There are a few things one can love more than freshly baked bread and that would be muffins! I had the pleasure to visit Loulis mills, see flour transforming from grain to muffin and celebrate the launch of a very cool range of products: easy bake, a selection of small, colourful packs that contain yumminess made in minutes.
Loulis mills facilities are situated in Keratsini, just off of Peiraeus port. The area is home to a very busy commercial port. The hustle and bustle of the port would not invite the casual visitor for exploration, still Keratsini holds a charm ingrained to the very heart of Greek industry, with cargo coming and going, inland and on sea. Loulis mills are found at the side of the small bay of Agios Georgios, overlooking an area that is as colourful as it is busy.
Production continues in the 1929 factory building which has been fully renovated to modern standards and also hosts a wonderful museum on the history of bread and flour. I saw the humble grain travelling inside high-tech air tubes to be cleaned, sifted, refined and tested before it is contained in the little paper bags that we bring home. I also had a very informative stroll in their museum, ‘from wheat to bread’. The artefacts include implements that stretch from neolithic times to traditional stone mills, industrial era flour processing machinery until the state of the art equipment in use today. What caught my eye, though, was the very daint collection of antique cake pans and biscuits cutters. I couldn’t help but gasp at the gaze of fine swirls and elegant French moulds. I might have even started drooling over them too, just think of all these wonderful bakes that were once baked in these metal nests.
Amongst the many artefacts that populate the museum displays, there is a very special collection of 500 prosfora seals. Prosfora, means offering and it is a small, normally round, loaf of leavened bread prepared especially for mass. As Greek Orthodox tradition has it, any member of church can prepare the bread, imprint the seal, bake and take it to church to be used for Holy Communion. The seals are normally round, carved in wood and carry the symbols of Christ, Virgin Mary and the nine orders of the saints. Most commonly the seal is in the shape of a cross; it carries the christogram ICXC (Jesus Christ Conquers), an annotation of Virgin Mary with the letters ΜΘ (Mother of Lord), normally in the center and nine small triangles to represent saints and prophets. Nowadays the form of these seals are pretty standard but this was not always the case. The seals in the museum feature a wealth of designs, the oldest dating as far back as 4th AD. Whilst all the seals carry the same symbolism, there are specimens of excellent craftsmanship showing its evolution through time: oblong seals with the two-headed eagle, emblem of the Eastern Roman Empire and very elaborate designs, testament to the rich culture of byzantine times.
Of course I used my invitation pack and baked some muffins myself. Chocolate muffins with chocolate chips that came out fluffy and scrumptious, just like I’d make them myself from scratch. Once in the oven the place smelled of paradise. I couldn’t help but take my muffins a step further, I added some coffee butter cream. Because I might love chocolate but combined with coffee, it is divine!
Here is how to make them:
- 1 pack of easy bake chocolate muffins
- 1 egg
- 180 ml vegetable oil
- 180 ml lukewarm water
Coffee flavoured butter cream
- 100 gr unsalted butter
- 200 gr icing sugar
- 2 tsp coffee granules
- 1 tbsp boiling water
What to do:
For the muffins
- In a ball place the easy bake mix and stir in your liquids and 1 egg.
- Fold in well until your materials get incorporated
- Dust your muffin tin with flour and place ¾ of the mix in each pocket
- Bake for 20 minutes
For the coffee butter cream
- Place the butter in a bowl and mix adding in slowly the icing sugar.
- Dissolve the coffee granules in boiling water and let it cool a bit.
- Stir the dissolved coffee grains in the butter cream
- Ready to decorate!
All in all it was a day very well spent. I am very happy to see Loulis mills R&D going strong and I cannot wait to see more innovative and tasty products from Loulis family reaching the market. I was very excited about the special Christmas products that already fill the shelves in easy bake packs: melomakarona and kourabiedes! Christmas baking just made easy!
From Athens with love