Farm to Loaf event at e5 – tickets available now

We’re very excited to be hosting a day of talks where farmers, millers, heritage wheat specialists and sourdough bakers who’ve inspired us over the last five years will come together, exchange ideas and talk about their experiences to the public.  We’ll be thinking about the evolution of grains, heritage varieties, milling methods and our experience moving towards baking with UK grown stoneground flour. Sheila Dillon (BBC Food Programme) will be chairing discussions with our speakers and attendees. 


Tickets include entrance and all refreshments, a seasonal organic lunch and tastings of e5 sourdough. 


Tickets available here:

Speakers as follows:
Per Grupe and Fintan Keenan
The Danish approach. Inter-row tillage, Scandi land races, on farm milling (Practical Knowledge Transfer).


Nick Fradgely, Organic Research Centre
Developing unique wheat populations for organic plant breeding and research on maintaining healthy soils.

John Clohesy
What farmers can do to make their wheat best suited for bread making.




Andrew Wilkinson, Gilchesters Organics
Pioneering Farmer and wheat breeder. Story of organic conversion and serving up on site milling operations.


John Letts, Archaeo-botanists and Farmer
Collection of heritage varieties, farming approach and milling results.


Nicolas Supiot
Pioneer of Boulanger-Paysan movement in France. Discusses wood-fired oven baking, heritage farming and sourdough baking. Think Soil. 


Jojo Tulloh
How hard is it to grow your own flour?  UK food writer Jojo looks at the history behind England’s wheat fields and brings it up to the present day ahead of her new book.


Kate Hayter, e5 baker
Talks on how shifting to UK grown stoneground flour has needed adaptations in recipes and techniques (Live demo).


Andy Forbes
Leading researcher in applied heritage grain farming. Talks about how to broaden take up by farmers, to get amazing flour to bakers. 


 Andrew Whitley

Scotland The Bread project, the question of nutrient density in wheat development, and the public health implications of differing milling and baking choices.


Yard work.

With the summer sun just around the corner we decided it was time to put a little love and attention into the yard space at the back of the bakery. Not only because sunshine means we can once again enjoy our staff lunches outside; but along with the opening of the new arch we’re hoping to be able to offer up the extra seating space to our brunch customers too. 


Rubble and mulch

Rubble and mulch


Taking the few plants we had growing on the roof of our shipping container as a starting point we’ve been busy transforming the yard a greener place to be. Making good use of the lost objects hanging around by transforming them into a potential planters for our growing seedlings. 





The new e5 gardening club, which runs every Tuesday led by our green fingered KP Sofia, have been busy planting a mix of flowers and herbs in their new beds.  We were pleased to be able to use some of the rubble from the recent building work as a base followed by mulch provided by the kind folk at Bootstrap roof garden in Dalston. So far, we’ve got a mix of rocket, dill and mustard as well as sunflowers, poppies and nasturtiums. 




We’re hoping that come summer the seedlings will be flourishing, and we’ll be able to use the herbs and flowers growing in our cafe and kitchen.


Last week also saw the arrival of these three ladies to the bakehouse yard garden. So far they seem to settling into yard life nicely but we’ll keep you updated…


The ladies


Just (Flat)Bread

Every Tuesday morning for the last month, eight refugee women have been joining the team at e5 on a unique bread making course. 


The Just Bread program, funded by The Refugee Council, was created to support the therapeutic needs of refugee women, whilst enabling them to learn new baking skills and ultimately paving the way to regular employment in this country.  Together with weekly bread making classes here at the bakery, participants also receive on-going employment support, English classes and other training opportunities to ensure they have a real chance of finding employment and building a future for themselves in the UK.


photo 3 

Following the success of the first group based at a bakery in South London, when we were approached to be involved in working with the second round of trainees we were immediately keen. The eight women hail from several countries from North Africa to the Middle East and their eclectic knowledge of cuisines and baking proved an inspiring starting point. 


