Hobbs House Bakery, Chipping Sodbury, Gloucestershire
"The Wild White is a personal favourite," says Sam Wells, production director at Hobbs House Bakery. "It tastes like proper bread should."
The 800g sourdough loaf was a huge hit with the judges too, who cited its "total simplicity and perfection" as the reason it was named winner. Containing just organic flour, sea salt and water (and Hobbs' 45-year-old 'Monster' levain starter), the loaf has a 72-hour prove and delivers a chewy crust with a hint of sourness.
Hobbs House has been running since 1985 and has four retail outlets, around 200 wholesale customers and a £2.8m turnover. It uses a lot of spelt and rye flours, making products suitable for the wheat-intolerant. Wells says its biggest investment is time: "Everything here is hand-moulded, baked on the oven floor. We use very little mechanisation; making bread is a labour of love."
Finalist: Country White Sourdough
La Brea Bakery, Southall, Middlesex
Founded in 1989 by Los Angeles chef Nancy Silverton, La Brea Bakery was bought by IAWS group in 2001. Today, its Irish production facility still uses Nancy's sourdough starter in its artisanal breads, which are sold to retail multiples and into foodservice.
"Our Country White Sourdough loaf is our heart," explains national account manager Vanessa Young. "It's a tangy loaf with a crunchy crust and a springy interior, made with flour, water and the starter."
La Brea's Wholegrain loaf is a combination of six different grains and honey; its Raisin & Pecan dessert bread is packed with the best California raisins and nuts.
"Our products stand out because of the love we put into them," says Young. "We never compromise on quality or time."
Finalist: Montys Revenge
More? The Artisan Bakery, Staveley, Cumbria
With his partly German heritage, director Patrick Moore has "bread in his blood" and believes it should always be a natural, quality product made without improvers or preservatives. Once a chef, he was production manager of a local bakery before setting up in three rooms in his house. Now his bakery/café boasts a £650,000 turnover and 12 staff.
Moore's breads are hand-mixed and moulded and enjoy long fermentation and proof times. For example, his Lakeland Gold Barmy Beer is fermented for three hours then hand-divided and moulded and left to "sleep" overnight.
The cheesy garlic bread, Montys Revenge, uses a three flour sourdough base and both liquid sour and levain styles of flavouring and fermentation.