One month bread subscription to support refugee training

Last week we opened our doors to the 5th group of Just Bread trainees. These are migrant women taking part in a 10 week bread-making course, to learn all about our sourdough bread making as well as more general skills for working in the food industry in the UK.

 

The program is run in collaboration with the Refugee Council, and covers a range of bread making skills from the beginnings of using a starter and long fermentation, to sharing skills and techniques on other traditional methods and recipes, as well as learning about the daily runnings of a busy cafe and bakery.

 

Bread subscription

 

As part of the training, the participants will produce a range of bread which will be available to buy throughout November, as part of a four week subscription service. Subscribers will receive one loaf per week and can choose to collect from four collection sites across east London. All subscriptions help cover program running costs and ensure we can continue to support this inspiring project. It also gives a sense of purpose and helps build confidence of the trainees as they get a sense of selling to real customers.

 

Find out more and subscribe

 

e5 Roasthouse

 

Last month we opened a new cafe and coffee roastery called e5 Roasthouse, situated in Poplar Union, a community arts centre in Poplar. One of the primary reasons for opening the new cafe is to provide employment for the refugee women who have taken part in this program. Sana, a participant from the very first program, is involved in the daily running of the cafe, and we have 3 other staff members who were former trainees.

 

In addition 30% of profits from e5 Roasthouse will support refugee organisations.

A Tale of Four Andy’s

When I started e5 in the spring of 2010 it was a given that all bread would be made with organic flour. This I felt was the biggest contribution that could be made to a more sustainable, bio-diverse countryside.  Since then our consciousness has expanded; agro-ecological farming, to encompass farming methods which mimic the trophic systems in nature seem more resilient, and local seems as or more important than organic.

 

Unfortunately the amount of land certified organic in the UK has been declining, despite EU subsidy favouring this approach.  The bulk of organic milling wheat needs to be imported, predominantly from Kazahkstan, Canada and Ukraine.  Not only does this involve large food miles, and challenges to traceability, but it also creates a disconnect between grower and user which could be improved upon.

 

Before intensive agriculture kicked into gear, lets say a little over 100 years ago, all farming was by-and-large organic, and the varieties of wheat were abjectly suited to low input farming which didn’t rely on chemical pesticides, herbicides and fossil fuel derived fertilisers.  In practice, this often meant that wheat grew taller, shading out weedy competition, had awns and spiky tendrils, which discouraged insect predators, and most importantly there were a great diversity of species meaning pathogens couldn’t spread from farm to farm.  These days an organic farmer only has about 3 legal varieties to choose from, meaning that the risk of disease is high.  These modern varieties have been bred for the intensive industry where short straw in an advantage.

 

Organic farmers in fact find that the tall, old varieties offer good shading, stopping those pesky weeds flourishing.  Anorther point seems to be that the old varieties have not been expressly bred for gluten – is this why so many people are gluten intolerant? Therefore whilst a challenge for bakers like us, who are used to modern flours blended by millers with high protein imports, old varieties are likely more digestible.  Eveidence also suggests they have the ability to develop symbiotic relationships with soil bacteria, whilst modern wheats have lost the ability.  And finally, research is beginning to suggest that these old timers are higher in micro nutrients, whether that makes a big difference to our health, I don’t yet know.

 

What exactly constitutes a heritage grain is sill up for discussion, but it seems that if you’re called Andrew you have a higher than normal chance of being interested.  Andrew Whitley, based in the Scottish Borders, author Bread Matters has been to the Vladivistock Institute in Russia selecting old Scottish varieties, and has started Scotland the Bread, with the intention of drawing on heritage to radically change Scotlands agro-food scene where currently all bread wheat is imported.

 

Andrew Wilkinson packed in a life in the British Forces, and went to agricultural college.  Having bought a conventional farm he was struck by how hard it was to make a buck and decided to take the risk and convert to organic.  Being an ambitious chap he also decided to do a PhD in wheat genetics and managed to create his own variety, drawing on these heritage traits and suitable for organic farming.  He’s also installed a big stone mill at his farm so that he can add value to his harvest, and to close the loop has a herd of cows which happily munch the bran.

 

Andrew Cato got disillusioned DJ-ing to mega-crowds with Groove Armada and is farming heritage varieties in the South of France using horses, Amish principes, and is also milling and baking on site.

 

Finally, here in London and a mentor to me is Andy Forbes of Brockwell Bake who started growing heritage wheat on his allotment in Brockwell and has now collaborated with farmers around the country to grow heritage wheat.

