SSAW co-founder Liv first met Piotr, who is based close to her fields in Hertfordshire, when she swapped a festive wreath for some of his delicious bread at Christmas time. This lovely example of the gifting economy was already set up with her predecessors and being able to continue it made her feel connected to a system of skill sharing and exchange that is at the heart of the ethos of SSAW.
When Piotr told us about some recipes for bread leavened using wild yeast made from fermented rose petals, and from the David Austin 'Princess Anna' in his garden no less, we thought he would be the perfect person to celebrate the fact that we can finally meet and ‘break bread’ with our friends and family again, by giving us a recipe for a bread that would really mark the occasion.
WHO DID YOU LEARN FROM, AND HOW?
I’ve learned everything myself from books, blogs and social media but the community of bakers is also very friendly and always willing to help. I’ve met a lot of people through baking, both virtually and in real life.The most important though is a lot of practice and patience. Books can only help to a certain extent but that’s the beauty of it.
CAN YOU TELL US A BIT MORE ABOUT THE BREAD MAKING COMMUNITY?
When I joined a few baking groups on Facebook I soon realised that it really is a great bunch: Everyone was so passionate and helpful. I met people from pretty much every country in the world, all connected by the same passion. Some I met in real life, one lady visited my restaurant from Japan with her husband, I cooked them lunch, we had a good chat and I gifted them some of my bread “for the road ahead”. It’s great to see how different the simple bread can be in different cultures and it’s very inspiring and interesting to see different methods used.
WHAT GAVE YOU THE INSPIRATION TO MAKE SUCH UNUSUAL BREADS? CAN YOU REMEMBER WHAT IT WAS / WHEN YOU DECIDED THAT YOUR APPROACH WOULD BE AN EXPERIMENTAL ONE?
It was Guy Frenkel from Ceor Bread, a sourdough wizard from Los Angeles. He’s an artist - baking for special occasions, celebrities and all sorts. Each of his bakes are unique and tells a different story. He make flours out of dried vegetables and flowers, adding herbs and spices, making all sorts of different ferments. He’s always been helpful to point me in the right direction, sharing his knowledge and experience. He’s my bread soulmate and I hope we’ll meet one day.
WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING EVERYONE SHOULD KNOW ABOUT BAKING BREAD AND THE IMPORTANCE OF THE INGREDIENTS YOU USE?
Bread is one of the most basic foods we eat and not everyone knows that a wheat kernel contains all the necessary nutrients for us to survive. We could literally live on bread and water alone, yet in order to unlock all the goodness the dough has to go through the slow process of natural fermentation to make it more easily digestible for our body. Unfortunately, most breads nowadays are made too fast using a lot of improvers and additives in order to make the most profit, rather than the most nutritious bread.
All my breads are made with natural starter using slow fermentation of at least 24 hours. I also mill all my wholemeal flour fresh at home using a stone mill. It’s the oldest but still the best method to get all the goodness from the grains. Buying the mill was probably the biggest change in my approach to baking. I used to buy all sorts of flours and as you can imagine soon I had cupboards full of open bags of different ingredients that were often forgotten and went out of date. Having the mill allows me to grind enough for what I need.
As soon as they are milled, grains are starting to age and so wholemeal flour can’t be stored for long as it will spoil, grains however can be stored for years without going bad. Also some flours are very difficult to get and often a lot more expensive than the grains that they’re made from.
In recent years heritage grains in the UK have become a lot more available and more and more people are appreciating the flavour and health benefits of wholemeal loaf. Through baking I met local farmers who are also very passionate about the health factors of using whole grains and natural fermentation, growing ancient varieties which haven’t been genetically modified.
DO YOU HAVE ANY TIPS FOR ANYONE STARTING OUT BREAD MAKING?
One: Be patient, don’t try many different recipes every time you bake. Stick to one and bake repeatedly until you feel like you understand the process then move on to more complex things.
Two: Look after your starter. It’s where everything starts and the most important ingredient that is often underestimated. A healthy starter that’s well maintained is the key to a good bake.