We began with a general introduction to sourdough and the chemical processes involved in turning three basic ingredients into a loaf of bread.  The group quickly got involved in baking their first Hackney Wild loaf, then moved on to experiment with other European breads such as ciabatta and bagels.


 photo 5


Over the following few weeks the classes naturally evolved into sharing and exchanging recipes and methods from traditional forms of bread making. Blending the sourdough processes they’ve learned with flavours and techniques familiar to the women involved.

So far, this experimentation has included Turcoman and Tibetan flatbreads made using a buckwheat and a buttermilk starter; and with the help of chef Ruth Quinlan the group have also been experimenting with creating some savoury salads and dips to complement the flatbreads.


photo 2photo 1


We’re very excited to see what happens as we continue; and the next step looks to see the women selling their fusion sourdough flatbreads together with tasty sides as part of our usual lunch service.  Keep an eye out in May not only for these delicious flat bread offerings but also the opening of our new arch.


We’re happy to let you in a secret…the 3rd arch is not only home to the e5 Mill but also our brand spanking new wood fired pizza oven!  So we’re also excited to confirm that some of the trainees will be working with e5, providing wood-fired flatbreads and toppings at Secret Cinema’s production this summer. 

Milling at e5


At e5 we make our bread with as few ingredients as possible so it’s important to us to understand every step of where those ingredients come from. This in turn is partly why it’s always been a priority for us to use British flour in our baking as much as possible. However this can be hard task in the quantity we require. 


This ideal led us to the idea of milling our own flour; not only to have more control over where the grains we use come from but to have access to flour milled on site at its freshest, giving us more flavoursome and nutritious bread. 


We hope to form strong relationships with the farms providing our grains. Creating partnerships with famers so that we have in depth knowledge of growing conditions and soil treatment as well as having more information on the nutritional values of different types of grain in our breads.


P1226772In the past it’s been difficult for us to use solely British grains as they naturally have a much lower protein content, which is why there is so much imported grain from Canada and Kazakhstan. It is the protein content in the flour which gives the bread its strength and rise which is why our gilchester buns (made form 100% british flour) have much less volume than a Hackney Wild. 







































However, we’re determined to experiment with British varieties until we find the right combination to give us the results we want and stay true to our values.


Knowing that stone milling is essential for cold extraction of flour causing minimal damage to the vitamins and essential oils present in grains we contacted Austrian company Osttiroler Getreidemuhen. They have have been operating in the mill industry for 77 years and supplied us with a beautiful pine wood artisan stone mill with special cut stones to guarantee the best quality of flour.


Initially we contacted farmers from across Britain as well as France, Sweden and the Netherlands to get a variety of grain to experiment with. After trying many combinations our bakers found they were getting some nice results with a mix of paragon and amaretto grains, both grown in the UK, but they’re far from finished. We hope that in the future we can focus more on heritage varieties however this is something we’ll need to look to working towards as we develop partnerships with farmers.   


Our next step is to improve our own knowledge by learning from the passionate farmers and millers we currently work with.  Such as Andrew from Gilchesters Organic farm in Northumberland who has over 8 years of experience within organic crop research. Over the next months he has kindly agreed to share his years of experience in milling with us for some training. Keep your eyes peeled for further experimental breads for sampling in the bakehouse as we continue. 



Gilchester’s Organic Farm Visit


As the sun rose over east London a small group of us (four two-legged, one four-legged) left e5 Bakehouse to begin a journey that would take us just south of the Anglo-Scottish border and back in one day.


Our brief excursion could be described as a pilgrimage of sorts. Our destination; Gilchester’s Organic Farm, Northumberland, where Andrew and Billie Wilkinson are growing and milling some of what we consider to be the best quality grains available in the UK. With the flour from Gilchester’s giving rise to many of our most-loved breads ( the heritage wholemeal, fruit loaf, Gilchester buns and most recently, our bread sticks ), we wanted to learn more about Andrew and Billie’s important work with heritage varieties of wheat and what it’s like to grow in the unpredictable climate of the UK.



