Bread diaries from Japan

In remote Totori, off a winding road surrounded by steep forested hillsides, is the TALMARY Bakery, started a decade ago by a couple, Itaru and Mariko.  The story goes that Itsaru’s father gave him a book about Karl Marx when he was in his teens, the philosophy formed itself as a part of Itsaru’s constitution and consequently the bakehouse is founded on Marxist principles. In Japan, where hierarchies in the workplace are rigid, this is funky stuff.  

 

I am familiar with bakeries that use wild yeast to leaven their bread, that are conscious of the role temperature and time play on flavour, digestibility and form, and I had been growing interested in the historical use of balm to rise bread with.  If you didn’t know, balm is the frothy yeast on top of a batch of brewing beer.  In the UK the majority of bakeries used balm to rise their dough, until imported yeast began to arrive from Germany in the early 19th Century.  

 

It seems at Talmary, in a spirit of independence they decided to make their own balm, so along with bread, they brew beer.  The brewhouse is in a separate room and is full of massive stainless steel vats, glasses kicking around for sampling, and two team members in smart wellies, connecting pipes to pipes or something.  The beer they make is quite unique because they don’t use any commercial strains of yeast, rather they capture wild yeast strains allowing a kind of spontaneous fermentation.  Despite this they produce a range of flavours, weiss beer, ipa, a stout which are on tap in the cafe.  Perhaps now I should explain that they are in a converted school, with a big grass playground in front, the long building has ample space for the adventures going on within.  There’s a small organic shop as you walk in, then a service area, and in another room a collection of comfy chairs, sofa’s and tables.  There is a reclaimed vibe running through the place.

 

Back to the bread.  Itsaru has another method for collecting yeast. A koji, usually used to make sake or miso paste, is cultured by hanging a bag of cooked rice in the forest for a couple of days allowing strains of yeast to colonise, it is then dried and stored.

 

Pretty cool.  Three different sources of yeast, lots of strains of wild yeast.  And then, slow fermentation, I watched retarded doughs being gently folded in oiled boxes before being returned to the fridge.

 

OK, next on the list of why this is an awesome bakery.  Water, in selecting the location of the bakery water quality was in their mind, and the water they use is fresh from the hills.  Big tick.

 

Finally, flour.  They have a roller mill running in an annexe of the building.  It’s a fun space narrow and extremely tall, say 4 metres.  Grain is loaded up to the top and is ground most days to give fresh flour for the dough.  They mill about 20% of their flour on site and the rest is organically certified flour.  I’m not sure of the origin but they clearly are conscious of sourcing reflected in projects to grow hops and barley in their area, and wild boar burgers on the cafe menu.

 

In line with staying mellow and not working too much, Talmary is open for bread Friday to Monday inclusive.  We could only visit on a Thursday, so I can only imagine how good the bread tastes.  The place was never the less busy with brewers, the bakers preparing the dough, and some of the cafe team cruising around. All in all good vibes abounded.  In a country where bread isn’t commonplace it’s encouraging to see people making it in such an exceptional way.  Bread is becoming a staple breakfast item for young Japanese, and the type of bread they are eating is a kind of faux brioche, pre sliced and wrapped.  I applaud these guys for taking it to the roots and offering something with integrity.  Given the way the Japanese think about food it shouldn’t be long before this kind of bread really catches on.

 

 Ben Mackinnon, e5 Founder.

 

Bread making at Maili Saba

A little over a year ago, Ben asked if I would help train some of Kenya’s freshest sourdough bakers at the Maili Saba camp. Here, I aim to provide an account of the joys and pitfalls of fermenting flour in Kenya’s wilderness.

 

I begin writing after a day on safari at Lake Nakuru’s National Park. Hanging out with animals I’d only seen on David Attenborough documentaries, has really brought it home, how lucky I am to be here. Also, it has made me realise how much I love Gazelle’s. Gazelle’s are great. 

 

That’s the great thing about having a day off in Kenya, you can go on safari. You can’t do that in London.