 

Installing our own mill at e5 has provided an opportunity to work directly with farmers.  Oscar of Duchess Farm in Hertfordshire is up for finding new business opportunities so jumped in and sowed 10 acres with a mixed, heritage population wheat we had received in a circuitous way from a German biodynamic institute.  He has just harvested and we have 11 tonnes ready to mill.  Oscar crunched the numbers with me earlier today.  On his conventional wheat he had an average yield of 3.8T, ours was 1.1T/acre.  But, because he didn’t spray with anything his costs were much lower, and because we are buying directly from him, it is financially beneficial to grow the wheat for us.  He is planning to convert a portion of the farm to organic, so fingers crossed this is the start of something very good.

 

Ben Mackinnon – e5 Founder

Journeying into the world of milling

As you may know, we at e5 are on a mission to use 100% UK grown organic flour.  Surprisingly, such a thing is extremely hard to find, especially in the quantity, 2 tonnes a week, that we need.  So 2 years ago we brought an a 70 cm Tyroll stone mill in order to mill grain and make our own flour.  These past 2 years have been a big adventure.  The Tyrol mill has a composite stone e.g. cement, with chips of an extremely hard volcanic rock embedded into them.  Relying on the weight of the rotating top stone to crush the grains, the abrasive surface rips, shreds and crushes the berry, before it is passed into the sifting chamber.  Variously sized screens, in the range of 100 micron up 1140 micron can be selected to give different grades of flour.

 

Fresh, stoneground flour is higher in nutrients and fibre than roller milled flour, on account of the germ and parts of the bran entering the flour.  This reduces shelf life as the oils can oxidise, but used fresh the flour creates dough that expounds with life and flavour.

 

Millers talk about extraction rates, meaning the proportion of white flour from the endosperm that is extracted through the sieves from the whole grain.  With the Tyroll mill the bran is splintered by the stones and consequently more small pieces pass through even a fine screen making, hence the extraction rate can become misleading.  From the baking perspective, a mill which reduces the bran to fine pieces can be an advantage when making wholemeal bread, but for whiter breads the bran cuts the gluten meaning the bread will be flatter and denser, not the result we often want to achieve.

 

Andy Forbes of Brockwell Bake had begun to take an interest in our milling.  For almost a decade Andy had been researching heritage varieties of wheat, and milling his own wheat to use in his doughs.  Andy had been using a French mill of the design developed in the 1970’s by the Astrier brothers.  As Andy’s requirements changed his mill became available and we agreed to rent it from him.  There were a number of benefits to this style of mill; 

 

1. It has granite stones from quarries in Tarn near Toulouse.  The top granite stone is forced down under pressure, using a simple spring and crank mechanism.  The bran layer is peeled off the berry in large chunks as is passes from the centre of the stone towards the edge, finally on the outer edge of the stone the exposed endosperm  is ground before being passed to a long rotating screen.  This results in a higher extraction whiter flour

 

2. From a  practical perspective the Astrier mill is favourable, in contrast to the Tyroll mill where bags are filled, and manually replaced, the Astrier can fill multiple bags.  The set up we have now allows 7 bags to fill with approximately 140kg in total of flour. This means the mill can run untended for around 12 hours.

 

Although we have considered retrofitting our Tyroll mill with a similar sack feed mechanism we have decided that we will be better investing in a new Astrier mill for the bakehouse.  Andy’s mill has a 50cm stone, allowing us to mill at most 1 tonne of grains, or 800kg of flour per week.  It’s a fine amount, but not quite enough for us.

 

We had identified Moulins des bons Sens a manufacturer near Toulouse, and so on the week before Christmas Eyal, Ed and myself took an early flight.  We were met at the airport by Greg Barres, an ex e5 baker who’s moved home to open his own micro bakery at his parents farm, and who was happy to drive us around.  

 

Bernard’s workshop could conservatively be described as draughty, it was bitingly cold as we admired hoppers made from chestnut, large slabs of granite, grinders for cutting the grooves out of the stone using simple chipboard forms as guides, creating the unconventional spiralling design he prefers.