Upon picking us up from Newcastle train station, we immediately began to bombard Andrew with a raft scientific questions. Possessing a PHD in wheat genetics, luckily he was well-used to explaining the intricacies of grain. We touched on phytic acid, and the importance of slow fermentation in releasing the nutrients held in flour and making them digestible. The subjects of nutrition and fermentation were to crop up throughout the day, between us we made good use of Andrew’s formidable intellect and patience…




Arriving at the farm, we received the warmest welcome possible from Billie, who supplied us with much-needed coffee and muffins warm from the Aga. The farm is where the family live and work, and raising children in a chemical and pesticide-free environment was crucial to the Wilkinsons. The farm utilises age-old practices, and employs an animal husbandry program rotating fields of wheat for grazing of rare breed cattle. They are also committed to reinstating hedgerows to promote wildlife. However, farming these lands is immensely unpredictable, and the weather over the last few years has not been kind to Gilchester’s, resulting in severe flooding and bad harvests. Happily though, with a good harvest this year conditions are also looking favourable for a good crop next year. 




















































One of Andrew’s areas of expertise is in older varieties of wheat that predate the introduction of agro-chemicals, pesticides and chemical fertilisers. Modern varieties of wheat are bred for a higher yield, and ease of harvest, and due to legislation there are only few companies and varieties which can be legally sold which means the genetic diversity is significantly less than historically when farmers held back seed from previous years sharing and selling their seed through an unregulated market system.

Andrew’s wheat is selected from Swiss seed banks and grows at over twice the height of the modern varieties  This also means it has deep root systems which draw up more minerals and nutrients from the soil than modern varieties which has a favourable impact on flavour.



In the barn where he mills, Andrew combines the skill of the artisan combined with the efficiency of modern machinery to get the very best from his wheat. The grains are thoroughly cleaned before being milled on volcanic Naxos stone. Andrew informs us that the stone mill is an inherently cold extraction process that causes minimal damage to the vitamins and essential oils present in the grains.

His methods produce some of the finest and most consistent wholemeal we have come across at the Bakehouse. A testament to his experience and his finely-tuned ear. The milling equipment, cutting edge and industrial though it is, is also incredibly attractive and artisanal in appearance being crafted of pale wood. We commented that in no other industry had we seen such high-tech machinery that looks this beautiful. 



Our day ended with a walk lit by the waning afternoon sun through stubble from this year’s harvest to a field beginning to sprout with next summer’s spelt crop. To see the farm for ourselves, and all the hard work and care that goes into producing the flour we receive was a real privilege, and we hope Gilchester’s grains become more and more integral to our work at the Bakehouse.

Maili Saba.

As some of you may know, Ben has flown the bakehouse for a couple of weeks to help with an exciting project in Kenya.  He’s helping to train a team of bakers for a brand new bakehouse in Maili Saba, a lodge around 20 miles from Nakuru, Kenya’s 4th largest city.  The bakery will operate as an extension of the valuable work of two charities; UJIMA and PEEK. 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.


In this post Ben reports back after the first week to let us know how he’s getting on…


Today was the final day of a 2 day baking workshop for a group of potential bakers.  They have been selected via the Ujima and PEEK charities and principally Madeleine Bastawrous, the driving force behind UJIMA bakehouse.

Madeleine spent several years in Nakuru with her husband as he established the PEEK eye care programme which is now gaining momentum as a revolutionary means of using technology to restore eyesight to the many in rural areas who do not have access to diagnosis.


During their time here in Kenya they noticed how limited bread and bakeries are (there’s basically a white or brown tin loaf).  Little consideration is given to improving quality, variety or nutritional value.  The breads contain sugars, oils and other additives and are undoubtedly not a healthy option, but there are a considerable number of people, ex-pat and local who are crying out for a change.  Madeleine and Andrew spotted this opportunity and began to dream.


