ESB produces artisan Italian bread made with English flour and ingredients, and after chomping on an olive loaf from their bakery, we can attest they know a thing or two when it comes to bread.
Share your bread-making tips in the comments below:
1. Make your own biga as we call it, or sourdough starter
Simply put a cup of wholegrain flour and a cup water into a glass jar stir until there is no flour residue, cover and leave at room temperature for 24 hours.
Next day discard half of the mixture and add the same amount of flour and water to the remaining mixture, stir and leave. Repeat over the next few days. By day six you should be ready to use your biga. Try experimenting with different flours, liquids (fruit juices make interesting changes to the biga flavour).
2. Add flavour to bread
It takes effort to get bread to adopt a taste. At Exeter Street, we have found soaking seeds in hot water before adding them and the liquor to final mix results in a fuller flavoured bread. This is the technique we use in our raisin and fennel seed loaf.
3. Creating a crusty loaf
Industrial ovens have steam valves which allow bakers to inject moisture into the bake to create a crusty finish. At home you can either put a hot tray in the bottom of your oven and then pour water into it in the latter stages of your bake. Alternatively use a garden plant sprayer/mister, and simply spray liberally into your oven and over your bread near the end of the bake.
4. Take your time
The longer you leave the loaf to prove (the final stage of dough rise before baking), the better the flavour develops.
For our Pagnottas, we twice prove them, knocking them back to let them rise again. This creates a better chewier crumb. But don't leave it too long, as bread does keep on rising and you wouldn't want your kitchen over flowing with a lively bread dough.