Troels Bendix (from
The bread is all made on an organic sourdough leaven, or biga. No extra baker's yeast is added. Troels has cared for the biga for five years, starting it off in Wandsworth. He says darkly that it didn’t like the move to Clapham. The biga sits in a big vat, a creamy mixture of organic white, wholemeal and rye flours, with water and the magic Wandsworth wild yeast, now tempered with some local interlopers from Clapham. The scent is just slightly sour, but not pronounced. All the bread in the bakery is raised on this leaven. The yeast bacteria thrive in an anaerobic atmosphere, feeding on the simple sugars they derive from the starch in the flour. The by-product of this activity is carbon dioxide, the gas bubbles which raise the dough.
I spent the day in the bakery just round the corner, with Frida (from
When we arrived Ross (trained in a Gordon Ramsay kitchen on 18 hour days – now that is a bit of a jaw dropper) had mixed the flours for the recipes and the first dough was curling away in a fifty year old machine. It works slowly and comfortingly and Troels prefers its action to the newer, faster machines. Humming away in the corner it’s like a good friend, solid and dependable. All of the flour is organic and most of it is from Cann Mills, near Shaftesbury in
Salt is added later to the mixture, so as not to inhibit the action of the biga, and some of the dough left over from the previous batch of baking is also added, its sour quality more noticeable after an overnight rest.
The dough comes out of the machine like a duvet coming out of a tumble dryer, and piles in drifts on the stainless steel work surface. It is flowing in its consistency and quite sticky. The proving baskets are generously floured and the dough is cut and weighed. It loses a percentage of its weight through water loss in the baking process, but it must weigh at least the advertised weight – and not too much more because that’s the ‘loss’ in ‘profit and loss’!
Then comes the shaping. Frida and I were completely hopeless at this. An oval loaf is tucked in at the corners and rolled towards you, tucked again and rolled in on itself until it is a tight sausage shape. Round loaves are tucked in and turned a quarter turn, tucked again and turned and then again until the circle is complete; then the dough is flipped over and pushed down and away against the work surface so that the outer skin of the dough tightens into a satiny ball. Frida and I tried. We tried really hard. We were terrible. Every loaf I shaped had to be reshaped by Ross or Troels. I was waiting for the F word and it is a measure of the calming nature of making bread that it never came. But I got good at making rolls, wouldn’t you agree lads?
The dough proves in the coiled cane baskets for about six hours. One of the biggest problems they face in the bakery is the acceleration caused by the heatwave we are in the middle of. They use ice water to mix the dough to retard the proving time. Otherwise tomorrow’s bread is ready yesterday, if you know what I mean.
The proved dough is flipped out of its basket on to a peel, and thence to the oven for twenty five minutes at 250ºC. A fleet of drivers (well, two or three I think!) delivers it fresh to restaurants and shops around
The café will expand its repertoire presently, with a refit due later in the year and extended opening times. Kurt is planning simple menus favouring tasty produce. Less in the way of sauce and more in the way of source.If you want to acquire a proving basket you can order a huge variety from the web site. If you are passing the café in