They contacted e5 back in summer 2013 and we invited them to join us for a bread class.  During the class Mads shared her vision for a Maili Saba bakehouse and I offered my services, which is how, 18 months down the line, I come to be here.  On my first day I headed into town on the hunt for flour accompanied by the director of the new bakehouse, Redempta; she’s amazing with people and great at organising, which is just as well.  

Happily, serendipity had struck the evening before when Shanti Shah came over to my table and wished us a good evening, it transpired he owns two bakeries in town.  I’m not sure what he really thought about our project, I was quick to assure him it was a small bakery!  Next day, Redempta and I rock up to his place and have a look around.  Tobias, the baker tips us off about Pembe Mill, and later that day we find the depot in town.  90kg is the only size they offer so we load up the truck with the  flour as well as picking up 20kg of wholemeal flour from supermarkets. 


The training took place at Maili Saba.  The bakehouse itself has been kitted out with fuse switches for oven and mixer, and tiled from floor to ceiling.  The equipment should arrive next week, so for now we used the lodges kitchen.


To begin with I tried to put the group at ease, if a hapless fool like me can get a bakery going they have to be in with a good chance!  However it was in the kitchen that we really started to relax.  


The starter I had brought from London had been refreshed the day before to make a 100% hydration leaven.  The next day it looked fantastic, bubbly and elastic.  An overnight kitchen temp of 14C allowing for a long, slow ferment.


We made a range of breads, 73% hydration white, 83% hydration wholemeal, and bit of a wild card, an 87% hydration with white and wholemeal at 50:50 ratio. As well as a yeasted ciabatta dough using a biga prepped the evening before following a browse of Hammelman’s book with the kitchen team.


We were using a charcoal oven which we hadn’t quite cranked up enough so breads didn’t get the oven spring I would have wished and sealed quickly in a dry heat.  However they did work, and there were favourable comments from the guests and trainees we served it to at dinner that evening.


Day 2 has been more upbeat! We worked on bagels, a Maili Saba white at 75% hydration and the Mailia Saba Wild at 87% hydration.  As well as using up leftover leaven to make some delicious crackers, seasoned with rosemary, sea salt and black pepper and finished off with some awesome multigrain loaves as well.


This time we fired the oven hard and got some great tanned crusts and big spring.  Everyone went home feeling they’d learnt about the history of our bread culture, the biology of grains and science of sourdough, and with a big bag of bread to share with friends and family.


Next week we’re back to it! Hopefully with a commercial bread oven and a pitch at a local school where we hope to offer samples and drum up interest.


Stay tuned for the next installment…In the mean time you can find out more about PEEK at this link; Below are images of the flour sourced and Ben with some of the UJIMA volunteers.

Maili Saba continued…

Second installment from Ben’s adventure in Kenya hot off the emails. He’s spent the past few days getting back to basics with a family on a rural farm and learning about the work of the Kenyan Agricultural Research Institute. Read on for more…


With the initial training completed I headed down to visit one of the two projects the Ujima bakehouse will be funding.  St Mary’s hospice is a general hospital that offers affordable treatment to anyone on a first come, first serve basis.  Our rendez vous was with Michelle who, having worked a career in public health back in Canada, felt impelled to stay on after a holiday in Kenya to do what she could. That was almost 7 years ago.


PEEK has been working closely with the St Mary’s eye department, developing more resource efficient field testing equipment and diagnosis.  Myself and the camera team making the film for Mazda (who donated $100,000 to PEEK and Ujima bakehouse), donned the necessary robes, slippers and masks and entered into the operating theatre.  I was totally blown away watching a cataract on a lens. There was such incredibly intricate work involved in an operation that lasted less than 30 mins, and then straight away another patient is brought in.  St Mary’s service is bringing back sight to tens of thousands’s every year.


I had been recommended to visit Kate and Jonny Brooks, a young couple with a herd of children living on the slopes above the hospital.  I was met at the roadside by Andrew, their eldest son, and clambered on the back of his scrambler for the ascent along dirt roads to their house.  They bought their 11 acre plot a year ago, disregarding the fact that 50% of it was rocks, so long as there was enough soil to farm and feed their family of five biological and six adopted children.  


