German bakery in Berlin next year, where Marta can update her knowledge of the German language and José Ignacio enjoy the historic environment is very eager to see.
Marta and José Ignacio working at the Bisschopsmolen:
We thank Marta and Jose Ignacio for the photos and all their help with this article.