Sponsored by Bakels

Winner: Church Street Sour, Cinnamon Square

Paul Barker, owner of Cinnamon Square, in Rickmansworth, Herts, developed this crusty bread along the lines of an Italian country bread, and named it after the street the firm is on.

Barker prides himself on using minimal ingredients; the loaf contains just white, wholemeal and rye flours, plus salt and water. 

“After feeding my wheat sour twice a day for three days, I give it a final feed with wholemeal flour before using it to leaven the loaf,” he explains.

The loaf is bulked for three hours, then stretched and folded every 30 minutes. It is rounded, dipped in seeds and another layer of dough is wrapped around it. After that, it is proved for a couple of hours, retarded for 18 hours – in a plastic bowl covered by a teatowel to replicate the simplicity of how it is done in farm kitchens – and allowed a couple of hours at room temperature. After dusting with more rye flour, the outer layer is delicately cut into eight before it’s baked.

“I use high hydration to impart the open chewy crumb,” says Barker. “I deliberately bake the loaves heavily to achieve an almost burnt appearance.”

The petal-shaped crust is protected by placing each loaf in a simple cardboard box lined with paper. The loaves are produced in batches of 10 and each sells for £3.65.

Finalist: Mini Mozzarella, Tomato and Basil Focaccia, Debaere

London-based wholesale bakery Debaere has previously focused on producing morning goods, cookies and pastries, but launched this innovative line after finding a baker with a passion for bread.

The mini mozzarella, tomato and basil focaccia contains potato mash, which helps provide elasticity of the dough and maintain freshness.

“We experimented: we make three different toppings and, importantly, we wanted to cover the top entirely to make it a more indulgent product,” says director Terry Morgan. “After mixing the dough, all the focaccias are hand-formed and finished with fresh ingredients.

“We use natural colours and flavours and no preservatives. The focaccia is made to be eaten, not displayed for long periods.”

Although it comes fresh, the focaccia can be flow-wrapped for longer shelf life. Morgan adds it can be easily warmed and makes a good addition to a café or deli’s ready-to-eat range.

Founded in 2000, Debaere supplies customers including Whole Foods Market, Virgin Trains and independent coffee shops, and employs 57 people.

Finalist: Sourdough White, The Flour Pot Bakery

Sarah Yates is head baker at The Flour Pot Bakery in Brighton, which has five stores and a thriving local wholesale trade.

Sarah trained in business studies before taking the decision to fulfil her dream of becoming a baker. She went to France to study her trade, and learned the appeal of good white sourdough, which she and her team of seven bakers make with organic white and rye flours. White bread can absolutely have taste, she believes, it just needs time and natural ingredients.

“Baking is my passion and we are a great team here at Flour Pot,” Sarah says. “We make the white sourdough in two sizes – small and large, which retail at £1.70 and £3.20, respectively. We also supply it sliced to many of our wholesale clients, as it is perfect for sandwiches. 

“After mixing, the dough is left for three hours’ bulk fermentation. Made at 72% hydration and with a stiff leaven, it is folded three times. Then, after hand scaling and shaping, each loaf is left for 18 hours before baking to develop the best flavour and texture with an open, waxy crumb and fantastic crust.”