As a staple, we take bread pretty seriously. It is a welcoming and vital touch that begins a meal – it says to the guest in a restaurant ‘you are hungry. Let us deal with that and look after you’. In fact, if the bread is good it can be the best way to make a good impression.
Flour, being one of just four ingredients, is obviously a crucial element for bread, indeed, our bread begins with a leaven made from just water and flour. We use flour from Gilchesters Organics, a quietly revolutionary Northumbrian organic stone mill and farm, run by husband and wife Andrew and Billie Wilkinson.
In pretty much every way, their approach to cereal cultivation and flour production rails against all commercial agricultural convention. They are at the forefront of a growing UK grain movement seeking to improve the flavour of our flour and the health of our environment by working with, not against, the natural constraints of the land.
In practice, this means they have clocked up years of research into organic crop husbandry in order to develop a set of practices that now sees them cultivate a combination of traditional, tall straw, heritage grains (including Emmer and Einkorn) alongside herds of rare-breed cattle. Rotating the use of each field in the farm between varying crops and animals across each field in the farm not only fosters biodiversity, but also ensures the soils are never depleted of naturally occurring minerals and nutrients.
These carefully nurtured grains are then milled using a small stone mill, installed on the grounds of the farm. The resulting flours are absolutely bursting with flavour, making for a delicious texture and far better crumb structure and crust than any bread made with a refined, bleached flour. More than flavour though, it is the careful consideration of every element of the process from soil to grain to flour that makes Andrew and Billie such wonderful partners for us as we look to provide a truly warm, nourishing welcome, in bread form.
We proudly stock a selection of Billie and Andrew's flours in-store and online.
With thanks to Zoe Ward Aldam Photography for the stunning photos.