Good flour, yeast, water and salt is all that’s needed to make a really good loaf of bread, but all too often we rely on industrially-made, additive-filled sugary alternatives. However, with the rise in popularity of sourdough and a whole movement dedicated to spreading the word about ‘real bread’, the UK is starting to sit up and take notice of just how special bread can be.
That’s why we organised a cook school and demonstration all about bread at the legendary Le Cordon Bleu in London. Hosting proceedings was Merlin Labron-Johnson, one of the hottest chefs in the capital at the moment – he took time out of his busy service at the Michelin-starred Portland and more relaxed Clipstone to share his love of proper bread.
Merlin knows just how important quality ingredients are, and he was keen to wax lyrical about his favourite flour supplier, Gilchesters Organic, based near Newcastle-upon-Tyne. The chef makes all his own bread in-house and believes Gilchesters Flour is the best in the country. But foodies cannot live by bread alone, so Merlin incorporated it into two of his most famous recipes.
To start, the chef showed the group how to make Brussels sprouts with burnt bread purée. The base was made up of burnt toast, black garlic (which lent the dish an almost aniseed flavour) and sticky, caramelised onions whizzed up into a smooth purée. This was simply topped with flash-fried sliced sprouts and sweetheart cabbage, drizzled with brown butter and raspberry vinegar and a few flaked almonds.