Real bread for everyone!

A couple of weeks ago I headed to Edinburgh, in part to visit Breadshare, a community bakery that I had heard about (and felt inspired by!) on Radio 4’s The Food Programme. I had been meaning to visit for a while; I love Edinburgh & especially the fringe festival, so I’d really hoped to combine the two…. But August is a busy month for foodies; busy markets, food festivals, and covering for holidays. So It’s been niggling me for a few months to get there, and towards the end of March I finally spotted my chance. I emailed Debra – who seems to be the font of all knowledge, operational and otherwise – and was lucky enough to grab some of their precious time the following week.

The bakery’s main site is in the Leith area of Edinburgh, which I had never been to before. I allowed myself plenty of time to get there, which was brilliant because it meant that I had a little extra time to have some lovely breakfast there. I never leave home without breakfast if I can help it (with the exception of the market-day early starts – before 5am, I just prefer the extra 10 minutes in bed…). I had a round of toasted Borodinski… which is very similar to our own Coriander Rye, there’s something enjoyable about seeing such a distinctive loaf but made by someone else.

After finishing, I awkwardly asked if Debra was there. Awkwardly, as Debra & Geoff been sitting in the mostly empty café discussing orders the entire time I’d been eating. I suspected as much but obviously being British I couldn’t just go up to them and ask! Unless I was going to get all Gordon Bennet – “Community bakery legends, I presume!”
Anyway, it was absolutely brilliant to talk to them about their motivations, where they had started and where they were going. Debra seemed to be full of plans, tumbling out like hot loaves off a baking tray. Plans for engaging with local farmers to grow local grain for the breads, expansions plans, cooperative plans with other small bakeries, working together to meet the ever increasing local appetite for delicious real bread, instead of competing with them and knocking small start-ups out of business. Just a really great, generous-spirited, open and engaging attitude towards the world.

They have 5 social objectives, which are essentially;
1. Make and promote real bread
2. Involve the community
3. Help other community bakeries with similar aims
4. Pursue sustainability
5. Actively support the local food chain

What really struck me about Breadshare though, was the honesty. Their slogan – “Real bread for all” really struck a chord with me. They’re not about fancy processes, they’re not about creating a piece of art for people willing to pay, they’re not about creating a perfectly designed chic space for customers to Instagram. They are about creating a real, honest product, made out of simple, sound and sustainable ingredients. There was a strong vibe of inclusivity which I really identified with. The bread is made for the most honest cost, to be accessible to as many people as possible. Profits are put straight back into the bakery, and to make a difference on a wider scale.

They run affordable classes for people looking to improve their own home baking. They give away starters, sending them home with instructions for successful starter care. Classes are run for local children, getting them to make two loaves, then give them the equipment to go home and make two more, one for their family and one to take into school.

The have a sound zero waste policy, following a hierarchy: sell bread the following day for £1, freeze & donate to food banks/Real Junk Food Project (this really excited me as we do exactly the same!), then after that donate to organic pig farmers to fed their pigs. It was refreshing to see how important this was to them, as I feel very strongly about food waste and am always looking to avoid wasting any of our hard-won product!

The key aspect, I felt, was the focus on making real bread, and making it affordable for everyone – making a bread with sound and sustainable ingredients, making waves in locally grown produce, and engaging people & educating them about what real bread really is.

It was really inspirational that the focus is on the substance of the bread and the business, and not just the style and the appearance. There’s a lovely philosophy running throughout the whole outfit – it really does feel like real bread for everyone. I took a lot away from my visit, and it left me full of idea with how to improve our own project!

Improofments

We’re always trying to improve our processes here in the bakery, but recently we’ve been really paying attention to various points in the life-of-a-loaf, with the idea of better quality bread and more consistency in mind. But also, we have to think about time versus income as we can work on pretty small margins. (If we could, we would offer all the types of bread possible, but each extra loaf we introduce eats into our profit). We are trying to nail the sweet spot for each bread; the best quality loaf we can expect, every time, for the least time spent on it. Some things we have been experimenting with include:

-Changing our whole bakery routine so starters are mixed 8-12 hours before being used. We had been leaving them anywhere between 12 & 24 hours, but younger starters make better bread, so we have changed up when we’re in, in order to make tastier loaves!

-Which order to do the bread on each day – one thing we’ve found is that some grains particularly resent being being left waiting (Spelt, I’m looking at you!) so we’re trying to ensure we do these impatient breads as early as possible. Meanwhile, we also have to consider allergens; so every day we do the buckwheat first so there’s no gluten-containing flour in the air or left in the mixer, so ensure we’re making a properly GF loaf!

-The ideal time for the bread to bulk-proof after mixing. Different breads have different tolerances. Obviously this depends on lots of other factors, notably temperature. If we’re baking, we try to keep the wheaty breads out of the bakery so they don’t go wild. White is the most temperamental as we add a little yeast, so if they’re going into the fridge, there’s little to no proofing time for the overnight white and the batons.

-Changing the “autolyse”, wherein the starter and the “soaker” (all the rest of the flour and water) are left for around 10 minutes so the flour can absorb water right through out the structure. For time’s sake we were just chucking in all the ingredients at this point, but we have started holding back the salt. This is supposed to lead to better water absorption by the flour, and a better structure. But unless everyone knows what everyone else is doing, it could end up with no salt…. or double salt… yergh!

We think we’ve made some good improvements recently, so if you find you really like the bread one week, or even if you don’t, let us know! We really value your feedback. (disclaimer: as long as you’re not mean!!)

Hello from Riverside’s newest baker

I’m Jack, a ceramics graduate who recently joined the team at Riverside Sourdough. Previously I had a bit of experience with sourdough, working with a wheat starter producing mainly white breads. So I’m enjoying learning more about this diverse, varied and delicious way of making bread.

Riverside has four starters, each with their own unique feel, (they are living things after all)! There is the Rye, Rice, Wheat, and Spelt mothers. The Rye, which creates the caraway, coriander, plain ryes, malted wheat and seeds and the Levain portion of the white. The rice mother, a white foamy mixture used in the buckwheat, a wheat and gluten free sourdough. The Spelt creates wholemeal and white spelt breads, again wheat free with a nuttier taste and the wheat mother used in the wholemeal, San Fran and Maslin.

The range of textures, tastes and shapes that came be created is amazing, they are resilient being able to go long periods of time without feeding if prepared properly. You can feed your starter ten times its own weight and your bacteria will happily eat it up and grow in size and your use of it can form the taste of you bread with more active starters producing lighter flavours and less active ones leading to a more intense flavour.
Amazing stuff, can’t wait to experiment with more types, recipes and bakes in the future.