Wednesday, 17 March 2010
Peter's Yard Crispbread: more than the sum of its parts
Those who know me will tell you few things make me happier in life than good bread slathered with indecent amounts of butter. When time permits the ritual of baking and breaking of bread is one of this cook's favourite pastimes, but more often than not I'm racing around like a whirling dervish and the bread baking goes by the wayside.
So it was with some breadgeek joy that I chanced upon Peter's Yard wholemeal crispbread this time last year. Served with smoked salmon as a canape at a Scandinavian dinner hosted by "Denmark's Delia" Trina Hahnemann at the emporium of pong La Fromagerie, I may or may not have snaffled more than my fair share of these canapes.
Why the excitement at finding a new crispbread? To a Scandinavian wholemeal crispbread is practically a birthright, we love it so much it's rare a storecupboard is without a packet of Wasa rye or sesame. Suffice to say I was mildly horrified when I first bought Ryvita as a university student back in the pre-Peter's Yard 1990s. Just a glance at the oesophagus-busting Ryvita in supermarkets still makes me shudder, it's very existence constituting a singular crime against gastronomy.
So when I tasted Peter's Yard sourdough crispbread and was reliably informed this was made solely with wholemeal flour, milk, honey, and a smidgeon of butter (oh yes!) I was transported to crispbread nirvana. The pure wholemeal taste, enriched with a touch of sourdough goodness and a gentle sweetness from the honey... it's hard to convey how delicious this crispbread is. It's Wasa for grown-ups, even those like me who suffer from periodic arrested development.
As I was soon to discover, the nascent crispbread business is run by two of the most generous and lovely people I've met in this hard-boiled industry: Wendy Wilson-Bett and Ian Tencor. We met one fine day at the Real Food Festival last year and I've been an advocate for their awesome crispbread ever since. Unpaid of course, lest you think this is a PR-led product placement. I do it because Peter's Yard is a bona fide sourdough crispbread and if it were up to me I'd mandate that every restaurant, deli and cheese emporium up and down this country serves this glorious product alongside proper homemade bread.
Peter's Yard deserve to be successful and I do what I can to help them, so when they asked me to join on a two-day innovation session at Shipton Mill in the heart of the Cotswolds I had to pinch myself. Recipe-testing is something I never tire of, and gallivanting around the English countryside is great but getting to see a MILL IN ACTION! My cup runneth over...
In the coming weeks I'll be sharing recipe ideas for crispbread, which of course you can easily apply to open-faced sandwiches. In the meantime, here are a few snaps of the Peter's Yard and Shipton Mill team in action:
Swedish guru of baking and patisserie Jan Hedh
Peter's Yard baker-in-chief Troels Bendix
Tools of the trade
Troels rolling the crispbread
Wendy and Jan discuss recipe ideas
Ian tentatively checks the sourdough starter, or Mother
Mamma Mia! (sorry, had to be done)
Clive of Shipton Mill, if you want to learn about bread he's your man
Clive's delectable scones, best I've tasted
Clive gave me a lesson in sourdough
Check out the soft lighting *bread porn*
Sacks of Shipton Mill flour from the original Shipton Mill
Visit to the old mill
Grain being processed
After all the excitement of that day's recipe testing at Shipton Mill with Clive, Troels and Jan we had an excellent dinner with Shipton Mill owner John Lister at his hotel Bibury Court.
And then it was back to the big smoke. Thanks to Peter's Yard and Shipton Mill for such a fantastic experience, the future of sourdough crispbread is a bright one indeed.