Bread winners

IS there a more mouthwatering aroma than that of baking bread? The mere sniff of fresh dough rising and crisping in a hot oven gets the saliva flowing - and for the supermarkets which pump the scent through their stores, it also gets the tills ringing as hunger takes a grip.

But then we're hard-wired to like bread. It's a staple food - and without it there would be no sandwiches, no toast, no summer puddings, nothing to dip into your soup or wipe up egg yolk.

Flat, yeasted, sour, white, brown, wholemeal, rye, pumpernickel, plain or pan . . . bread is perhaps the oldest foodstuff that we're still filling our bellies with on a daily basis.

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However, familiarity breeds contempt, and long gone are the days when bread would be made either at home or by the town baker. Why go to all the bother, when it's ready-made, ready-sliced and cheap at the supermarket?

No surprise then that more than half of Scotland's high street bakeries have gone out of business over the past 20 years and 95 per cent of bread sold in the UK is now made in factories.

So now there's a new breed of breadmakers around - and they're not content to be run-of-the-mill. Instead they are artisans.

Furthermore, it seems that the need for fresh bread is encouraging communities to launch their own volunteer-led bakeries.

Andrew Whitley, who is to bread what Rick Stein is to fish, is not surprised by the rise in demand for what he calls "real bread". Whitley was behind the highly regarded Cumbrian business, The Village Bakery, for 26 years before he sold up and moved to the south of Edinburgh.

Now he runs Bread Matters Ltd, which offers breadmaking courses from his converted farm steading in the Pentlands - and he's just helped to launch the Breadshare Community-supported Bakery at Whitmuir Organic Farm, in West Linton.

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Whitley says: "I think the rise in interest in real bread is because there's a genuine revulsion at the poor quality of mass-produced, industrial bread.

"People have been waking up to this for a long time. More and more people have found that they can't eat certain types of manufactured bread, their bodies can't deal with the proteins, and to my mind its because industrial bakeries have reduced fermentation time of dough to zero, which doesn't give the bread time to break down these proteins naturally. And then there are all the additives.

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"The other problem with industrial bread is that because of all the enzymes which give it a pulpy quality, it doesn't perform the way it should when you want good toast, or breadcrumbs or a summer pudding.

He adds: "However, I also believe that people are coming back to real bread because it is a community thing. Sharing bread with someone is a social, almost a spiritual thing.

"Breadshare for instance, is part of an emerging network of local community bakeries whose impact should not be underestimated. With just 25,000 small bakeries - the same number the French have now - everyone in the country could get real bread in their neighbourhood."

A similar venture is also happening in Dunbar, where it's hoped a not-for-profit community bakery could be open by November this year.

Hundreds of local people have bought shares in the scheme not only because they want fresh bread, but in the hope that it will help revitalise the town's high street.

In Edinburgh, though, it seems we're happier to spend our dough on bread produced by full-time artisan bakers, such as Peter Ljunquist's sourdough to be found in Peter's Yard in the Quartermile district or fellow Swedish baker Jacob Philip's rhy bread, which he sells from his eponymous patisserie in Gorgie Road.

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Then there's Jon Wood who opened his Bakery Andante in Morningside Road last year after being made redundant from his job with a telecoms firm.

Jon says his passion for baking started more than ten years ago. "I started making my own bread at the weekends and experimenting with loads of recipes and mastering different techniques.

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"Launching the business was a risk, but while it feels there's been a sudden explosion of interest in bread, it has actually been building slowly as people have lost trust in the food industry.

"Once you taste real bread it's difficult to go back to supermarket cotton wool.

"Some of my breads will take five hours to mature because I don't use additives and improvers and fast mix methods which speed up the baking process."

• Breadshare is raising funds for its bakery at Whitmuir. For more information call 01968 661853 or visit For more on the Dunbar Community Bakery, which is also raising money, visit