 

“Let’s go” Bernard says, charging down the rural roads, following his Merc we soon arrive the farm and bakery of Tomas, a young boulanger paysan.  To qualify as a baker in France is fraught with red tape, requires a long period of study and often involves ties to a large mill.   This, plus a philosophical appreciation of a more ecological, almost spiritual appreciation of the role of bakers, has seen a torrent of new bakers belonging to the boulanger paysan movement, which requires that you grown, mill and bake your bread, and usually in a wood fired oven.  These are the trailblazers of the baking world.  Tomas, in his early 30’s has taken oven his grandparents farm and commandeered part of the barn into a bakery with an amazing wood fired oven and an Astrier style mill, built by Bernard in a neighbouring room.  Tomas has been growing several different varieties, some that have been grown in the Toulouse region for over 100 years.  He has constructed breeze block silos in the barn to hold his grain, adapted to allow air to be blown up into them to ensure no moisture builds up, putting the wheat at risk of mould.  It should be stored at 13% moisture, although in the 24 hours before milling it is beneficial to bring the moisture content back up to 16%, encouraging better separation of bran from endosperm.  A very clean cement mixture was on hand, by the mill, for Tomas to mix the water in.

 

We also visited Michel who has been farming wheat and beef cattle for more than 30 years, and milling as long.  He worked with the Astrier brothers to build his own mill, and was proud to show us the mill which has been a workhorse for 30 years.  “It’s made me a lot of money” he said proudly, patting the box of the sieving chamber.  It’s not often you meet a happy farmer who feels he’s doing alright.  Michel was also growing ancient varieties and appreciated the requirements of bakers so would mix certain wheats in for flavour and others for strength.

 

We were impressed on our short trip to France by the diversity and availability of different wheat varieties, and the number of farmer millers, or miller bakers, or a combination of the three.

 

We are excited to place an order for a mill soon, and to continue to learn about the intricacies of milling and develop more links with farms growing diverse varieties.

 

Ben Mackinnon – e5 Founder

Fukuoka’s farm

The words of Christ, that even Solomon in all his glory could not compare with a single white lily. convey an eternal truth.  

The smile of the Buddha, when he stood atop a mountain and held up a single flower, must not remain an eternal riddle.

 

Masonobu Fukuoka, natural farmer and philosopher, (1913 – 2008)

 

Masonobu Fukuoka became a farmer in the 1930’s in the province of Ehime, on Shikoku island, Japan.  At age 25, he describes himself as a typical young man.  A believer in Science, working in the plant inspection division of Yokohama Customs Bureau, spending his spare time peering into a microscope.  Fukuoka goes on to describe how an abrupt change his character came about as he began to question the meaning of life.  He had an epiphany after a night of rambling and was struck by a message from Kami, the God of Nature.  For 6 months, he describes feeling elated, and then the conviction began to wear off, but he was never the less, irreversibly a changed man.

 

In the late 30’s he moved back to his homeland to live alone in a hut on top of a hill, and began to prepare to start his natural farm.  Although filled with the intention, it appears little was put into practice before he was drafted to serve in WWII where we worked for the agricultural experimentation station.

 

After war Fukuoka returned, “the next day I went to work in the fields, savouring the joy of having become myself again”  Since that time he did not veer from the path of natural farming.  His practice, forged through repeated failures, is a method of successive plantings of rice and winter grains, using a non cultivation and direct broadcast technique.  This is his infamous technique of packing seeds into clay balls and distributing them by lobbing around the land.  Alongside cereals he cultivated natural orchards.  Hard to believe, but he describes himself as, “a lazy fellow farming for the fun of it”, and in such a way, almost half a century passed.

 

We visited the farm this October.  Masanobu-san has passed away now, and leaves his son and grandson continuing to farm the patchwork of small fields and hillside orchards.  Methods of cultivation have changed, rice and wheat are now directly planted using seed drills, rather than clay balls.  But in the citrus orchards a natural pruning technique is practiced, and the ethos of the farm is to resist technological modernisation unless necessary and to continue farming in as natural, and organic a manner as possible.  No inorganic pesticides or fertilisers are used although manure is brought on site from local animal farms.

 

At 8:20 a.m ten of us assembled in the big barn and spent 5 minutes limbering up with some stretches to jolly music. Feeling suitably invigorated we hopped into a small car and drove a few minutes to the rice fields we would be working in.  Rice plants grow in bunches of 10 or so stalks.  The first job I had was to hand harvest the corners of the small fields to allow the mechanised, push along, reaper binder to get to action.  I used a hand sickle to cut several bunches in succession before being piling these on the bank, and after adding another three these were bound together using a few stalks of last years rice.  