 

Ok, sorry I’m getting sidetracked.

 

Let’s rewind back to arrivals. 21:00 – 26th September 2016 – I land after a long, two part flight, very thankful to be met by my host and Ujima bakehouse general manger, Dave Fung. Dave is a Reading boy, ex-chef and former Soil Assocation employee. I used to work as a chef, studied in Reading and care deeply about managing our planets resources. That, coupled with a mutual penchant for late night acoustic singalongs, meant it was easy for us to work together. I first met Dave when he visited e5 to learn more about the world of sourdough bread. He has been out here for 7 months now, managing the day to day running of Ujima Bakehouse, as well as the cafe in town (where we sell the bread). On the long, bumpy drive from Nairobi Airport to Nakuru we discuss Kenya, from the social, to the political. Developing countries leave me with the desire to leap into action and bring about great change. Then I take off my critical, western lens and let Kenya come into full focus.

 

Kenya currently doesn’t have much of a bread culture. Sadly, the main offering is very fluffy, very white and full of improvers and preservatives. The main crop here is not wheat either, it’s maize. Kenyan’s eat a lot of maize, sometimes barbecued on the roadside, but mostly as a stiff porridge named, ‘Ugali’. This, along with a variety of different beans, dark greens and a smattering of meat helps to form a fairly balanced diet, albeit a little plain. There are some beautiful fruits however, namely bananas, avocados, mangoes and pineapples. Dave explains that the farming is as simple as the finished dishes. One type of onion, one type of tomato, one type of maize. Most likely selected for high yield and disease resistance, over any flavour preference.

 

Luckily for Ujima, there is a man growing and stone grinding wheat and rye grains. Of German origin, he moved to the area over 20 years ago to establish his farming project, which also grows buckwheat.  He also has a similar, Tyoll, style mill as back at e5.  The opportunity never arose to go out and visit him, but Ben did manage it, when he was out here a little over a year ago. The bakehouse  has received wholegrain wheat and rye flour in the past, yet recipes and breads made with this flour had yet to be established. The white flour which is used by Ujima is roller milled and comes from a large industrial plant that supplies much of the local area. I note the faster staling quality of this flour, as well its ability to draw moisture from my mouth in the eating. Is this an inherent quality of the grain, or is this flour more than just sifted before arriving?

 

On my first day, we visit the cafe where the bread is sold. Agora is a co-working space, located in Nakuru town. Currently, the breads are sold out front, along with aeropress coffee and sandwhiches that are prepared in a small kitchen. Dave has constructed firm favourites that include chicken with avocado and a bacon sandwich with freshly made mayo. The day before I leave, the large WEGA espresso machine (donated by e5) arrives at Agora. Funny, I saw it being packaged up in the yard in Hackney 10 days prior, and now here we are rifling through 140 pages of instruction manual, trying to figure out how to install it. Dave shows me a large space at the back of the building that Andrew and Madeleine have their eye on for development of the full scale cafe. Problems with the landlord’s tax payments mean any development is on hold right now. It’s clear that nothing moves fast out here, but I really admire the scope of this project. With a newly delivered coffee machine and great sourdough bread, I have faith that this project will continue to go from strength to strength. 

 

The following day, I get my first look at the bakehouse. Seven miles (the literal meaning of Maili Saba) out of town, lies the camp, with an adjoining bakery. It is here that Justan and Alfonse (trained by Ben, initially) bake three times a week. The little bakehouse with a big view, as it looks out over the Menengai crater. This volcano was formed over 200,000 years ago and is lit up at night by geothermal rigs. It is the largest natural crater in Africa. Baking can be a cathartic enough practice as it is, but with this view, it was set to be positively blissful. We spent the first couple of days working on recipes for wholewheat, seeded rye and ciabattas. Initial results were good, but when working with new flour, in a new environment, one must adapt quickly. We upped the hydration of the two major sellers, a plain sourdough and a seeded version of the same dough. Justan and Alfonse soon took to shaping with water instead of flour, a major benefit when working with wetter doughs. We baked through the night and the guys got a brief moment of rest, before packing the loaves for orders and working the crowds at a local motoring event. That’s hardcore! I only do one to two early bakes a week, so my hat goes off to Justan and Alfonse for their dedication.

