Thomas Moebius, baker with passion for 27 years and since 2013 at the Burg Hotel in Oberlech am Arlberg.
He explains why some Kaiser Rolls are still fresh in the eventing, wholegrain products don’t have to be coarse and the best baguette doesn’t have to be French.
Thomas, what brings a baker to the Arlberg after 27 years of travelling?
I started here in December 2013 – not intending to stay long at the time. But I was instantly captivated by the hotel. And above all by the opportunities that awaited me here for baking good bread. I had been at hotels in Dubai with 1500 to 2000 guests where that was possible, but not to a hotel with 200 guests that made this much effort with their bread.
You‘ve covered quite some ground over the course of your career?
I have indeed – in fact, you could say I travelled the world twice to end up here. And my suggestions to Mr Lucian instantly found a willing listener. Back in day, like most other establishments, we used convenience products, and I wanted to change that for our guests. So in the summer of 2014 we started using organic flours, and today we don‘t use any other kind.
Doesn‘t this make baking more complicated?
It‘s a matter of opinion… In theory, halfway good results can be achieved with industrial ready-mixes. But that‘s not what we want. We want to celebrate pure artisanship. With no preservatives, no stabilisers that don‘t even have to be listed elsewhere.
Don‘t additives have to be listed?
In Austria, there are 70 substances that can be added without having to be listed. We made the deliberate decision to do the opposite, and don‘t use any additives at all. Our bread is made of 100% sourdough, with no additives.
Why is sourdough so important?
Because the breads are far more digestible. Our guests are often surprised that they can even enjoy our breads in the evening without regretting it a little later. Without wanting to get too „technical“: the dough contains enzymes that are responsible for breaking down sugar and carbohydrates. The more slowly, the better – as is the case with natural doughs. We also use a pre-ferment, a fermentation starter, where we pre-soak the starch – and we don‘t over-knead it. The results include, for instance, Kaiser rolls that are still fresh and crisp next day.
How does a baker get this far?
You learn and learn, and look all around you and everywhere where you find good bread. For instance, I learnt how to make baguettes in Brazil. Dense, and really moist. Or you look back at ancient types of grain, such as kamut [Khorasan or Oriental wheat] or emmer wheat [farro or hulled wheat]. The secale bread in our bakery, for instance, is made from the oldest, darkest rye flour.
So does darker mean healthier?
Not necessarily. If a baker bakes his bread darker, what we call „rustic“, then it is crustier. That‘s because in order to make the bread this crusty by natural means, the way our guests like it, you have to bake it darker and strong.
So misunderstandings arise?
… and we are happy to clear them up by chatting to our guests. Wholegrain products, for instance, absolutely don‘t have to be coarse if you grind the flour finely enough. „Wholegrain“ only means that the whole grain was ground together with the germ. The bread that is often called wholegrain bread is in fact really seed bread.
… which naturally is served at the Burg?
Yes, along with about 30 other varieties. After all, we want to offer our guests a certain amount of variety while they are staying with us. For instance, there are always between 12 and 15 different varieties every day on our breakfast buffet, all of them baked specifically for our guests. All sorts of things, from the Kaiser rolls mentioned above to seed bread and black bread [similar to pumpernickel], to braided bread and brioches.
There‘s one other thing that we‘d still like to know: of all the ingredients you use, which is the most important to you?
A knowledge of bread, experience and patience. So you get a feeling when the bread is mature. What we are able to do here is experience real craftwork. Which is why I have a job that I love going to every day. „You can develop your potential in full...“ were the words Mr Lucian said to me when I started here. And he kept his word. Which our guests are welcome to see for themselves. Why not just pop into the bakery and see how your breads are baked…
Thomas, thank you for your time …