 

Next I joined Simone, a French carpenter who lives locally and today the only other foreigner, to construct drying beams.  We used a truly enormous wooden mallet to bash in 3 posts to make a tripod and then walked around 5 metres from this and repeated.  The tops of the tripod spiked up allowing a long beam to be cradled running between these 2 tripods and supplementary supports of wood were added.  There was much lining up of the cradles, and checking stability lest strong winds blow the drying harvest over.  Simone explained the beam should be low enough for everyone to comfortably stack the rice stalks onto, but not so low that there isn’t adequate air flow to dry them.

 

Fukuoka’s grandson, Haruka was one of several people pushing along the small reaper binder, whilst his son, now around seventy, was busy setting up drying rails and stacking the bushels of rice onto them to dry, and it was Haruka who called time, and we all gathered on a bank for mid morning break.

 

A selection of fizzy drinks, with names like Miracle Body were handed out, which despite ourselves we relished, on this hot steamy day.  We explained to the group how we came to be at the farm, that my sister had picked up a copy of Fukuoka-san’s most celebrated book, ‘The One Straw Revolution’ whilst at an ashram in India, and left it with me on her return.  Although I had never read it cover to cover it has been a cherished possession and often dipped into when inspiration needed.  It was this, and that a bakehouse customer had been here and often mentioned that he felt it was a place that held interesting lessons and could put us in contact if wished.  

 

Thirty years ago the regional government announced a new road was to be constructed, and it happened to go straight through Fukuoka’s hillside farm, he garnered support, petitioned and the road now at least misses the hill.  

 

The farm has become hemmed in by noisy roads and train tracks.  This is quite common in Japan, with over 70% of the country wild forested hills, the 160 million population are fairly packed into the flat valley bottoms, and following a re distribution of land following WWII to the population, mega farms tend not to be common.  Rather, myriad patches of rice paddies and market gardens are found in and around towns.  Despite the hum of traffic a river rushed past with orange and white koi carp resting in their favourite spots.

 

Our task was now to hang the bundles of rice onto the drying rail.  Bushels were split 70:30 and pushed, with ears hanging down, alternately onto the rail. I imagined it to be a bit like thatching, as we needed to compress the bushels as much as possible to save space and make the structure as water tight as possible.  A 2nd tier was added, this time bushels divided 50:50 and taking care that the ears hang freely rather than getting caught and trapped in the ridge where they would go mouldy.

 

Hundreds of dragonflies, perhaps feeding on insects we had disturbed, whilst armies of dogs hopped to the edge of the field croaking greetings to the lizards, crickets and praying mantis they passed on their way.

 

After lunch Simone took us to the original house on the hill and large octagonal barn constructed in the 1970’s with a group of international volunteers.  Here we found the remnants of the arboretum and forest garden Masanobu-san planted with seeds collected from his travels.  His heirs have left this upland area to return to wilderness, although they say if someone wanted to restore it, they would be welcome.  Architecture students recently took measurements from the site before it is taken by the forest.

 

I was intrigued to see a 3rd generation organic farm.  Most of my experience is in Europe with relatively new start ups, fresh energy, drive and ideas.  Seeing something that has experienced that euphoric inception, and then continued was valuable.  There is no doubt making ends meet has been a challenge to the Fukuokas.  Food prices are already very high in Japan so farming organically must make it tricky to be competitive.  Plus, it is my understanding, that until recently organic has been less appreciated here than in Europe or N America.  But for all that they are thriving.  We visited the citrus plantations, winding up steep narrow concrete roads in a tiny car.  We passed kiwi vines, and leaning against the edge of the roadside were thousands of logs, all inoculated with Shitake culture.  A big log can produce for 5 years I was told. Surplus fruit is turned into marmalade or fruit juice, sold under the farms own label.  Once we returned to the field many of our co workers had finished for the day.  Contrary to Japan’s typical work culture, where 30 hours of overtime is common per week, the Fukuokas adopt a relaxed and flexible attitude.

 

At a time when Japan may be questioning what progress is, the unabashedly ambitious, and deeply spiritual teachings of Masanobu-san, interpreted through two generations of gentle, yet diligent and astute farms, could prove to be a model to aspire to.

 

 

The accommodation was pretty basic, futons on the dusty floor of a once solid, now tattered farmhouse.  The kitchen may not have been cleaned in places since the 1970’s, but all of this was made up for by the hospitality and also the reasoning that they are very busy.  I hope a WWOOFER with lots of goodwill will clear it up one day. 

 

http://www.onestrawrevolution.net/One_Straw_Revolution/One-Straw_Revolution.html

 

Ben MacKinnon – e5 Founder. 

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

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