Sourdough tales at E5 Bakehouse

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Last year, I took a baking course at E5 Bakehouse with a group of local friends. For those of you who haven’t discovered the joys of E5, a brief summary:

Joy 1: they make incredible bread. Most of them have a starter-style yeast, which technically makes all of them sourdough, but they have a mix of different flours creating bagels, rye, and ciabatta, as well as a more typical boule-style sourdough loaf. The starter is what makes the bread rise and taste so good. Apparently it’s 200 years old, brought back from Sweden by a girl who got it from her grandmother. E5 also do cakes and coffee. And bread. Did I mention the bread? Yum. Bread.

Joy 2: they have a walk-in fridge. Because their sourdough starters have to be kept cool, they need a gigantic fridge, and this one is lined with shelf after shelf of gloopy buckets, all waiting to be transformed by water, flour, salt and heat. It’s so big it’s actually a little scary: what if you got stuck in there? With all the yeasty gloop? Incidentally, the yeasty gloop is also quite fun to play with. This is Ben, playing with gloop. (Sorry, starter).

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Joy 3: Ben is the founder and has a whippet called, amazingly, Starter. I’ve seen her run to work with him, alongside his bicycle.

Joy 4: they have a big kneading machine that looks like a heavyweight matron dalek. Those arms just pump and pump and pump.

Joy 5: they run excellent, full-day classes, complete with lunch, cake, tea and coffee. You get to make Hackney Wild, bagels, rye and ciabatta loaves, take plenty home with you and you can pocket some of the starter for home baking.

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This course was one of the most satisfying afternoons I’ve ever had, and my starter is still going strong, six months later. I keep it in an old Bonne Maman jar, with a loose lid. At home I now only bake the Hackney Wild even though we learnt the other breads, simply because a pure sourdough boule is what I’m after. As per Ben’s advice, I bake it in an enormous preheated casserole pot to keep the bread nice and moist, and ensure an even bake from beneath as well as on top. And lo – the most delicious bread you will ever eat, for pennies, in your own home. Ta da.

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Thanks to Rose for letting me use some of her images.

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