Baked with love: Old-style bak­ery in Hempnall

A small Nor­folk vil­lage is home to a thriv­ing bak­ery that is bring­ing back tra­di­tional, old-fash­ioned meth­ods to bread-mak­ing

EDP Norfolk - - INSIDE - WORDS: Kate Blincoe PHO­TOS: An­gela Sharpe N

Aper­fectly toasted slice of bread, drip­ping with but­ter, is one of life’s sim­ple plea­sures. With supermarket loaves dom­i­nat­ing our diet, it is hard to re­mem­ber how good this should taste; that blend of crunch, chew and soft­ness is ut­terly de­li­cious.

I can’t talk about good food with­out feel­ing hun­gry, so it was with a rum­bling stom­ach I dis­cov­ered more about Hempnall Vil­lage Bak­ery and the shift to­wards proper, real, tra­di­tional bread. Han­nah Scott and her hus­band Dan run the small bak­ery from their late 18th cen­tury cot­tage in this pret­tysouth Nor­folk vil­lage.

Both worked in the public sec­tor, but it was the birth of their daugh­ter Daphne and en­su­ing ma­ter­nity leave that gave Han­nah the op­por­tu­nity to fol­low her dream of mak­ing bread.

“It’s all very small scale,” ex­plains Han­nah, show­ing me the cot­tage kitchen with a com­pact stone based bread oven: “We take bread or­ders on a Thurs­day and then sell on a Satur­day, af­ter a very full-on, ex­tended work­ing day on Fri­day! It means ev­ery­thing is su­per-fresh and there is zero wastage.”

Han­nah was keen to put right a mis­con­cep­tion about bread al­ways be­ing yeasted. “The fact is, we were eat­ing nat­u­rally risen, fer­mented bread long be­fore com­mer­cial yeasts came along. It wasn’t un­til the early 20th cen­tury that com­mer­cial fast-act­ing yeasts be­came wide­spread.”

Then the Chor­ley­wood process was de­vel­oped in 1961 and is still used for over 80% of the bread con­sumed in the UK to­day. It in­volves us­ing low­er­pro­tein wheat, an as­sort­ment of ad­di­tives, sugar, lots of yeast and high-speed mix­ing. It cre­ates bread that real bread ex­pert An­drew Whit­ley has de­scribed as ‘schiz­o­phrenic about time’ be­cause it is so quick to make, but oddly long-last­ing.

In a cen­tury, bread-mak­ing had been fast-for­warded and in­dus­tri­alised to pro­duce a cheap, al­most dis­pos­able prod­uct.

It has played havoc with our di­ges­tion and many be­lieve it has re­sulted in an in­crease in gluten in­tol­er­ance. “It’s amaz­ing how many peo­ple say they can’t eat bread,” says Han­nah with a smile.

“Then they try mine and re­alise it is very dif­fer­ent.”

Han­nah’s meth­ods are as far from the Chor­ley­wood process as her pan-tiled kitchen is from an in­dus­trial fac­tory. She makes sour­dough loaves, which rise thanks to fer­men­ta­tion.

Lac­tic acid forms, which helps break down the gluten, mak­ing it eas­ily di­gested and re­duc­ing the like­li­hood of bloat­ing and stom­ach pain that sen­si­tive tum­mies can ex­pe­ri­ence. Han­nah also bakes yeasted breads, us­ing long-fer­men­ta­tion.

In­stead of the fast-act­ing yeasts many of us are used to, this ap­proach leaves the dough to rise slowly, overnight, and also cre­ates read­ily di­gestible gluten.

This is a small busi­ness at the heart of the com­mu­nity. The fam­ily have got to know their neigh­bours and linked with other small food busi­nesses in a time when it seems su­per­mar­kets and mass pro­duced food have won the bat­tle.

Han­nah is hope­ful that we are re­turn­ing to a lo­cal food cul­ture, reawak­en­ing a for­got­ten com­mu­nity mem­ory of how good this feels, and crit­i­cally, how good this tastes.

To find out more about real bread and to have a go your­self, read An­drew Whit­ley’s Bread Mat­ters: Why and How to Make Your Own. For more info about Hempnall Vil­lage Bak­ery visit hemp­nall­bak­ery.co.uk.

“It’s amaz­ing how many peo­ple say they can’t eat bread. Then they try mine and re­alise it is very dif­fer­ent”

ABOVE:One of Han­nah’s de­li­cious loavesBELOW LEFT:Knead­ing the dough BELOW FAR RIGHT: The fin­ished loaf emerges from the oven

Han­nah and Dan in the kitchen

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