Our Master Baker Maddie Munden blogs about the growing popularity of artisan bread and shares some of her favourites...
I think people are looking at bread differently now – it’s not just a carrier for other things, it’s about the tastes, textures and look of the bread itself. In a jam sandwich the bread is just as important as the jam!
For me artisan bread is all about simple quality ingredients, taking your time and taking care over the process. Our Extra Special loaves are hand-crafted using traditional artisan techniques. Some of the processes we use are deliberately long – for example our sourdough bread takes 24 hours.
We’ve just developed a Date, Walnut and Chilean Flame Raisin Bloomer and an Artisan Sourdough Baguette for our Extra Special range that launches this week. The bloomer’s deliberately not too sweet – the dates give it a slight sweetness, the raisins give it a plump texture and the walnuts add a savoury note. The baguette is stone baked, hand cut and full of our lovely sourdough flavour. We hope people will love them both as much as we do!
I love baking bread and I make all kinds of things at home. Because I develop bread at work I like to take it to extremes and go a bit over the top! Some things people would never buy, but sometimes I’ve taken ideas into work. For example, the Parisian Pavé came from me experimenting with different types of flour. It uses a French flour that people will be familiar with from French baguettes. The flour gives it a light texture and a lovely crust.
My personal favourite is our Sourdough Boule. It’s got flavour, texture, and every time I eat it – which is often – it always surprises me how nice it is. I tend to have it with poached eggs, lightly toasted. Toasting it brings out the lovely aroma and gives it a slightly crust. It’s also nice warmed and cut into chunks, then dipped in balsamic vinegar and olive oil.
Sourdough is made with a natural yeast, which is a living organism that will live forever if you keep feeding it with flour. Ours is two decades old and is made from British organic grapes that give our sourdough its amazing taste.
Ancient grains like millet and oats are a real trend – we’ve seen that in cereals too. With our Ancient Grains Boule the grains give the bread a really lovely texture and the crust is really crusty. It’s stone-baked and full of flavour.
It’s also about the ingredients you use. Our Carrot and Pumpkin Boule is made with fresh carrot and sunflower seeds and our Mediterranean bread is packed full of ingredients like tomatoes and peppers.
We know many of our customers love cheese and chilli, so we wanted to combine them both for the ultimate bread. When we came up with the idea for our Cheese and Chilli Bloomer straight away I knew what I wanted it to be like – I imagined the pockets of cheese and a real chilli kick. Then it was about developing it in a way that we could deliver it. Take a look at our artisan bread range here.
I always like to warm the bread in the oven for a few minutes before I eat it. It gives it a nice crust and brings out the aromas – and it makes your house smell lovely!
The smell of bread is irresistible – when my mum was trying to sell her house I went round to bake some bread and the next people who viewed it bought it straight away!
If you’re baking bread at home the important thing is not to rush it – take your time. Letting it rest will improve the flavour. And keep it warm and snug when you’re leaving the dough to prove – make sure it’s not near any draughts. It doesn’t have to be in a tin, you can make a loaf with simple ingredients in any shape you like and it can look and taste amazing.