Fresh Loaf Visitor
I don't have time to post so regularly at the moment. I am baking lots of bread, and continuing to work hard to develop my business.
I have finished my spell working at Dunbar, and am now pushing forward with my quest to have a small bakery of my own, preferably here in Powburn, where I live. I will write more on this, no doubt, as it progresses. For now, I have secured a 2 deck electric oven, and have access to various bits of kit and machinery to add to what I already own. That's enough to get started, so discussions now centre on securing premises; that is underway.
In the meantime, we are continuing to supply the Farmers' Markets at both Alnwick and Hexham. Last Friday, we sold out at Alnwick around 12:30pm, even though the weather was pretty poor. Feedback about the bread continues to be very positive, and now there are a few outlets approaching in search of regular wholesale supply.
So, I am really happy with the progress, although am keen to get into a full-production situation as soon as possible.
We had a very welcome guest come to stay with us in Powburn recently. En route to join his wife for a holiday in Prague after she had completed a period of study, TFL's Franko, a fellow professional baker who lives on Vancouver Island, came to the UK for a much-anticipated short trip.
We baked for, and attended the Hexham Farmers' Market together and enjoyed some relaxing time out in Northumberland with my wife, Alison, as well.
I picked Franko up from our local railway station in bright sunshine on Wednesday afternoon. It is a longhaul from Vancouver Island, so the traveller needed some rest. But we baked 2 full days after that. On the Thursday we used my wood-fired oven here at home, and dived into some of the flour which my friend had brought over from North America. Photograph below:
The Red Fife is quite delicious; organic wholewheat, a traditional strain which is the base of nearly all the strong modern wheat varieties used to produce today's Canadian strong wheat. It has a great history which takes in both Hungary and Scotland en route to Canada too, back in the 19th Century. The King Arthur All-Purpose flour confirmed what I had long-suspected. It is a bread flour by UK standards; it makes a delightful loaf of bread, although my preference is to avoid all-white bread as many here know. Mixing the King Arthur flour with some Red Fife and a small portion of rye sourdough created a very tasty loaf. We made the dough into miches...quite big ones too at c.1.5kg. I had recently bought some Swiss Dark Flour as a treat from the Shipton Mill website. I didn't have a clue about the strength of the flour, but had an e-mail from Clive at Shipton explaining thatthe flour was milled in a way which captures the Pollard streams. Kent (4th ed; 1994) makes reference to Pollard as an Australian term for wheatfeed, implying it is the layers of the grain inside of the bran layers, and outside of the endosperm. Sounds like the aleurone layer to me, although I lay no claim to expert knowledge of milling. Anyway, the flour produced a lovely dark loaf. We made this using my wheat levain only, plus a little salt, of course. Lastly, we made some 100% rye loaves, as Franko was on a mission to discover more about the Bacheldre Organic Whiolegrain Rye flour which I have been using for sometime now. Some of it went back to Canada to reciprocate for the gifts brought for out UK baking. We made some Borodinsky loaves and some Black Pumpernickel. Both are 100% rye, and use complex 3-stage fermentation.
The next day we had a very early start to visit my colleague Nigel, and bake all the bread for the Hexham Market, and more besides; c.130 loaves. Overnight temperatures were very warm, and my leaven was "over" by the time I got up at 03:30! I got away with the Spelt dough, somehow [the visiting pro being largely responsible for salvation]. But I decided to refresh the leaven once again before using it to make the doughs for Gilchesters and the Five Grain. The Gilchesters' is made with local high extraction flour, and I had 2 doughs in excess of 10kg on the production schedule. So we made the dough at Nigel's house. It all worked very well indeed. Nigel had made his white dough overnight, and had a Golden Linseed and Light Rye made besides. I took the Spelt dough and then made the Gilchesters and Five Grain doughs, plus 10kg paste for Moscow Rye.
Man on the Oven:
It all seems like a lot of work. But, with 3 bakers, and a wood-fired oven which holds 40 x 600g loaves to bake on the sole of the oven at any one time; well it all went very smoothly and we had finished baking early-mid afternoon in record time. Nigel's oven is such a serious beast, so once fired, it holds the heat in for many hours.
Franko and I drove to Hexham early Saturday morning and set up our market stall. Nigel arrived with the bread which we set out for display. The bread was great; a pleasure to sell. Two of us behind the stall meant we could create a great ambience too, and this meant we sold out of bread around 13:00. There is much competition for bread bakers on the Hexham market....4 of us, and there are a few outlets within the main shopping centre which offer artisan bread as well. I love to sell out of bread; a friendly companion alongside made it even more enjoyable.
We rested up a little late Saturday afternoon, then Alison drove us to the beautiful Northumberland Coast, where we had a table booked in a lovely pub at Newton-by-the-Sea....a big favourite of ours. We went down onto the beach first, and soaked up some evening sunshine. Alison took these fine photos on her phone! The impressive castle in the background is Dunstanburgh; we so love the Northumberland Coast!
After Franko left bound for Prague, I had to set to and bake for the Alnwick Farmers' Market coming up the following Friday. I baked flat-out for 3 days, producing over 30 loaves each day on my little wood-fired oven. It was enough, and I turned up on Friday just gone with several basket loads of bread and a range of pastries. I was joined by my neighbour Anna too. She is not only a champion of our bread, she is a great salesperson too! So, I was home before 13:00h, with a load of empty baskets.
Today I have been baking again. You can see the breads I have made in the photographs below. Nigel is catering for a group of 20 walkers following the St. Cuthbert's Way, which runs through Powburn. He baked some bread for the first leg of the walk, and is calling here to collect replenishment! I baked more bread besides; some for my business partner, whose family I have lined up as taste-testers for when I get into production -proper. Also, I have landed an account with a business called Muddy Boots, which will open as a cafe in the former Visitor Centre at Ingram in the National Park....it's only 5km from Powburn, into the Cheviot hills. So there were more samples for Jan [owner] to collect and try.
Seeded Sourdough and Five Grain Levain:
Well, I'll try to keep you all posted with further progress as and when it happens. The game remains natural leavens and organic flours; for the moment it's wood-fired brick ovens too. And, in the long term, larger-scale baking on brick ovens remains the goal. Plus teaching, Consultancy, Community baking...let's keep real bread alive and drive it forward here in the UK.
Very best wishes to everyone