Give us this day our daily… Bread

This winter, curl up in your favourite armchair with a chunk of toasted bread and a bowl of winter broth, wake up to handmade english muffins and tea, or enjoy a pot of Earl Gray in the afternoon with handmade fruit loaf... this month, the Hambleton Bakery baker Julian Carter reveals the secrets of using your loaf...

There’s nothing like the scent of freshly baked bread. Nothing like the texture of crunchy toast for breakfast and certainly nothing like the taste of fruit loaf for afternoon tea heaving with currants, sultanas and with the gentlest frisson of spice.

Bread is certainly understated as something we consume daily, and very much sinned against with modern practices such as roller milling producing poor quality flour, and industrialised production introducing to mass-produced bread unnecessary ingredients which can even include iron filings and chalk. Modern mass produced loaves are at the mercy of tempestuous climates and poor grain yields, industrial processing and of course, consumers who demand ever-cheaper food which keeps as long as possible in the bread bin.

However, that’s all set to change as more and more foodies learn about a new artisan bakery that has recently opened just over the county borders to serve restaurants and farm shops. Hambleton Bakery under the leadership of talented Julian Carter, the tenth generation of bakers in his family and a former Downing Street & Chequers chef who has returned to his first love… producing high quality bread.

Hambleton Bakery’s bread aims to reunite the public with ‘proper’ bread, free from preservatives and additives of mass-produced bread.

“Take a look at your supermarket loaf.” Says Julian. “Even premium brands may contain preservatives, enzymes to increase the speed of fermentation and even ingredients like chalk and iron filings. Our ingredients are flour, water, yeast and salt… absolutely nothing else.”

The baker is hugely passionate about his product, and clearly loves his job. A massive fan of the huge Artefax mixer from the 1960s which emulates the baker’s personal touch when creating 80kg batches of each bread, Julian can talk for ages about the benefits of long fermentation – 24 hours in the case of Hambleton’s bread, the merits of giving the flour time to absorb the water in order to begin the autolyse process, and about how lactic acid in bread is the best natural preservative. Unfortunately, when one is savouring a slice of Hambleton Local at the same time, all of Julian’s expertise, all of his scientific knowledge and artisan creativity does rather fall on deaf ears. Quite simply, it’s the best bread you’ll ever taste, and whatever the science, art, or mixture of the two we’ve to hold responsible, we’re just grateful for the opportunity to sit back, switch off, and enjoy bread baked the way it used to be.

Julian can trace his ten previous generations of bakers back as far as 1785, to their Liverpool shop at 13 Green Street. When the city lost its port status in 1980, the chef joined the RAF at Cottesmore. Having returned to the area to work in the kitchens of Rutland’s Hambleton Hall, Sous Chef Julian found himself very much in demand as an artisan baker, producing all the bread used at Hambleton Hall and its sister establishment Hart’s restaurant, both of which are owned by the area’s renowned gastronome, the charismatic Tim Hart. From the restaurant’s kitchens Julian perfected two loaves, Hambleton Sourdough, and the Hambleton Local, both of which survive today at the new bakery alongside a more conventional crusty white bloomer and tin loaf, handmade English breakfast muffins, honey and nut bread and fruit loaf made with fruit soaked in English breakfast tea. Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on your take on the matter, Julian became somewhat of a victim of his own success, and soon outgrew the kitchen, whereupon he and Tim decided that dedicated premises for Julian had become necessary.

The pair opened Hambleton Bakery just two weeks prior to our visit, creating a small retail outlet adjacent to the bakery itself with the aim of selling around 10% of the bread they produce to the three Rutland villages – Exton, Greetham and Cottesmore – that triangulate the bakery, reserving the remaining 90% of their stock for Hambleton Hall and Harts Hotel. Once more, fortunately or unfortunately depending on your perspective, Julian and Tim somewhat underestimated demand, finding that around half their bread is sold via retail from the bakery directly to the public. Our visit took place mid-afternoon just three weeks after the opening of Hambleton Bakery, and despite his reassurance that he would have finished baking, Julian and his team were still hard at it, struggling to meet demand!

“We’re selling each loaf as fast as we can bake it!” says Julian. “Having our own premises is superb, and word of mouth is working perhaps a little too well… as more of our customers recommend our bread to friends and family, demand really is increasing… it’s surprised even us…!”

Hambleton Bakery’s Best Breads

Hambleton Sourdough

Using high-gluten and rye flour, Sourdough’s dough is fermented for 24 hours using the bakery’s own starter culture before being baked in Hambleton’s wood-fired oven. The crumb has a distinctive, springy crumpet-like texture and is low in yeast and salt. It keeps for over a week in the breadbin unlike other artisan loaves!

Hambleton Local

So-called because the loaves’ local organic wheat is ground at nearby Whissendine Windmill, which uses traditional stone grinding methods rather than industrial roller mills which generate goodness-killing heat during their mechanical process. The dough is fermented for 24 hours using beer barm, the yeasty froth from the fermenting ale at the Grainstore brewery in Oakham. High in roughage, vitamins and minerals. Malty with a touch of bitterness and a smaller, less elastic crumb than Sourdough.

Fruit Loaf

Made from an original Carter family recipe. Currants, sultanas, peel and a little spice, soaked in English tea. The fruit and dough are fermented together for 12 hours. Baked in individual tins in the bakery’s wood fired oven.