Three: With baking the winter months bring a lot of challenges, trying to keep the dough warm enough during fermentation is often difficult and things don’t always come out as they should. In summer it’s the opposite, I have to adjust the temperatures of ingredients and timings to keep up with the speed of fermentation.
IS THERE A PARTICULAR RESOURCE, BOOK OR WEBSITE WHICH YOU’D RECOMMEND TO OTHER BAKERS FOR ADVICE?
There’s a book called “Bread” by Jeffrey Hamelman which is often called the ‘Bread Bible’, it has all the information necessary for anyone who’d like to take baking a little bit more seriously and up their bread game. “Tartine” by Chad Robertson teaches how to achieve the so called ‘artisan’ rustic loaf using a cast iron casserole dish as a baking vessel. I practiced that recipe for good two years before I started to experiment with changes. Ebook “Open Crumb Mastery” by Trevor J Wilson is a guide for intermediate bakers who like to dig into the finer details of sourdough baking. It’s the best £10 I’d ever spent on a bread book. And of course there’s our sourdough queen Vanessa Kimbell and her Sourdough School. She’s done a lot of research into the health benefits of sourdough, her books are filled with passion and full of interesting recipes.
AS A MAKER OF NUTRIENT DENSE AND DELICIOUS BREAD, WHAT ARE YOU PASSIONATE ABOUT FOR THE FUTURE OF BREAD MAKING?
In recent years naturally fermented foods have started to make a big comeback into our diets, bread being one of them. There’s a lot of artisan bakeries here in the UK making bread with passion and love, I hope one day I’ll be able to open my own little bakery/workshop where I can bake and share my experience with others.
Buckwheat porridge country loaf
For the main dough:
700g Marriage’s organic strong white bread flour
200g Wholemeal stoneground wheat flour (100% extraction)
50g Wholemeal toasted buckwheat flour (100% extraction)
50g Wholemeal rye flour (100% extraction)
50g Wholemeal rye sourdough starter
21g Sea salt
15g Ground fenugreek
For the buckwheat porridge:
150g Toasted buckwheat grouts
50g Brown linseed
50g Buckwheat honey
5g Sea salt
First make the porridge, grind the buckwheat on a coarse setting of a mill and add water. Allow to soak for 30 minutes. Bring to boil and simmer until all the liquid is absorbed. Add the honey, linseeds, and sea salt. Mix thoroughly and set aside to cool down.
For the main dough, place all the flours, ground fenugreek and 700g of water into the bowl of a freestanding mixer. Mix on a low speed until fully incorporated. Allow to autolyze (rest) for 30 - 40 minutes.
Next, add the starter and mix on a medium speed until incorporated. Then, add the salt and slowly add the remaining 50g of water. Once all the water is absorbed, continue to mix for another 2-3 minutes before adding the porridge.
Turn the speed down to low and mix until the dough absorbs the porridge. The dough should be smooth. When so, transfer into an oiled container and allow to proof until the volume increases by 30%, which depending on the temperature of your kitchen can take up to 1 ½ hours. This is the bulk fermentation.
The desired dough temperature should be within the range of 25-27 °C.
During the bulk fermentation fold the dough twice after 30 minutes, and twice again after 1 hour. After this time the dough is ready to divide. Turn out onto a floured surface and divide into 3 equal sized balls.
Now shape the dough and place in a proving basket that has been dusted with buckwheat flour. Rest for 30-45 minutes.
If the dough was very active during bulk fermentation, place it straight in the fridge for 12-16 hours to retard (if you feel like it could do with some extra time at room temperature allow another 30-45 minutes ambient proofing before moving into the fridge).
Preheat the oven to 260°C.
Score the bread using a sharp knife, place into the oven (with a steam setting if you have one) for 10 minutes, after which turn the temperature down to 230°C and continue to bake for 15-20 minutes, and if using the steam setting turn this off.
To check the bread is done, knock the base with your knuckles and it should make a satisfactory hollow sound.
Allow to fully cool down before slicing.