 

After a couple of days rest, we returned to the bakehouse for more experiments. Before I came away, I met up with Dee, baker and creative director of Fernandez and Wells. We had a chance to talk over all things bread and pastry. What I really came for, was Dee’s ‘sourdough banana cake’. A product Madeleine was keen to see baked at Ujima. Ever since discovering the health and flavour benefits of fermented flour, I’ve asked why we don’t try out this age old technique on our sweet stuff? Turns out Dee had the same thought process, years before. While at their Denmark Street branch, I got to taste this wonderous treat. A thick slice of spiced, dark banana cake, griddled to order and served with heaps of butter. The sourdough had given the crumb a tender and moist chew. Substantial, but not heavy – a real success. Understandably, Dee’s recipe (many years in the making) was a closely guarded secret, so the proof had to be in the pudding, and in little nuggets of advice thrown my way. Once I got to Kenya and tasted how great the bananas were, I was excited to set to work. 

 

The final two days were spent perfecting recipes for ciabatta, baguettes (and pizza dough) and the sourdough banana cake. The team were engaged and I felt more settled in as their mentor. Earlier that day, Dave (a keen forager) picked a local variety of lemon thyme, as well as some basil from the fields close to the bakehouse. These got incorperated into our herby tomato sauce, to top our semi-sourdough pizzas. As the sun set on our final night, we huddled round our small work bench to enjoy the fruits of our labour.

 

I admire the scope and potential of this project. It was an honour and a privilege to work with Dave, Justan and Alfonse and I wish Andrew and Madeleine the best of luck with its development. I hope to be a part of Ujima’s story in the future, if only for the chance to see the beauty of Kenya’s people and places.

 

Luke Duffy – Baker at e5

Do Market!

Saturday 26/11 2016

Run in collaboration with The Do Book Co the market will run from 10am-6pm on Saturday 26th of November in the e5 Millhouse.

 

It’s free entry for all and you can peruse stalls from like likes of Hiut Denim //

 Solidwool // Hatchet&Bear // Melrose&Morgan and many more!

 

In order to keep you fuelled we’ll be serving up e5 Bakehouse’s own wood fired pizzas and Patty and Bun will be on hand to sort out all your burger cravings.

 

Hope to see you then!Screen Shot 2016-10-27 at 15.44.00

The Last Grain Race Supperclubs

Developed in collaboration with artist Amy Franceschini and the Delfina Foundation we are pleased to be hosting this special supper club as part of the Future Farmers collective Flatbread Society Seed Journey project. 

 

The project moves people, ideas and seeds upon an 1895, Colin Archer rescue sailboat from Oslo to Istanbul. Between September 2016 and November 2017 an international crew and a selection of ancient grains (that have been cultivated in Oslo) will return to their “centre of origin”, the Fertile Crescent.

 

Christiania. Photo courtesy Amy Franceschini and Futurefarmers

 

Through what we eat and discuss, this supper club will offer new insights into the contemporary cultures and politics of seed and grains.

 

On the evening of Saturday 13th along with the meal there will also be a special event ‘Seeds of Time’ with short presentations from the artist as well as invited guests including Mike Ambrose, Senior Scientist in Crop Genetics from the John Innes Centre in Norwich and Andrew Forbes, founder of Brockwell Bake, who will discuss different approaches to seed diversity.

 

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The menu will be three courses which will highlight the possibilities and diversity of cooking with different grains.

 

Full menu available here.

Location: e5 Millhouse, 396 Mentmore Terrace, E8 3PH 

Time: 19:00 – 22:00

Buy tickets here.