Over the past year they have erected a large barn made from wattle and daub, essentially mud of wooden battons, which serves as kitchen, bedroom and bathroom.  The floor’s are made from cob, essentially well mixed mud with a dung and ash screed on top.  To gain some kind of acceptance with the tribe I capitalised on my baking reputation and set about reviving an ailing sourdough starter Kate had on the go.  


Out on the porch is a cob oven, a 3 inch dome of compact cob, covered by another 5 inches of mud with straw mixed through it to encourage insulation.  The next day we mixed dough and got the oven roaring.  Alongside that, we made pizzas for the family and some more guests who were visiting.  The pizza dough was 65% hydration and made a pleasant base, the 75% bread dough was also used for bases and personally I preferred this.  There’s no way you would roll this one with a pin, and only minimal opening is required as it’s a loose and elastic dough. The bread got a great oven spring, probably on account of the oven being, in hindsight, somewhere around 330C, the loaves developed a nice black crust, which some of us enjoyed and others fed to the pigs. The mozzarella on the pizzas was made by Kate’s own fair hands. They have two cows and a little bull and which they milk daily and use to make several cheeses.   Two piglets have also joined the family recently; along with two donkeys, two horses, two rabbits and plenty of hens.  In hindsight, it’s a veritable ark!


My accommodation was in a reciprocal roofed cob roundhouse and all of the water on site was harvested, waste composted and electricity generated from the sun.  Our lifestyle in the west can so easily become heavily consumerist so it was refreshing to spend some time in an environment like this. I walked out of the Shire on Sunday afternoon refreshed and ready to get back to the noise of Nakuru to prepare for the coming week.



Redempta and I spent Monday arranging equipment for the bakehouse; shelves, tea towels, peels, mops and buckets. However we saved the middle of the day for something more interesting…  

In an effort to understand more about availability of good quality, organic bread making wheat we paid a visit to KARI. The Kenyan Agricultural Research Institute is set in beautiful grounds about 20 miles from Nakuru and we were greeted by Godwin, Lucy and John. We learnt that their work is focused on breeding new varieties of wheat which will be resistant to rusts.  (Rusts are a type of fungus which destroy the wheat plant.)  In the West we have a specific growing season and a short period between harvest and planting when the land is fallow, as such rust is far less prevalent.  In Kenya, the crop can be grown year round seeing much more spread of the rusts.  


Alongside this, they are training millers in how to avoid cross contamination, especially when importing grain from overseas, and they develop wheats with good bread making qualities, basically protein content.


I explained how at e5 we are increasingly interested in the nutritional qualities of the grain, and the flavour, going on to explain the work of farmers like John Letts, who is building populations of heritage varieties, and Michael Wolfe of Elm Farm with his land races.  Both approaches are better suited to organic farming systems, have greater genetic resistance to pests, disease and climatic extremes, and present better nutrition through deeper root systems.


The team at KARI seemed inspired by this news and hopefully in their field visits will appreciate the work of smaller farmers who are saving seed year after year with potentially resistant strains.  It is great to know we have an ally in these guys.


Below is an image of Kate’s cob!

Maili Saba – wind down

The final installment of Ben’s trip to Kenya…at least until the new year!


The last 2 days have been an explosion of activity, testing nerves, cursing missed details, but ultimately of things taking shape in just the way they ought.

Oven, mixer, laminator and proving cupboard arrived from Kisumu on Lake Victoria a few hours behind schedule affording Redempta and I plenty of time to pick up the storage shelf we had had made up, along with managing to arrange for a lorry mounted with a crane to accompany us to Maili saba to transfer the oven into the bakehouse.

Our convoy hit the road, Red and I, the crane, a car load of electricians and a big lorry with the gear.

When we met them in town, prior to setting off I explained how bumpy the approach road is and checked the oven was securely tied down.  I was assured it was packed in as best it could.  Now keep this in mind, it’s a detail the becomes relevant later on.

