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.


Siri said...

Yay! Crispbread! Where can a poor Norwegian in exile get her hands on some of this deliciousness?

verity said...

Wow - that looks fun and those scones look amazing!

Louise said...

I only discovered the delights of Peters yard last weekend and I agree wholeheartedly that they should be available up and down the country. Fab post of your day, you lucky thing!!

shayma said...

i am so with you, Signe, ryvita is awful, even to someone who has not been to Scandinavia and eaten the real thing fresh! what a wonderful experience you had being able to go to Peter's Yard. What would you suggest for us (I am with Siri) if we want to purchase it from stores? wonderful write-up. x shayma

the lacquer spoon said...

Thanks for the process of baking! Lovely to eat with salmon and herbs. Also it must be fun to nibble the bread alone on couch :)

From spring-awaiting Tokyo!

Just Cook It said...


goodshoeday said...

Ooooo am I burning with jealousy at your day out with the Peter's Yard team baking or am I burning with jealousy....
Though I might just let you off since you did introduce me to their amazing crispbreads to which I am now dangerously addicted.
And I tried making my own and they were good but no where near as good :(

Anonymous said...

Hi Signe,

My name is Beverley and I work for Ryvita, we would love to send you some of our premium crispbreads for you to taste. We would love the opportunity to show you our full range and hopefully change your opinion.

Please email me at

Signe said...

Thank you ALL for your kind comments!

@Siri your best bet at the moment is to have a look at Peter's Yard website and order the crispbread online. They might be able to direct you to a local Cambridge supplier. If you're in London John Lewis food hall, Fortnums and a lot of delis sell them too...

@Verity it was a really fun couple of days spent in the Cotswolds! You would have loved the scones, light and buttery and so moreish :-)

@Louise thanks lady! It was a tremendous honour to be asked along, learnt so much about the process of sourdough making. Glad you agree the crispbread taste great :)

@Shayma thank you, as always, for your lovely comment! At the moment I'm not sure you can get Peter's Yard across the pond sadly. Your best bet next time you're in the UK is either to order it direct online or go to Fortnums or John Lewis food hall for crispbread goodness...

@The lacquer spoon indeed the crispbread are great on their own or with salmon, cheese, all sorts of delicious toppings. Would love to return to Tokyo and see the cherry blossom again!

@Just Cook It thanks dude, will have to share some of the crispbread goodness if we meet sometime!

@Goodshoeday as you know, I always fsvour baking from scratch BUT this is one area I make an exception. Life is too short to make your own sourdough crispbread, thank goodness for Peter's Yard (and yes I'm as addicted as you)

@Beverley that is generous and kind of you to offer to send samples of Ryvita after I compared it unfavourably to Peter's Yard. Thanks for your comment

Niamh said...

Lovely photos Sig! How lovely to go see them make it. I agree - those crispbreads are really superb. I have a tin here which was devoured in quick time! Need to buy more to have with my next lot of Frank Hederman smoked salmon :)

theundergroundrestaurant said...

Very lucky. I once spent a weekend going round windmills and watermills in England. Love Peter's yard crispbread.

Raluca said...

I really need to try them! Searched everywhere for them. Will just have to order online.
Great pictures!! Mouth watering :).

Choclette said...

What a fantastic time at Shipton Mill you had - I'm quite envious. As an avid sourdough maker, I love the idea of a sourdough crispbread too.