The Last Grain Race supper clubs 11 // 12 August £15

Seeds of Time event 13 August £20

(all tickets inc 3 course meal; drinks not inc but there will be a bar)

 

Seeds of Time is part of The Politics of Food: Markets and Movements programme of residencies and events at Delfina Foundation, which runs from July – September 2016. Working with artists and designers on a multitude of projects, Markets and Movements explores topics such as agricultural labour and seasonal migration; developments in biotechnological food sciences; food sovereignty and heritage, from grains to recipes to production methods; how food features in radical collective political movements, as well as the increase of individual consumer choice and its impact on the wider global food economy. For a full programme please click here.

Back Yard Garden

Introducing the extraordinary Sofia Figueiredo, one of our kitchen cooks, who has been slowly transforming the e5 backyard since the bleak midwinter…

 

Sofia

 

Sofia writes,

 

“In the e5 backyard/garden we are mostly growing flowers and herbs on the top and bottom of two ship-containers. We grow in small beds and containers made of recycled materials. We just built a greenhouse (with reused double-glazing) to nurse edible herbs and flowers and other bee-friendly flowers. Reusing our (and our neighbours’) commercial waste as much as possible is an essential part of this project.

At the moment we are using old tyres, barrels, tins, cans, boxes, crates and even an old toilet!

 

One day we hope to be making all our compost from bakehouse food waste, but due to lack of space this is quite a challenge. We have started saving seeds and we are hosting a performative seed-saving event in August. As well as creating a beautiful and sustainable space for everyone to enjoy, our aim is to inspire the community around us to grow edibles in their own gardens. This we hope to do by selling plants and seeds in recycled materials and by hosting events that spread the idea of urban edible gardens. We have also started experimenting with drying our own herbs so that they used in the kitchen when fresh ones are out of season.”

 

Flowers

Farm and Sparrow- Baking in the Appalachians

For a few years now we’ve been hearing reports of a bakery across the pond in North Carolina producing exemplary bread. In the decade since its inception, Farm and Sparrow founder Dave Bauer has managed to close the gaps in the system between farmers, millers, bakers and consumers. The formation of these gaps directly coincides with the industrialisation of our industry and the rise of wheat-related health issues. Dave works closely with farmers, asking them to take a gamble and grow older varieties of wheat, then mills this grain to produce stoneground flour which he uses fresh to make naturally-leavened bread, baked in a wood-fired oven. His team then sell this bread direct to the public at local farmers markets. This is bread for purists, using methods and techniques which, bar a little electricity here and there, haven’t changed for centuries.
As many of you may know, for the last year and a half at e5 Bakehouse we’ve on quite a journey, striving to stone mill as much of our flour as possible on site from U.K. grain. It’s been a steep learning curve, especially given the characteristics of British wheat and the sheer amount of it required for our production. As Farm and Sparrow have achieved the holy grail of milling all their own flour from local wheat, I headed to North Carolina to see how it’s done.

 

Coming from an urban bakery in a large city, little could prepare me for the rural conditions of Farm and Sparrow. The bakery is in the Appalachian mountains, around 12 miles from Asheville, a town occupied by artisans, food-producers, punks, anarchists and wealthy tourists. My accommodation for three weeks was to be a camper van parked in the bakery garden, right next to the corn patch, a location where an outside door lock is apparently superfluous to requirements. Instead of the scruffy pigeons which hang around outside e5 waiting to catch a break and find a door left open, the only creature we had to usher out of Farm and Sparrow during my stay was Charlize, an elegant, metre long black snake who’d apparently been occupying the wood pile all winter.

 

The schedule at Farm and Sparrow is also different. They have no store front, no on-site shop; instead they bake just twice a week and sell their breads and pastries at farmers markets in Asheville and the surrounding area to customers who think nothing of driving two hours to pick up a loaf.

