Co-owners Bridget Hugo and Giuseppe Mascali eat, sleep and breathe real artisan baking. Having setup the successful pizza restaurant Franco Manca together, the pair believe deeply in the worldwide tradition of proper slow baking as discovered on travels in Southern Italy. This beautifully simple tradition creates the perfect conditions for flavour to fully develop naturally as loaves are left to ferment properly and are finished in authentic wood-fire ovens. Their dedication to an authentic approach is at the heart of their bread’s improved digestibility and flavour. Our reporter Nigel visited the bakery to get the dough-low on the magic behind their tasty slow-fermentation processes.
Cafone White Sourdough loaves being wood-fired in the bakery’s French white clay oven.
What’s the history of the business?
Giuseppe: It was founded together with Franco Manca – our pizza restaurant business. Bridget developed the dough recipe and then used the wood-fired ovens at Franco Manca at night when the restaurant was closed to make bread. It took off from there and was spun off in to a new separate company.
What makes your bread special?
Giuseppe: Our methods are all about real artisan slow-fermentation bread making, using only natural and sustainably farmed ingredients. We use a lot of stone-ground English-milled organic flours and bake in a wood-fired oven (which is a sustainable energy source) to produce proper artisan bread. We take a lot of time. We do a two-day fermentation (which very few people do) and we only use really good ingredients. It’s also all handmade.
Bakers hand-shaping freshly made dough.
What are your favourite breads?
Giuseppe: Our two-day wood-fired sourdough – our signature Cafone – which is our most popular product. It’s made with an incredible 500-year-old mother starter (an authentic Italian bread starter that’s been passed on over generations). Another one of my favourites is a dark German style rye bread we make with grains and seeds. We also do a Pagnotta loaf – a mixture of wheat and rye all organic stone-ground flours. Taste wise, it’s one of our best products.
100% German Rye Vollkorn bread straight out of the oven and cooling on racks.
What do you love about Farmdrop?
Bridget: Farmdrop is brilliant because they are directly connecting people with really excellent, good quality products at the centre of our city. They are one of the few companies out there who truly celebrate London’s producers and recognise our community of artisanal food-makers right in the heart of the capital.
Where do you find inspiration?
Giuseppe: The worldwide tradition of proper slow baking is a huge inspiration for us. We really admire the Southern Italian technique for its simplicity – it’s just about really fully developing the flavour from good quality flour. There’s no additives, just excellent quality flour that allows the dough to ferment properly. There’s also the traditional method of baking in wood-fired ovens, which brings out the flavours.
Flaming wood-chips being loaded into the oven and bread being prepared for firing – look closely and you’ll see the flame of the wood chips.
What’s the difference between your bread and those sold in the supermarket?
The supermarkets just can’t compete on quality due to their supply chain. One of the big supermarkets in France tried it 15 years ago and spent millions but it didn’t really work. The food supply chain of large retailers doesn’t allow the time for a product like ours to work – they can’t achieve the consistency and you end up getting a substandard product yet they are charging the same prices as proper artisan bread makers. I just don’t think there is a shortcut to making this type of product. You have to have the right ingredients, the right skills and importantly, you have to take the time. I don’t think the supermarkets are able or willing to put any of that in.
Sacks of organic stoneground rye flour, milled in Dorset.
What are the differences in terms of health benefits between a mass-produced loaf and an artisan loaf?
Giuseppe: Firstly, mass-produced bread doesn’t fill you up, so people tend to over eat them. This is because they don’t have any substance to them – the high quality grains in the organic flour we use contain more gluten and have a higher protein content. Our bread is the ultimate slow-food, whereas commercial breads are made from start to finish in less than an hour. Secondly, most people who think they have a wheat allergy are, I think, perhaps allergic to the improvers and other things that are added to the bread. There’s a difference in the gluten development as well which impacts its structure. Our breads have a proper caramelised crust which comes from allowing the fermentation process to work properly.
Freshly baked Cafone White Sourdough straight out of the oven and placed onto cooling racks. Check out that gorgeous caramelised crust.
The world would be a tastier place if…
Giuseppe: People were more aware of what they eat. I think if people cooked more it would help! We are finding that more and more customers are becoming increasingly educated about real artisan bread and we hope that trend continues!
What’s the favourite thing about your job?
Giuseppe: Getting good feedback. It’s great when people appreciate and notice the difference in quality. We love getting good feedback from either our wholesale or retail customers – it’s great for our whole team.
Bridget holding her signature Bukowski loaf – a rustic wood-fired sourdough.
Your favourite dish?
Giuseppe: Our rye bread, with salted butter and really nice honey. I quite like that as a late night treat!
Bridget: I love a slice of our sourdough bread with lashings of peanut butter and a glass of milk – my idea of heaven.
See all of BreadBread’s beautiful bread on the shop.
Nigel is a third generation farmer, editor and photographer with a love of capturing small-scale independent farms and artisanal food producers. Our kinda guy.