So finally we arrive on site, the great camera team from Unit 9 waiting patiently filming our approach.

Eager to cast eyes on the new toys I’m at the front of the queue to pull the tarp off the lorry.  Sad Face.  Oven has fallen over, sides have rattled off, big dent on front, proving cupboard smashed, mixer bearing the weight.

Great ingenuity sees the oven righted, winched out, hoisted up and swung onto the veranda of the Ujima bakehouse.  Yes, Ujima has a veranda.  Dusk has fallen by this time and we agree to recommence for connecting the following day.

From the outset 3 phase power was a requirement for the oven and mixer and I had been assured us on several occasions that an electrician had brought 3 phase to the bakehouse.  Unfortunately the installation team spotted what I should have noticed, the cable diameters leading into the building are way too small for 3 phase, it hasn’t been installed.  But where there’s a will…. and in the late morning an electrical wholesaler was contacted in nairobi and 30 metres of 18mm armoured cable was sent to Nakuru on a bus.

Justin and I had spent the day washing off 30 years of bakery grime and dust from the equipment, and so now, with the cable on site we may be on track to do a test bake tomorrow in time for our planned market day on Friday in Nakuru.

It’s Saturday and I have my bag packed and a series of farewells ahead of me.

Yesterday the training session was completed and the assembled received their certificates in front of a group who were at Maili Saba for a training and team building day.  They made for a nice group to offer tasters and receive feedback.

I don’t know if Redempta and the camera crew are carefully orchestrating everything, or things just have a way of turning out magically, because yesterday everything seemed to fall into place. 

The day before had been a disaster.  I had spent all day attempting to find out if the electricians were coming to finish connecting the system up, and then finally at 4 p.m. Red arrived with them. 

The trainees, Dorothy, Jedidha, Alfonse and Betty arrived early on, but we didn’t have much to do, and I was fairly bummed out.  But what that meant was that we had loads of time to hang out and get to know one another.  They’re an amazing group!

We talked about how the bakehouse may work, their fears that our ideas may be stolen, the dangers of baboons and ankle biting hyrax.  We prepared a speech, and revised the enzymatic conversion of starches to sugars in a dough.  We baked off a few remaining loaves we had retarded in the fridge and set out the table for sampling.

Whilst all this was going on the electricians were busy trying to connect up the oven, it seemed it wasn’t going to work but finally good news, 2 of the 4 decks were working as was the dough mixer. 

Finally, as the sun set we concluded our activities.  All being well I will head back out In January in order to attempt larger scale production in the bakehouse and link up with some suppliers.


Below is an image of the mighty new bakehouse oven being delivered.

Fellowes Farm

We’ve always been focused on making sustainable and local produce the heart of our operation at e5.  So we’re excited to share some news about a project we’ve been working on for the past year…


e5 have taken a step back along the supply chain and this Spring we sowed buckwheat and oats at Fellowes Farm in Suffolk where they were grown organically without chemical fertilisers or pesticides.

These are photos of their harvest in August.  Globe artichokes and rhubarb have been planted out this autumn, and we are planning to sow a Danish variety of spelt in the Spring.  


Keep an eye out for further updates!



Bra gjort Stockholm!

Kate is a proud member of the e5 baking team and a shameless scandophile. She recently went on an expedition to Stockholm, to get behind the scenes at a couple of the city’s best-loved bakeries. Below she gives us the ins and outs of what she learned!…


I’ve visited my family in Stockholm every year since I was a child, so have slowly become accustomed to those flavours which at first seemed so foreign; menthol cardamom, sour rye, bitter orange peel, blackened crusts. I’ve grown to love the bread there more than anywhere else, and I’m sure that these early encounters heavily influenced my choice of career. This month I finally got around to visiting the city in a working capacity, to get a feel for bageri life.  


