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Meet six inventive British bakers blazing a trail for better bread…

Publisher - Great British Food Awards
published by

Great British Food

Sep 07, 2018
11 minutes to read

From slow-proved sourdough obsessives to purveyors of pastries which rival the finest Parisian patisseries, meet six inventive British bakers blazing a trail for better bread. Words by Heather Taylor 

Fortitude Bakehouse, London
Sourdough bread is ubiquitous these days, but London’s Fortitude Bakehouse is the first UK bakery to use slow-fermented starters in its cakes. Opened in March this year by couple Dee Rettali and Jorge Fernandez, the compact space has a paredback feel, with its police box-blue facade and bags of flour piled by the rust-red tiled walls. The cakes stacked high on the long wooden counter which flanks an open kitchen are anything but simple, though: fat slabs of sourdough-enriched fermented orange and almond are soft and rich, with a complex flavour, while pillowy, custardfilled sourdough brioche come filled with glossy nectarines or apricots. Baker Dee nods to her Moroccan heritage in savoury bakes, such as berber-spiked omelette in sourdough babout flatbreads.

Pophams, London
This tiny north London bakery rose to fame when it opened last year thanks to a flurry of Instagram snaps of its pastries, with their endless, flaky laminated layers. Founder Ollie Gould looks to his extensive travels for inspiration, but the croissants and sourdough breads turned out by head chef Florin are rooted in classic techniques. Peanut butter, banana and jam cruffins are usually sold out by lunchtime, while inventive specials – think coconut and white rum pastries, or za’atar and sesame croissants with a herby yogurt dip – keep guests queuing every weekend.

Coombeshead Farm, Cornwall
“I just mix flour, water and salt, and the rest takes care of itself” says Ben Glazer, head baker at Coombeshead Farm, the restaurant, guesthouse and bakery set among 66 acres of meadows and oak-lined streams in Lewannick, Cornwall. Ben – who heads up the bakery and works closely with Coombeshead founders, chefs April Bloomfield and Tom Adams – is perhaps understating his skill with dough, but it’s true that the crusty, slow-fermented loaves he turns out are rooted in simplicity and tradition. “We use the best flour – primarily from Gilchesters Organics, in Northumberland – and try not to get in the way,” he continues. “The flour is tremendous. I tend to use a very young leaven, for a mild acidity, so you can taste the full flavour of the grain.” The bread is naturally leavened, slow fermented, and baked quickly, so it forms a distinctive dark crust, with a chewy texture and slightly sweet flavour. The bakery supplies guests and visitors at Coombeshead, as well as top restaurants through a growing wholesale model. The farm, says Ben, is a special place. “I’m very lucky to be able to bake bread here, catching the sunrise as breads are slowly firing in the oven. It’s about working with like-minded folk who share similar values, trying to produce food at the highest level.” If you’ve tried Ben’s excellent bread, you’ll know you can taste his ethos in every crumb.

Freedom Bakery, Glasgow
At Glasgow’s Freedom Bakery, not only can guests buy seriously good bread – chewy, complex-tasting sourdough; dark and dense rye; or sugarcrusted cinnamon buns – they can do so in the knowledge their dough is helping a worthy cause. The bakery was originally founded in HMP Low Moss, where inmates were trained to bake bread to sell at local cafés. In 2016, Freedom expanded, opening a purpose-built facility in Glasgow which prisoners visit while on day release to train. They now turn out 1000 of their signature white sourdough loaves a week, made using flour milled just 45 miles away, and fermented for a minimum of 20 hours. Where possible, the team offer employment to their apprentices after release. “We have to tread a fine balance between business and altruism,” says founder Matt Fountain. “But it works, because our people are loyal. It’s not just a job – it means so much more, and when an artisan bakery relies heavily on the passion of its people, it’s little surprise the bread is so good.” Find their breads at cafés and delis across the city.

Northern Rye, Newcastle
“I’d always wanted a career in food, but was too scared to make the leap” says Robbie Livingstone, a former magazine printer who founded Newcastle’s Northern Rye in 2017 after being made redundant. Although he’s yet to open a permanent bakery, Robbie’s appearances at pop-ups and markets are always hotly anticipated. His Sunday stalls at Cook House, a shipping container restaurant run by food writer Anna Hedworth, are usually short but sweet affairs, with golden-crusted lemon cruffins (handmade over a painstaking three-day process); dark, burnished rye breads, slowly fermented with organic flour; and sticky peach melba Danishes usually little more than crumbs within an hour or so of opening. “This is an exciting time for the food scene in Newcastle” says Robbie, who’s currently expanding into a workshop premises. “There’s an expectation for good quality food in the North East, and I’m glad to be part of it.”

Andina Bakery, London
Just when Londoners thought they’d seen every type of bread and cake going, chef and restaurateur Martin Morales, who heads up three Peruvian restaurants in the capital, opened Andina Panaderia earlier this year. The light-filled caféand bakery showcases the sweet Peruvian treats he remembers from his childhood, with some modern twists. There’s the pastel de lucuma, a cross between a Portuguese custard tart and a Peruvian lucuma cake; sweet potato-studded bread flecked with Andean herbs; and coconutty, macaroon-style little cocada cakes. “I’ll never forget the bakeries of the Andes,” says founder Martin, who grew up in Peru. “After an eight-hour bus journey into the mountains to my gran’s village, I tried rosquitas – savoury baked doughnuts; and chancay bread with a hint of cinnamon. I dreamt we could open a bakery in London so everyone could experience that feeling.”

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