Written by Hussina Raja
It is week two of our Just Bread journey and we have two new participants joining us from Egypt and Nigeria.
Today’s session is all about baking our first loaves of bread. It gets very technical but everyone takes it in their stride and are eager to get the sourdough bread recipe right. Our incredible baker Kate takes us through stage one, the starter process, also known as the Mother, which involves a fermented mixture of flour and warm water with the purpose to produce a healthy leaven and flavour of the bread.
We soon have a chain going, two of us are measuring out 150g of leaven into 11 bowls, those are passed down the chain where water is added to soften the leaven, while on the other side of the table we have another two teams adding a mix of flours and salt to another 11 bowls. We each have two bowls and get stuck wrist deep in preparing our dough.
We soon finish rolling sticky dough in our bowls and leave them to rest and breathe. It’s a sensory experience. We touch, taste and smell the mixture turned dough to understand the process better. This is an important part of baking, getting to know your dough, like a baby, tenderly taking care of it and tucking it in for a nap so it can settle and grow.
During this interval we take a wander around the e5 Bakehouse, it is situated and spread across three railway arches. Each area in the e5 bakehouse is dedicated to the production of the organic products on offer to customers daily. The energy and passion in the space are palpable, an ethos baker Kate verifies is the recipe to baking success. We watch the bakers’ expertly cut and fold dough ready to be baked, while the pastry chefs lure us in with the aroma of their sweet delicacies. I watch as a pool of raw cocoa beans are picked and separated for use. We scurry over to the Mill, an impressive French glass house where the grains are milled and ground into flour that we use to make our bread. The e5 bakehouse truly is a remarkable space with so much going on, Maaz leans over to me whispering ‘I love this place.’
We return to see our dozing baby doughs have come to life with a few bubbles formed on the surface. Time for the next stage, we prepare baskets for the dough by dusting them with flour, this is repeated over the table and the dough. We watch Kate as she demonstrates how to fold and shape the dough. We repeat the actions, it comes easier to some than others, ‘it’s all a learning curve’ Kate reassures us, and after a few hiccups we’re all picking it up pretty quickly. Pleased with our baskets of joy we place them on racks to rest a little further
We’re rewarded for our efforts with e5 Bakehouse’s dish of the day, a black bean soup, butternut squash and broccoli salad with a side of e5’s finest sourdough bread.
We break bread together and during these moments we really get to know one another. We witness how food and the process of eating is paramount in bringing people closer. During breakfast, we all greeted one another and queried about the week we’d had since the last session, and now over lunch, we discover world music we each enjoy while brainstorming about our future aspirations. The team are already expressing their wishes to learn more. There are interests in making pastries, an eagerness to work in a bakery like e5, and one day starting their own businesses running a cafe or a fruit stall. We thoroughly enjoy our time making bread with our bare hands, and in doing so Just Bread is shaping ideas along the way. I’m reminded that Just Bread isn’t just a project about baking, but a platform for building confidence and realising dreams.
After lunch, we tend to our baskets and make our way to the oven. Here we pour the dough onto trays ready for baking. Meanwhile, Kate reviews and illustrates the steps we have taken to bake our loaves today. The process can seem complicated but when broken down, we realise making sourdough bread is straightforward and tasty. Kate presents us with pots of leaven to continue baking at home and it’s pleasing to see so many take up the offer. The seed is planted and it already seems to be growing. Ping! They’re ready and what a sight they are…😊
There is nothing quite like the smell and warm feeling of freshly baked bread. With grins spread across our faces we each marvel at the fruits of our labour, all unique and different in their own way. We end the day as bakers with a loaf to take home and be proud of.
Something to leave you with…if you like what you see, it can be yours, simply subscribe to our limited 4-week bread subscription starting on the 27th November https://bit.ly/2Ps31M9