Wanting to learn more about sweet dough I headed to NK, the most famous department store in the capital. My uncle tells me that for him as a child, ‘going to town’ was synonymous with a trip to NK. It is a majestic building, containing an impressive food court in the basement.  I was to join the on-site baking team, hidden away behind children’s wear on the fourth floor. It’s is a massive operation, with freezers twice the size of my bedroom and more ovens than I’d ever seen in one place. They have equipment I never knew existed, and yet everything is still shaped by hand on the vast wooden table. There’s a balance struck here between lightening-paced efficiency and professionalism, and the charm and dignity of the artisanal. 


Over the course of the week I attempted to get to grips with their trademark bun-shaping technique; a complex procedure which involves looping a strip of laminated dough around itself in such a way as to resemble a neat ball of wool. Keeping your left thumb still and using two fingers to rotate whilst winding with the other hand, you must aim for a solid construction that weighs precisely eighty five grams. If I make this process sound involved and fiddly, that’s because it is. Or at least for a beginner like myself: timing one of their bakers revealed she raced through at a rate of 3 seconds per bun. To preserve any professional credibility, I will not disclose exactly how many of my buns burst/ unravelled/ withered before they came out of the oven. Luckily the head baker Oskar was a die-hard Arsenal fan, so I just casually divulged that I went to school with Theo Walcott. As it turns out, Oskar had named his first son after him. Standing at that wooden table, shaping cardamom buns whilst Abba all too regularly flitted across the radio, I felt like I was in a living parody of Swedishness. And this was before we started talking gender equality and childcare.


The second bakery I went to was Valhalla, a compact, neighbourhood bageri, piled to the roof with stacked up sheets of hard bread, rye and raisin rolls, and huge, dark levain. The owner Mattias apparently aims for a ‘Pippi Longstocking’ style of presentation, which means no surface left bare. They’ve applied some serious analysis to every aspect of their output, not least the art of bun-baking, and are one of the only places in Stockholm to bake them fresh throughout the day. I spent a couple of dough sifts here shaping croissant and twisting baguettes, and an entire afternoon rolling a thousand chocolate balls (a mixture of raw oats, cocoa powder, butter and sugar) in desiccated coconut. These are ubiquitous in Swedish cafes but their appeal holds some mystery for me. “Do you have these in England?” the head baker Stefan asked, about seven hundred balls in. Waining slightly, and starting to resent these enigmas as my back began to ache, I replied in the negative. “Woah…that’s crazy.” he said, shaking his head uncomprehendingly.


The highlight of my fortnight began at quarter past midnight the following morning (if you can call it that).  I baked through the early hours with Alex, a wide-eyed young Swede with a strong antipodean accent thanks to working in Australia, and a friend of his from the south, Tobias, who’d been baking in a wood-fired oven since the age of 11. Serious credentials then. We mixed and shaped, baked and packed til daylight came and customers began queuing up at 7am. The bread that stays with me was their signature levain, made with white sourdough and a little yeast, and cut into two kilo strips(no shaping involved), before being baked super hot and dark for a loaf which has the organic beauty of a gnarled old tree trunk. The crust is thin and chewy, the crumb soft and aerated. 


The tradition that the Stockholm bakers are working within is so strong, it’s hard not to feel a little in awe, perhaps even envious. They are able to draw inspiration from a vast variety of regional and seasonal breads; from 100% rye sourdough to heavily-yeasted white, brittle knäckebröd to soft bullar. Dense kavring, spiced vörtbröd, black-domed Gotlands limpa, scalded bread from Skåne, fruited St Erik’s loaf: these are breads familiar to every Swedish household. Even the most basic supermarket hard bread comes in two shades, for those who prefer a darker bake. The word ‘integrity’ came to mind as I contemplated the display at Valhalla, and this I’m in no doubt this is the product of a pervasive baking tradition. It could be considered conservative, for sure, but there is so much to recommend it. Everything is imbued with a level of coherence and focus, not to mention confidence that comes from knowing exactly what you’re about, and executing it exceptionally. The customer buys into this tradition as well, demanding certain things whilst not expecting unlimited choice. This relationship ensures the preservation of a baking culture central to Swedish identity. Bra gjort Stockholm!



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