Rewena Bread - A brief history:
Rewena bread is a traditional Maori baked bread, also known as Rewena Paraoa. Depending on the dialect, may be called rewana instead.
Paraoa is the Maori word for bread. Rewena is the name of the rising agent used in the process. The word rewena comes from the root word 'rewa', which is a potato. This may give some hint to the ingredients of the bread. Rewena bread is made with fermented potato instead of yeast, which gives the bread a firmer texture.
Due to this texture, rewena is an excellent bread to accompany Boil-ups, Stews, Casseroles or a traditionally cooked Hangi. Rewena is most welcome at any Maori occasion, usually eaten hot with butter, jams or golden syrup.
Rewena Paraoa requires a lengthy preparation over a period of a few days due to the creation of the rewena. However don't let that stop you. Certain strains of rewena have lasted so long that they have been passed down over many generations. And after all, it's an incredible delicacy - so much so that some people name it 'the best bread in the world'.
To make rewena bread, first the rewena must be prepared. This is the part of the process that causes the most apathy in would-be rewena-enjoyers. This is done by boiling some potatoes, mixing it with flour and sugar, and then letting it ferment for a few days. The result is known as the 'bug' or the 'plant'. The bug must then be fed for it to rise. Some of the bug is then used to make the actual loaf of bread, and some retained for use as a starter bug.
Making the original starter plant:
- Peel, slice and boil potato in water to mashing consistency.
- Mash potato thoroughly with any remaining water in pot & set aside.
- When lukewarm, add flour and sugar, mix together to a fairly firm texture. Mixture should resemble dough.
- Cover and leave in a warm place to ferment.
Warm Tropical Weather - Place uncovered plant on a bench in a warm sunny place. Due to warmer conditions, plant may require only 1 day of feeding (Step Two - Day Two) if Starter plant begins to rise and bubble it is ready to make into Rewena Paraoa (Step Three).
Cold Winter Weather - Place uncovered plant inside a hot-water cupboard. I have found storing your plant on the bench in cool conditions does not allow for a suitable rise in the plant where the hot-water cupboard does. It may take 2-3 days of daily feeds (Step Two - Day Two) until the starter plant is ready for Step Three.
Feeding your starter plant (daily!):
The plant should be fed every day. Usually only two days of feeding is required:
- To feed the plant, peel, cut and boil potato in 1 cup of water.
- When boiled, discard potato and retain liquid, set aside until lukewarm.
- Mix sugar into warm liquid and pour into the plant. Mix well.
- Store again in a warm place to continue the fermenting process.
- Repeat this process on day three.
- On days 2 & 3 plant should resemble batter. The plant should rise and form bubbles, this is a good indicator the plant is ready.
- It is ok if plant has a sour odor to it. Do not discard it is fermenting well.
Making rewena paraoa:
- Pre-heat oven to 200c.
- Grease and lightly flour 2 Baking Trays - set aside.
- In a large bowl sift flour and salt and make a well in the centre, pour in all of the Starter Plant and sprinkle baking soda over starter plant. Mix ingredients until combined adding extra water if required.
- Turn out onto floured bench and knead lightly for approximately 10 minutes.
- Take out a scoop (approx 2 dessertspoons) and use this to make another plant, following through with daily feeding as to Step Two - Day Two & Three. May require an additional cup (or 2) of sifted Plain Flour added to mixture to maintain a thick batter-like consistency. By continuing this process you can always have a plant handy to make Rewena Paraoa every few days.
- With the remaining dough, split in halves and shape into baking tins or onto trays.
- Bake in pre-heated over for approximately 30-40 minutes or until golden.
Some Futher Tips:
- Some plants have a sour liquid at the bottom that can be used to make extra sour tasting Rewena Paraoa - a preference of some whanau. Otherwise discard this liquid.
- Depending how often one uses their plant, if a crust forms simply remove the crust top and sour liquid (if preferred) and make a fresh plant. It is good practice to freshen the plant by repeating this process every now and then.
- Use ‘old’ potatoes if available, as they are flourier.
- If you haven’t used your bug in some time and it has a sour odor, remove the liquid and using the fine side of a grater, grate a potato to sweeten and continue with feeding until it begins to rise and bubble again.
- If you don’t plan on making Rewena Paraoa for some time, store a piece of plant (after its been kneaded) in a sealed container full of flour. When ready remove plant and begin the feeding process as to Step Two.
- If you prefer to store your bug in the fridge, it will die if left too long.
- Use kumara in place of the potato for a sweeter tasting rewena.
- Sprinkle granulated sugar on top of rewena prior to baking to give that bakery-crystallized appearance.
- Can substitute plain flour with mochiko (rice flour), ideal for wheat free (Gluten Intolerant) rewena.
The recipe section of this writeup has been largely recreated from the Maori in OZ website.
The original material can be found at http://www.maori-in-oz.com/kai-rewena-paraoa-potato-bread.html