There's something about bread that is so fundamental, so magical, so right. Our passionate baker boy, Alex Gooch, is here to pass on his bread baking knowhow.
Meet Alex Gooch, our new baker boy, in the first of his new series about baking bread.
“￼￼￼Good bread takes patience, passion and instinct. Making it brings you into the moment completely. It stimulates all of the senses, whether it be the feel of the dough, the sweet smell of the baking bread, or the crackle as you squeeze a ciabatta. ￼“When I was growing up, my brothers and I ate toast, toast and more toast! And that was about as close to bread as I got until I started as a kitchen porter when I was doing my A levels. “I loved the camaraderie of the kitchen and felt at home there. They offered to train me, so I ditched the idea of college and settled into the chef’s life of long hours and a surrogate family of fellow foodies. “I liked baking bread and worked at a few Italians where I mastered focaccia pretty well and at hotels I made plenty of pastry and croissants. But it was while at Penrhos Court in Herefordshire that I started experimenting, encouraged by chef Daphne lambert (who I named my first sourdough starter after). In 2007 she let me take over one of the kitchens at night and this was my first bakery. I began selling bread and jams at farmers’ markets and food festivals, then the following year I opened my bakery called Alex Gooch Artisan Baker in Hay-on-Wye. “There are so many possibilities with bread: rye sourdough, mixed grain, ciabatta, brioche but one of the things that keeps me excited and inspired is following the seasons, and letting them dictate the bread I make. It turns out that pink fir apple potatoes make the most scrumptious potato and onion bread, and the magical cep makes a mind-blowing garlic and cep foccacia with herb oil. “Baking is a hard job – pulling all-nighters and the need to step up a gear when things are busy. But baking at home is different: one of the reasons I think it is now so popular is because the results are so rewarding. The process is so enjoyable, too. It is very natural; you can listen to the radio or chill out for a while – bread is at its best when it is left to rest a lot.”
Turn to page 49 of October's The Simple Things for Alex's seasonal bread bakes, including Black garlic flatbread with sesame, nigella and a kale, miso dressing; Roast pumpkin and apple rolls; and Plum and ginger bread with a cider and honey glaze.
Alex Gooch supplies restaurants, hotels, delis, functions and events and sells at markets in different towns four days a week. He also runs bread-making courses: www.alexgoochbaker.com. Tweet Alex @alexgoochbaker to let him know how your bread bakes.