here’s nothing better than the smell of freshly baked sourdough. Who doesn’t enjoy a piece slathered with butter, or toasted, spread liberally with jam?
Sitting in Bread By Bike, Andy Strang’s laidback teal-fronted space on Brecknock Road, a heavenly aroma emanates from the industrial kitchen out back. The light and airy café has a relaxed vibe, with a couple of communal wooden tables, and artwork from local talents Andrew Pegram and Ruth Batham showcased on the two side walls. The menu is concise, with appetising options such as baked eggs with oven-roasted tomato sauce.
Sweet goodies perch on the counter: sticky cardamom buns, moist Polish yoghurt and plum cake and decadent chocolate brownies. Everything is baked in-house, either by Andy or one of his twelve staff. Yep, you heard right: twelve. It’s been a busy year for the physicist-turned-baker.
What’s the next step?
At the moment all of our deliveries are just going to our wholesale customers here, in Finsbury Park, and centrally. Our plan is to launch a subscription service now. I went down the route of starting a bakery but the idea has always been to try home delivery. We’re going to trial it on quite a small scale; put it out to our mailing list. If you want to be part of that pilot, the best thing to do is join. It’s going to be super local, a one-mile radius from here. First of all we’re going to offer two evening deliveries a day.
And how will the goods be delivered?
On two wheels, of course. If people see it coming out of an Uber they’re not going to be happy. Our set-up is outside, a new bike and trailer.
So, why loaves?
I’ve always loved food and been interested in cooking. One part of it is bread, and I just started baking it at home. This was in 2009. I was playing around with sourdough starter and making some pretty crap bread to be honest. But when you bring it out of the oven, it’s hot and risen a bit, that makes you excited. It just went from there.
It’s all about the sourdough, why’s that?
It’s just the best way to make bread, getting all of the characteristics that I like from the extended fermentation period. You can make it quicker, but in my opinion you just end up with an inferior product. In terms of the flavour, the crust, crumb – it’s all about a low, slow and natural process.
How would you describe the taste and look?
It isn’t a really sour flavour, it’s meant to be balanced. You’ve got the acidity that comes from the starter, but it’s offset by the natural sweetness. The crust is caramelised: it’s got this glossy and blistered look and feel.
Does the recipe change much?
It’s always evolving, we’re constantly tweaking it. The environment changes, notably the temperature, and also the raw ingredients. If you’re baking with lots of water every day, when you go from one batch of flour to the next you really notice the difference, just because it’s a natural ingredient.
How often does the range change?
We don’t change it a lot to be honest. The rye, the spelt, the hippy and the classic are what I started with. We’ve just modified the rye, taken the wheat out and replaced it with wholemeal spelt. Sprouted quinoa is the latest addition.
What’s your fave?
Probably the hippy (organic wheat and rye with poppy, flax, pumpkin and sunflower). We couldn’t pull that one, or I don’t know what would happen.
What’s your top tip for leftovers?
Last Sunday, I cooked one of my favourite dishes for my family. You roast chicken and for the last half hour put croutons of stale sourdough around it, and cook it in all of the juices. Add some dressing and leaves – and call it a salad.
What are your main goals for the year?
To properly trial the home delivery service. I think it’s also really important to get things just right here. We’ve starting playing around with some pastry, so first of all there’s just going to be some savoury and sweet puffs. I’d like to do croissants: that’s a whole other technical thing, a learning process.
Is there a bakery number two on the horizon?
Possibly. I’m starting to consider it. If there is, my feeling is that it might be a good idea to focus on patisserie. It’s quite a different environment you need.
So the academic world is a distant memory?
I think I’d do a hard job to convince them that I actually really wanted to do it when I’ve buggered off and opened a bakery.
Main image credit: Laura Evans
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