 

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So let’s begin with the milling. The mill house is adjacent to the bakery and has one of those iconic pitched barn roofs which make you think of little house on the prairie. The colour of the walls and the amount of flour covered surfaces mean that everything inside is bathed in this blue/grey light. The air is humid and thick with airborne flour particles. A white veneer sits over everything, like snow, sometimes interrupted by the meandering tracks of a lone insect. The old ostofrolee, now relegated to milling corn for grits and cracking oats and rye, sits on one side. Dave started out using this model but, wanting to produce creamier flour, a couple of years ago got a friend to build him a bespoke mill (doesn’t everyone have mill-building friends?), with stones made from dusky pink North Carolina granite. In the wake of two shining reviews in national newspapers, to keep up with demand both for the Farm and Sparrow bread and the dough at Dave’s highly recommended pizza joint in town, All Souls, they were having to mill 6 days a week, several hours a day. The wheat was categorised by colour (red or white) and by protein content (hard or soft), and there was every possible permutation within those categories.

 

The wholegrain flour is manually transferred to a stack sifter, where it filters through a set of screens which divide it up by particle size and separate the large and small bran pieces, the sandy semolina and the finest primo flour. If you grab a fistful of this flour, squeeze and let go, you will be left with a clump imprinted by your four fingers which holds together. Try doing this with aged roller-milled flour and it simply won’t bind. This is a unique property of skilfully milled stoneground fresh flour. If you then rub it between thumb and index finger it will smear and melt like butter. Dave refers to this as the ‘fat rub’ and it’s exactly what he’s looking for. It’s evidence that during the milling process the oily germ has been crushed into the starchy endosperm to the extent that even after extensive sifting, that fattiness is still very much present and locked in. This fattiness will ultimately translate into a richer tasting, more aromatic loaf.

 

After sifting, Dave will blend the different flour according to the needs of each specific dough, deciding whether he wants a dominant wheat flavour, whether he wants to increase extensibility, whether he wants to use more of the grain. It is not unusual on the busiest mixing day of the week, Thursday, to be bagging up the sifted flour and running it from the mill house to the bakery, to be used immediately in the dough whilst still warm.

 

The doughs at Farm and Sparrow contain a minuscule amount of leaven, since their fresh flour needs very little encouragement to ferment. Notably, no one at the bakery describes the bread as ‘sourdough’ since in general, it really doesn’t taste that sour. This is deliberate, allowing the flavour and natural sweetness of the grain to come through without being masked by an acid hit. The term ‘naturally-leavened’ is the preferred description.

 

 

 

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The mixing process is gradual and sensitive. Around 10% of the water is held back from the initial mix and, after a 15 minute autolyse, is introduced little by little. A few turns of the diving arm mixer, and rest for a few minutes. Then a few turns of the mixer, and rest. This gives the flour time to become hydrated and helps to gently build strength in a dough which might be up to 100% hydration. During this turning and resting period you can see the dough transform from mottled and uneven to smooth and coherent. A bulk of around three hours then occurs, with a couple of folds along the way. Describing the dough here is a challenge; it’s wobbly and jiggly and oily and silky. I have heard it described by some as ‘pregnant’, which is no overstatement. I defy anyone who has felt this dough not to become a fresh flour convert. Preshape and final shape are done with water on the table instead of flour and the technique devised by Dave to cope with such wet dough (a kind of stitching, forward rolling and lifting) results in a very pleasing triangular top flap, making the shaped dough appear like a neat envelope. An overnight retard in the walk-in then occurs. The Farm and Sparrow approach is empirical and intuitive: no probing of water or dough temperatures, no fixed timings for bulking or benching. Emblematic of this is the fact that the recipes are still in imperial measurements and balance, rather than digital, scales are preferred for weighing dough. All bakers make a series of tiny decisions each day based on how their dough feels: when to cut, when to shape, when to retard. But here, with such a small dedicated team, it’s responsive on another level. Tony, the head baker, and Dave are like dough whisperers, diagnosing and theorising the whole way through, and resisting the temptation to rush things along to fit the schedule. When there’s a fridge full of cold beer to keep you company, waiting out a long afternoon prove is a lot less painful.

