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Winner: Slow Roast Tomato, Olive & Marjoram Ciabatta, Alex Gooch, Artisan Baker

Made by Alex Gooch at his wholesale bakery in Hay-on-Wye, this loaf is sold throughout Hereford, Wales and the south west at local markets, delis, food festivals, restaurants and hotels.

The ciabatta contains all organic ingredients, mostly grown locally, comprising wheat flour, rye flour, local organic tomatoes (in season), Greek olives, local wet garlic, local marjoram, extra virgin Sicilian olive oil, sea salt and yeast.

The dough is fermented for more than 18 hours to give the loaf character and flavour, and the tomatoes are slow-roasted with garlic and sea salt for 24 hours.

“We wanted to aim for great character and flavour as well as really good, natural and wholesome ingredients,” explains Gooch. “We also include some British heritage flours. Quality is everything to us.”

Baked at a high temperature for a short time, this rustic ciabatta gains a flavoursome crust and irregular open texture.

Gooch trained as a chef and made various types of bread in professional kitchens, gradually becoming more interested in bakery before setting up his own business, Alex Gooch’s Organics. On a typical day it makes about 20 types of loaf, from ciabatta, rye bread and sourdoughs to spiced buns and brioches.

Finalist: Malted Sourdough, Bexhill Farm Kitchen and Poppyseed Bakery

Lee Smith runs two bakeries with retail outlets, both located in Sussex.

He also has more than 60 wholesale customers and it was one of these who suggested he add a brown sourdough to the range, so the Malted Sourdough was born.

“I use malted flour because the malting contributes to flavour and the particular flour I use also contains a flake, which adds to the texture,” says Smith.

“I use my own 15-year-old starter dough then salt, water and wild yeasts in the air do the rest. It is a fairly wet dough, rested for three hours, during which time it is stretched and folded to strengthen the gluten and create a well-balanced and aerated dough. Then, it is scaled and moulded by hand before being placed in wooden baskets. The baskets go in the fridge for 12 hours’ slow prove, adjusted to the outside temperature and weather conditions.

“By the same evening the loaves are ready to bake. First we give the sourdoughs three slashes across the top, then ideally we like a dark bake, which appeals to our retail and also our wholesale customers.”

Finalist: 1946 White Sourdough Boule, Bells of Lazonby

This loaf, designed to celebrate Bells’ founding year, has quickly become the firm’s best-selling artisan bread.

Full of natural ingredients, the naturally fermented sourdough takes three days to make. To start, a 30-year-old sour is used, which is nurtured every day, including Christmas.

During the process, the dough is stretched and rotated by hand every four hours to help natural gluten development. It is then chilled and allowed to prove overnight before being cut into pieces, hand-rolled, moulded, then placed into batons.

The loaves cold-prove for another night before being slashed and hand-stencilled with the 1946 date, followed by an hour’s warm proving, then baked.

“The process varies with the time of year and environment,” says Bells’ managing director Michael Bell. “Minor changes are made dependent on temperature, pH of the ferment, age of the flour crop and hygroscopicity, all overseen by our artisan bakers.

“The loaves are soft, springy and very satisfying.”