A new start for us. A new country: England, after so many years in Wales and Scotland. A new house: a cottage in a village instead of a house in a city. One road and a handful of lanes through my new delivery mile instead of densely-packed urban streets. I love that I can see that our cottage is just under the H in our delivery map, above, and the brook running through our garden is marked. A new map, a new mile and, of course, a new loaf.
Just as accents and landscapes change with a move, even the most familiar bread recipes change with a new place, a new oven, and new ingredients. One of the things I love sharing with people on classes is how environment, ingredients and equipment quietly but profoundly transform your baking. We see it most immediately with ovens – we’ve all seen Bake Off contestants bewildered by how things are so different baking in the marquee ovens when they’ve rehearsed many times at home. Or the ambient temperature: baking in last summer’s heatwave was hilarious, with blink and you’ll miss it rise times and baking classes ending an hour early. In deep in mid-winter, in my cottage kitchen that’s cooler than my Cardiff one, my sourdoughs really take their time, and taste all the better for it.
But the flour you use for baking, as your main ingredient, really does transform things. It’s why in classes I recommend using organic stoneground flour when you bake at home; the elevation in flavour and digestibility from using cheap and cheerful roller-milled flour is incredible. Before I did any of the urgent things that needed sorting for our new house, before our furniture was even delivered from storage, I’d explored the local flour options. I already baked with Sharpham Park’s beautiful white and wholemeal spelt, and love that they are now local to me. But I also found Burcott Mill flour, milled near Wells about fourteen miles from us, and spent a very happy weekend playing around with their wholemeal and wholemeal spelt.
My everyday house loaf, in both yeasted and sourdough formats, is a mix of white, wholemeal and dark rye, with added soaked seeds. For two loaves (I never, ever make just one – double up, and slice and freeze one for instant brilliant toast if you can’t eat it all), I use 500g white flour, 350g wholemeal, and 150g dark rye. Drizzle of honey, 30g fresh yeast (or 14g fast yeast), 20g salt, 680g warm water and a tablespoon of oil – local rapeseed for this new loaf.
I used Burcott Mill spelt for the first batch, but otherwise made the loaves exactly as I always do at home – lazily, slowly, with an overnight second rise in the fridge and baked from fridge-cold the next morning. My husband, who is very used to very good bread, tasted it and said, “What have you done? It tastes amazing!”
The crumb of the loaf, the bit between the crusts, was dark and almost malty, and the flavour was properly rich and nutty. People always say wholemeal spelt is “nutty” and it isn’t alway perceptibly so. This was so nutty and flavoursome I had to get some local cheese, very quickly, to pair with it. The loaf just seemed to disappear over the afternoon. What had been my “everyday” loaf was now something new, and very exciting. It tastes of here, my new place, and will be the first loaf I deliver to new subscribers. I’m very pleased indeed to introduce a new loaf to the OMB repertoire, exclusively to my mile. Everyone, please meet The Trudox.