 

Like a fireplace is the focal point of a home, the wood oven, embedded into an interior wall is at the centre of the bakery. They’re notoriously challenging to bake in, and take and demand a whole other skillet from the baker involved. Tony likens working with the oven to taming a dragon; eventually you hope for a mutual respect but you can’t take anything for granted. Lighting it involves serious strategy- to get the right airflow each piece is essential. Tony can look at each log on the woodpile and think ‘that one is perfect for the middle left stack’ or ‘that one has got front right written all over it’. This process also involves intense physical contortion, in order to reach in as far as possible through the narrow oven mouth and wedge the logs into position. Incorrect fire management will result in the oven being too ferocious at the start of the following days bake, or too feeble by the end of it. It’s a tightrope you walk each time you light the touch paper and adds another layer of craftsmanship to the production of these loaves. The bread, when it emerges from the oven has a distinctive look. All double-scored, rough-hewn ovals, flatter than the pristine, oven- sprung loaves of instagram with their central ear perfectly sprung. The bake at Farm and Sparrow is also intentionally dark, with mahogany patches on the crust from the light fermentation, instead of blisters. The crust is thin and pliable soon after they cool, due to the high hydration of the dough and the relatively short bake.

 

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Also attributed to wetness of the dough is the shelf life; the bread can be eaten fresh even 3 days later. The mild acidity allows other flavours to emerge; the einkorn has a distinctive note of banana bread; the corn grit bread has a custardy character. All the loaves are distinctive, despite most just containing flour, water and salt. I’ve heard it said recently that all the sourdough loaves in London taste the same. Although I don’t entirely agree, I understand where this sentiment comes from: when a handful of millers dominate the artisan bread market, there is only so much differentiation that fermentation and baking can bring. What Farm and Sparrow proves is that there is no ceiling to how good a loaf of bread can taste. If we, as bakers, take into account the method of milling and the freshness of flour, and before that even, the variety of grain and how it is it grown, then the implications for flavour are delightfully unknown. 

 

Kate Hayter- Baker at e5

BREAD, BUTTER AND JAM: Let’s start with the basics!

Over the last couple of months the E5 have been collaborating with a charity called Inspire! – to give some local school children the opportunity to see what happens behind the scenes at the Bakehouse.

 

Inspire! asked if we would help them to deliver their iDiscover STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) programme for primary schools. The aim of the programme is to introduce children to a variety of work environments and job opportunities related to the above areas of their curriculum.

 

Two groups of year 3 students from local schools, Thomas Fairchild Primary and Morningside Primary, came to visit us for a day of short workshops focusing on the science behind baking. Jess, one of our bakers, talked to the students about how we get from sacks of grain to loaves of bread, and she had some examples of grain, flour and bread dough and bread for everyone to study. She also introduced them to our mill in all it’s operating glory.

 

We decided that there’s nothing better to accompany this serious business of producing bread than good old butter and jam making, so we got our local butter guru Miro in for the session to shake some jars of cream with the kids – this was a really fun part of the day! They got to see in front of their own eyes how cream turns into butter, and they all helped to squish the butter into shape.

 

Janke, one of our pastry chefs, then got everyone to put some rhubarb samples at different stages of jam into chronological order and made students guess what the magic pectin rich ingredient in our rhubarb jam is – a gooey apple stock!

 

At the end of the workshop everyone got to eat the fruits of their labour – bread, butter and jam – for many it was the first time they tasted rhubarb jam or sourdough bread, and it all got a double thumbs up from the children and staff!

 

Over the course of the day the children had plenty of opportunities to ask questions about the processes and about the kind of jobs we have on offer here. One of the best questions was: “How does it make you feel when you do your job?” to which Jess, Miro and Janke all replied in one way or another: AMAZING. Follow your dreams and do what makes you happy!

 

We look forward to working with Inspire! again in the future.

 

Find out more about Inspire!

