At first, Andrew just wanted to make bread for himself. Good bread, real bread, since he was fed up with the factory-produced version which dared to carry the same name. So he taught himself, starting at home, trying, failing, starting again and with his hands plunged in dough until he found the perfect formula. His friends and family were impressed and wanted some for themselves, giving Andrew the idea of making bread his occupation. His micro-bakery now produces around 300 sourdough loaves a week.
Since September, Blighty Coffee has been Andrew’s base. On the first floor of this cafe in North East London, which also hosts other start-ups, he crafts his bread almost every day. First step: natural, live yeast is combined with wholemeal wheat, rye and water then left to ferment for around 24 hours at room temperature. The timing varies according to the season, with the temperature being the key factor. « It helps to have a scientific background in order to understand the process », explains Andrew, for whom scientific background means a PhD in Physics.
Kneading the bread ©MicroMacroFood
Once the yeast has risen, Andrew uses almost all of it, leaving behind a small amount to use for the next batch. Then comes the second stage: the yeast is mixed with flour – a mixture of several types, all organic and from the renowned Shipton Mill
in Gloucestershire – plus water and salt to make the dough. « You really need to have a feel about it », he explains while kneading the dough and watching its appearance change. It then needs to rest for 3 to 4 hours at room temperature.
The bread ready for the oven ©MicroMacroFood
During the third stage, the loaves are formed, rest a little longer and are then left in wicker baskets which give them an attractive shape once baked. They are then put in the fridge for 16 to 20 hours for the final proofing. Finally, the fourth stage, sees the loaves turned out on to a board, ridged so that they raise properly and then put in the oven. His Rofco oven, as used in most micro-bakeries, allows Andrew to cook 16 loaves at once. All that remains is to spray a little water into the oven before closing the door for 40 minutes.
Warm bread fresh from the oven ©MicroMacroFood
« In France, there is a boulangerie in every village. That used to be the case with bakeries in England », laments Andrew. The change, he explains, came after the Second World War, when there was a need to make bread in large quantities and as quickly as possible. At the beginning of the 1960s the Chorleywood Bread Process (CBP) was invented, which accelerated the bread-making process considerably. « England’s worst gift to the world » as Andrew puts it.
By contrast, with the 48 or so hours that go into the sourdough preparation method, « the digestive process is started by the natural yeast that breaks down complex proteins and carbohydrates », explains Andrew. In short, while baker’s yeast makes the dough rise as quickly as possible, sourdough yeast creates a long fermentation and results in delicious bread that is easier to digest and which keeps very well.
For Andrew, the next step is to find his own premises. He aims to sell his bread by delivering by bike to people’s homes, hence the name Bread by Bike. One option would be to use a crowd funding platform to find people who will both contribute funds and sign up for the delivery service, thereby earning their interest in bread. Judging by the speed with which the loaves disappear at Blighty Coffee, there’s no reason to doubt his future success.
The front window of Blighty Coffee ©MicroMacroFood
Bread by Bike à Blighty Coffee, 35-37 Blackstock Road, London N4 2JF. The classic sourdough costs £3,75, the seeded sourdough (my favorite!) £4,20 and the sourdough rye £3,85.