Sophie Morris goes on the hunt to find the best places in the country to buy bread.
Over the past decade, bread has been vilified in the war on carbs. We’re supposed to feel guilty for allowing nary a slice of the stuff to pass our lips, and certainly not after 7pm.
The thing is, even for those of us who ignore such advice and want to eat good food rather than eliminate food groups, there hasn’t been a great deal of choice around in terms of quality bread.
80% of the bread we eat is processed sliced loaves, prepared by the famed Chorleywood technique from the 1960’s.
This heavy-handed method literally beats the goodness out of bread. We’re left with soft, nutrient-free rolls and loaves that are high in sugar. It’s no wonder they sit around on our hips for so long.
Better bread has meant home-baked, or a baguette on holiday. Even those supermarkets that lure you in with their buttery wafts of baking smells rarely produce their own. The Real Bread Campaign found that only M&S ever actually bakes its own bread, and even then only some of it; the other supermarkets are even worse, simply finishing the products in store to create that tempting aroma.
But artisan bread is making its mark on our eating habits, and it’s worth splashing out if you’re going to eat it wisely.
Think of it as treating your bread with a little respect – make it the main event rather than a side order. If you wouldn’t put a slice of processed ham inside your sandwich, why wrap your fancy pants cured ibericalami whatnot in the equivalent of cheap, synthetic undies?
Hobbs House Bakery
Hobbs House Bakery in Gloucestershire has a legacy of five generations of bakers and wants to ensure “there is a solid future for real bread”.
The bakery starred in BBC4’s In Search of the Perfect Loaf, and there are four shops in Chipping Sodbury, Cirencester, Nailsworth and Tetbury, as well as stockists across the local area and an online shop.
The nine ‘real breads’ on sale include a Light Rye Sourdough, which requires a 42-hour baking process, and the £21 Shepherd’s Loaf, made with spelt flour and Cornish sea salt.
Caroline’s Real Bread Company
Caroline’s Real Bread Company in Brecon in Powys, wants to revive six classic British breads – Merthyr Cynog Light Sourdough, English Seven Seed Loaf, Welsh Leek & Caerphilly loaf, Irish Soda Bread, Spelt with Sunflower & Pumpkin Loaf and Stone Ground Wholemeal.
Baker Caroline Frampton, who has been selling her bread at Brecon Farmers Market since 2002, also makes popular Mediterranean foccacias and ciabattas.
Along with Nigel Devlin, her partner in the company, she was becoming concerned at the quality of bread on sale in shops. By 2005 she had her own bakery and has since won gold in the Wales True Taste Awards.
Order by noon on a Wednesday, and you’ll have your bread in time for the weekend.
While individual bakers around the country are experimenting with new and classic recipes and ingredients and spearheading a British bread revival, the French patisserie Paul has managed quite a coup in bringing proper French bread to the British and popularising it so much that there are now almost 30 shops and cafes across London.
Paul manages quality control by only using flour from Camp Remy wheat, using only 7 millers and training each baker for 5 years.
The robust Pain de Campagne is made from a blend of rye flour, milled flour and sea salt. The traditional Flute Paul, made as baguettes are with a long fermentation period, is available plain or with sesame seeds, poppy seeds or six grains.
Two years ago, to celebrate 120 years in business, the Charlemagne loaf, made with durum wheat, a thin crust and a dense centre, was launched.
Gail’s Artisan Bakery
Breads include a San Francisco Style Sour Dough (£2.55) and Three Seed Spelt Open Tin (£2.99). Each loaf is hand-made every single day and the only things added to the sough are natural ingredients such as herbs, nuts and olives. “We love slow dough,” they say. “We know it’s better, you know it tastes better.”
Artisan bread-making is certainly having a moment. Both Paul and Hobbs House have waiting lists for their bread-making courses. Breadmakers are becoming standard issue in kitchens – less satisfying than getting properly stuck in, but more practical for fresh home-baked bread on a daily basis.
If you’re still not convinced it’s time to up-style your bread eating habits, consider this: experiments reported in The Lancet and The British Medical Journal showed that dogs fed exclusively on white bread died within 2 months. Dogs fed exclusively on bread made with stone-ground, whole wheat flour lived and were in good health.
Do you really need any more convincing? Use your loaf and find a real bread stockist near you.
Tell us about your favourite local bakeries
Have we missed off your favourite local bakery? Let us know which bakeries you think should have been in our top four using the comments box below!
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