 

 

 

 

 

Ujima Bakehouse Fundraiser

Across 3 nights e5 bakehouse are hosting a series of supper clubs in aid of Ujima Bakehouse in Kenya – a social enterprise bakery operating as an extension of the valuable work of two charities; UJIMA and PEEK vision.  Offering a real environment for young people within their programme to receive practical training as well as a viable means of earning revenue for the charities

 

PEEK vision provides Kenyans living in rural areas with sight-restoring treatment. For every 100 loaves sold at the bakery, one person has their eye sight restored. 

 

Back in early 2015 Ben flew the bakehouse for a couple of weeks to help the Ujima founders Madeleine and Andrew Bastawrous to set up the bakehouse.  He was working to train a team of novice bakers in Maili Saba, a lodge around 20 miles from Nakuru, Kenya’s 4th largest city when the bakery is situated.  

Across all three nights chef Ruth Quinlan will be serving a feast of food inspired by East African cuisine. On the first evening (Thursday 4th) there will also be a talk by founders Madeleine & Andrew Bastawrous.

 

Full menu coming soon.

 

Please note that drinks will not be included in the ticket price but there will be a bar.  

Seating @ 8pm in the Millhouse Arch 396 Mentmore Terrace. 

 

100% OF TICKET PRICE GOES TO UJIMA BAKEHOUSE. FIND OUT MORE ABOUT WHAT THEY DO HERE.

 

Louis Lamour, French baker extraordinaire.

The importance of exchanging ideas and expertise can often get overlooked when you have your hands in dough for most of the week. However, welcoming another baker into the fold can be incredibly valuable for everyone involved, especially when said baker has as varied a background as Louis Lamour. Born and bred in Paris, Louis has been a baker for the last decade, working in independent bakeries but also travelling the world for an additive company. This has given him a unique insight into the impact of modern science on the most ancient of crafts. Louis came and joined us for a week earlier this month, and since he’s in the process of setting up a bakery back home we seized the opportunity to quiz him on the French baking scene. Here’s what he had to say. 

 

So Louis, what brings you to e5?

 

One of my British clients brought me to the Farm to Loaf symposium in October. Since I’m in the process of opening my own bakery I wanted to come and see how you guys are working as I think you’re doing a pretty good job.

 

The British bread industry has transformed beyond recognition in the last century. How has the french bread industry changed? 

 

The good thing about France compared to the UK is that the majority of people, 75%, still buy their bread at the bakery rather than the supermarket. We have kept small companies, and the regions still have their own specialities. But also the quality has decreased a lot, especially with the help of improvers which have made the dough easier to mechanise. Bakers are losing the touch of the dough and relying on the functional ingredients to do the job they should be doing. 

 

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What do you mean by ‘improvers’?

 

So when you buy flour in France it will usually contain some ingredients which will help the tolerance of the dough, the volume of the dough, the colouring of the bread during the baking period. These might be ascorbic acid, enzymes or emulsifiers. Most millers add that to their flour for the baker to have an easier job and the customers to have a good volume for their money.

 

A lot of people might wonder why someone so interested in natural bread would have worked in the additive business.

 

I worked for a company which basically invented the bread improver and have done a good job of spreading it all over the world. I was a technical advisor so I was training colleagues and training customers how to use the improvers and bread mixes.

I’ve always liked natural, simple bread but I think that what really motivated me to do that job was first that I would learn a lot about the technical side of things. Often in baking something happens and you don’t understand why. A company like that does a lot of research and development, for example you would test 10 doughs which are identical except for 1 enzyme that would be dosed differently, to check the texture or check the volume. Secondly what was really interesting for me was travelling and meeting bakers from all over the world, as the bread culture in Asia is so different to the one in South America and North America and Eastern Europe and so on.

 

 

 

When setting up a bakery, do you have good flour suppliers to choose from in France?

 

When you set up a bakery in France you have to decide which mill you will be working with and they will be in charge of financing a lot of the investment. Therefore you are a little bit stuck with them afterwards meaning you have to buy your wheat from them until your loan is over. This means they will also put their brand on your bakery. That said, the variety of the flour they offer is quite wide so you could choose to buy enriched T55 for baguette, or you could choose stoneground white. It is sometimes quite difficult to find out where the flour has come from, whether it is French or not. 

