Sourdough show

23 March, 2007
Having trialled the idea last year, baker Stuart Oetzmann is taking his sourdough show on the road, reports Andrew Williams
Page 27 
Metfield Bakery uses meat reared on owner Stuart Oetzmann's own farm to make its lauded pork pies - with the pigs also performing the dual role of handy waste disposal unit, gobbling up the bakery's leftover bread and vegetables. If mud, pig-like sanitary conditions and hungry, whiffy creatures are your thing too, you could join the 85,000 revellers at this summer's Download rock festival, or the gargantuan 150,000-capacity Bestival festival on the Isle of White, who will be fed by Metfield's new travelling bakery.
The former wholesale-only bakery will be taking to the road this summer as it branches out into retailing, following successes with markets and online sales. The Dereham-based firm recently designed and commissioned a working mobile organic bakery - a big trailer with a three-deck Mono oven, a spiral mixer, mains pressure hot water and refrigeration - which will also be scooting around local events, horse trials and agricultural shows.The prospect of live bakery theatre has clearly sparked the imagination of event organisers, with Metfield signed up to 20 already. And the projected £100,000 extra sales should easily recoup the branded trailer's £27,000 price tag within the year. "The fact that we're probably one of the only people in the country that can pitch up with a mobile organic bakery unlocks plenty of doors for us," says Oetzmann. "There's good volume turnover in taking your business to 20,000-200,000 customers on a weekend."It trialled the concept last year, transporting a generator and the bakery's own oven to one event - at great cost. The main attraction is the sourdough bread, just three-to-four types of which are baked on the trailer. "Because we have long fermentation times we have more control; we can make it up on a Thursday night and bake it on the Saturday morning," says Oetzmann.The Norfolk-born ex-chef has a track record of working with big names, including Anthony Worrall Thompson and the Roux Brothers, but is now a-self proclaimed baker. "I've converted to being a baker, for sure," he says. "There are some really good pastry chefs who are passionate about using great ingredients - they're now discovering bread and making their own personal journeys with it." Oetzmann's own journey began in the early 1990s after taking inspiration from 18th-century authors, including Eliza Acton, Hannah Glasse and Elizabeth David. Six years ago, he started his own business with the aim of reviving bygone British baking traditions. He now employs 23 people and turns over £1m.His sourdough starter - a barm, that's seeded using brewers' yeast, and fed with rye flour - is used to make 5,000 loaves a week. With sourdough, costs are low and margins high, he insists. "We don't have to buy in much yeast and we don't use additives or fats to achieve the kind of textures that bakers years ago would have achieved anyway." Apart from bread, Metfield makes a series of traditional English tarts, cakes and puddings, including Eccles cakes and the hugely popular - if not entirely lardy - Lardy cake, made with 50% butter. n



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