Azélia wants to know why I say I’m not a real baker? One of my talents is annoying people – I don’t have to try, it just comes naturally. I think there is a lot of bullshit talked about baking and particularly sourdough baking and I have a habit of saying so.
Where can you by good bread? In this country, I really don’t know. A few years ago I did a rapid tour of the recommended bakers in London and bought samples. I was seriously unimpressed. Now the Real Bread Campaign has a map with dozens of pins stuck in it leaving you just a click away from Real Bread. Do you believe that?
In France, which is the only other country I know fairly well, there are your Eric Kayers, Poujerons, etc., that come into the celebrity class, who are extremely good especially if you live in Paris and are pretty well-heeled. I know of a couple of excellent exceptions but, given France’s reputation, they have more to answer for than British bakers. At least 90% of France’s bread is rubbish.
In France they have thousands of individual bakeries most of which use frozen or chilled doughs or premixes. They cover the area that factory bread producers fill in this country. It just looks prettier.
I don’t have a lot of sympathy for the remaining “craft” bakers in this country because in the main they don’t make good bread and they have no imagination when it comes to surviving in changing economic circumstances. They want to do it the way it has always been done. Except they put up a new sign over the door saying “Artisan Baker” and have a display two thirds of which is taken up with iced buns.
A few years back, I developed this bread which had very particular characteristics. Most breads are variations of other breads, but this one had an unusual ingredient combination that I hadn’t come across before. I very foolishly described the method in some detail on a popular bread forum because I have always enjoyed sharing ideas with other bakers assuming they have a basic grasp of right and wrong. Some months later I discovered that one of these respected “craft” bakers had entered this bread in a competition and had won £5000 + the chance of a supermarket contract.
When I challenged him he admitted he should have told me what he was doing (not asked). When pushed he turned a bit nasty. He said he was a good man, contributing to his community and keeping people in employment. Unlike me, real bakers had shops in the town square and had overheads like business rates to pay.
I got the message. I bake two days a week in a domestic kitchen in a small terraced house – not even a deck oven.
I am very grateful not to be a real baker. The bread’s not too bad though.