 

 There’s obviously a lot of fairly new sourdough bakeries in London. Is this movement going on in Paris too?

 

Most bakeries will sell you what they call sourdough but in most cases it will contain up to 0.2% fresh yeast which for some people just isn’t real sourdough. I’d rather not use fresh yeast if I can because I think the fewer ingredients the easier it is to control the quality of those ingredients. Also I think the quality of bread made without yeast is a lot better. 

There are speciality sourdough bakeries opening up but they use conventional flour or don’t communicate whether its stoneground, heritage or where it comes from. The angle is more about the look and feel of the shop.

 

What are the main differences you have found between British and French bread culture?

 

Here in Britain, from what I understand, most people buy bread from the supermarket and the culture is to make toast, whereas in France most people are buying baguettes. Any small bakery will make between 300 and 500 baguettes on any given day. People in France buy bread everyday. The way bread is perceived is different; we eat fresh bread all the time, you can buy it several times a day; you can buy once at lunch and once at dinner. In Britain you buy it every time you go shopping which is not everyday, therefore the bread cannot be the same, it has to perform differently.

 

Have you found any big differences in the techniques we use at e5 compared to what your used to?

 

The first difference would be that you guys mix by hand a lot and that is something I’ve never seen being done in a French bakery except in some very particular places, people like Nicolas Supiot who are especially known for it. In a commercial bakery I haven’t seen people mixing by hand so that was very unique, and the texture of the dough is very unique because of the flour that you mill yourselves. This also effects how you have to shape it because you cannot stress it the same way as you can conventional flour. You guys use very hydrated doughs and it benefits the quality the bread   even though its more time-consuming to shape. It’s a sacrifice you make for the quality of the bread. 

 

Do you feel positive for the future of French baking?

 

I’m afraid to see the development of franchises which only sell frozen dough. I think there will always be a niche of people buying expensive and good bread and there will always be a mass market who want cheap bread. We now see bakeries selling three baguettes for €1.50- you can barely make money with that, so they are buying frozen dough in from other companies and they become dependent on that. In this time of crisis you can understand that people cannot spend so much on bread, but what really saddens me is that people spend €1000 on their phone, but are not willing to spend a few extra cents on the bread that they eat everyday which is keeping them alive.

 

Finally Louis, as a lifelong Parisian, can you tell us where to buy the best baguettes in Paris?

 

I would go to Rodolphe Landemaine or  Djibril Bodian at Le Grenier a Pain )

 

And what about here the best croissant?

 

I would head a bit outside Paris, to my friend at Le p’tit Père.

NO BORDERS Food and Film Festival

After the success of our of work the The Refugee Council on the recent Just Bread project we were keen to keep momentum going.  As well as provide further opportunities to work with Refugees, helping them build confidence in the skills they learned during the baking course.

 

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This time around e5 and The Refugee Council are bringing you NO BORDERS Film and Food Festival. 

A series of four nights dedicated to films which focus on frontiers, barriers and how people and information pass through them. The Festival will run on across four evenings starting on the 26th of November with INFILTRATORS. A Film which follows Palestinian residents being forced to avoid check points day after day.  Over the wall or through tunnels, Palestinians are crossing the borders. Prisoners of their own land, they are risking their lives everyday.

 

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Included in the cost will be fantastic regional food prepared by two graduated trainees from our recent ‘Just Bread’ program with help and advice from E5 Bakehouse chef Ruth Quinlan.  With the screening to be followed by talks from two experts in the field Sharri Plonski and Toufic Haddad from SAOS University of London. 

 

This week the women were practicing the menu and judging by the smells wafting from the kitchen it’s safe to say this event is not to be missed! 

 

You can find further information on all the nights and buy tickets at e5bakehouse.squarespace.com or pop into the cafe and speak to one of our staff.

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