DAVE Dobson’s children have been complaining recently that they have had to go without their favourite start to the day – the smell of freshly-baked bread wafting from the kitchen.
That’s all changed now and normal service has been resumed with the delivery of a stone bread oven to the bakery that has been created in a converted garage at the back of Dave’s home in Estella Way in Spalding.
The double-decked oven joins the industrial mixer, preparation tables and cabinets that demonstrate Dave is now ready for business – as The Barefoot Bakery.
The name hints at the ethos behind the bakery, artisan bread made very, very slowly, a way of thinking about food that chimes with a movement called Slow Food and which promotes the enjoyment and protection of locally-produced food and products as well as regional cooking.
Dave, who uses locally grown flours sourced at the Maud Foster Windmill in Boston, intends to bake a range of artisan breads that will be sold initially through subscription, although he is currently looking at local outlets. He is going to bake five standard loaves as well as specials, and these will alter with the season, using cinnamon and raisins at Christmas for instance, or baking things like Panettone, while at other times of year customers might be able to enjoy potato and rosemary bread, or a granary loaf containing honey and black treacle.
The standard loaf is simply made of flour, water, yeast and a bit of salt, the mix left overnight before being shaped and allowed to rise and ‘prove’ for about 20 hours before being baked.
“It’s this slow maturation that allows the flavour and the goodness of the wheat to mature,” he says.
According to Dave, the mass-produced bread that busy shoppers pick up in the supermarket has typically been produced in a factory in no more than an hour. This way of making bread stems from something Dave refers to as ‘the Chorley Wood process’ of the ’50s, when producers discovered how to make bread in the shortest time possible and which felt as squidgy as possible.
“The whole thing about bread is now about how cheaply and how quickly we can make it,” says Dave, who explains that this has been achieved by modifying flours and adding enzymes, which under EU regulations do not have to be listed among the bread’s ingredients. “It’s the enzymes that give bread what people feel is its freshness, its squidge and its bulk, and allows the yeast to work quickly,” he says. “To go fast you have to go complicated; to go slow you can go simple.”
Dave believes the rise in intolerance to white flour and bread is to do with how we are treating what should be a staple food – his sourdough loaves, raised naturally without the use of yeast, are ideal for those with allergies.
He becomes even more taxed about supermarket “pseudo artisan breads” which he says in the majority of cases are “pre-formed quick baked breads in pretty shapes which the supermarkets are basically tanning”. What annoys him most is the idea that people are being fooled into thinking they are buying artisan bread when it goes against everything true artisan bakers are doing.
Dave has an unusual pedigree for a baker – he spent years working for the Foreign Office, looking after its computer systems all over the world, which involved a great deal of travelling.
What has been consistent though is his hobby of baking bread since his daughter Maegan came into the world 24 years ago when they were living in Dubai.
About 14 years ago the family – wife June, who is a supply teacher, and sons Jacob (16) and Theo (15), both of whom attend Spalding Grammar School – moved to Spalding. Dave retired early from his job about six years ago and has spent time since then overseeing the construction of the family’s home in southern India.
“We knew we wanted to retire somewhere temperate – southern India is 25 to 30 degrees Celsius all year round – and to a place where English is predominantly spoken,” Dave explains.
He has tried his hand at large-scale catering for Oxford balls when Maegan was at university there and, more recently, has been involved in a bakery called Hand Made Bakery, based outside Huddersfield and close to Dave’s Leeds roots.
The bakery, less than two years old, was runner-up in this year’s Radio 4 Food and Farming Awards and so is a good model for Dave to follow in his own business.
At this stage of their lives, Dave and June do not want the imposition of full-scale bread production and do not intend to make masses of bread, so the subscription method works well for them, with people going online or calling them to place an order.
In an effort to boost their community involvement Dave plans to make reciprocal arrangements with schools, nurseries and other local organisations to deliver bread in return for providing an input into the eco-education demanded as part of the curriculum.
The couple will also spread the ‘slow food’ message by teaching people how to make their own bread at bread-making courses.
There are three planned, one for standard bread, another for sourdough and a third for cooking with children. The first course is already full but the website has details of more courses.
Contact The Barefoot Baker on 07850 343438 or visit www.thebare footbakery.co.uk