A small artisan bakery in Surrey Weald supplying totally handmade bread.
Buy from: Village Greens or the Dorking Food Float.
Avoid: Inferior factory-made imposters.
Is it worth the calories?: Traditional slow-fermented bread using ingredients with provenance gets an undisputed thumbs up.
Tips: Book onto Dineke’s course and learn how simple it is to prepare artisan breads at home.
Having sampled Dineke’s breads and fruited buns at Village Greens’ food festival last summer I snapped up a place at one of her bread courses. Offered in partnership with Village Greens in Ockley, the principal retailer for Crumbs of Capel, it seemed a perfect foodie night out. In confidence, luck has not been on my side in the sourdough department so I was secretly hoping this would turn things around.
At a cost of £25 (including ingredients and dinner) I attended ‘Soda and Sourdough’ at the community hall in Capel. The evening started with a run through of the principles of sourdough starters. We prepared a sourdough bread first, which needed a couple of hours to rise, and then a speedy soda bread. While waiting for the bread to rise and prove, we had dinner and a chance to chat. Catherine Dampier, our Village Greens’ hostess, had put together a buffet of scrumptious products from the shop, all served with Dineke’s wonderful bread. Everything was local, carefully sourced and in perfect keeping with the ethos of the evening.
Making sourdough is a lengthy process, not to be confused with bread machines and easy-blend yeast. No, sour dough breads take time, a long time: when Dineke is baking for her retailers she makes the dough in the evening and ferments it all night. In the morning the dough is knocked back, kneaded again, formed into loaves and proved for another two hours. Then it’s ready to bake. But all the decisions are based on experience and timings can change each time you bake.
We were all provided with a portion of bubbling starter, which takes a couple of weeks to make. Warm water is added to flour to start the process, which encourages the growth of naturally occurring yeasts. This is fed with fresh flour and mixed and hibernated to create (eventually!) the bubbling, fermenting mass of batter characteristic of sourdough. Flour choice affects the result. We used Sharpham Park’s organic spelt flour for the sourdough and Doves Farm white organic for the soda bread.
Dineke’s course was jam packed with bread-making wisdom and tips but the most important was that to make your starter all you need is good-quality flour and some hand-warm water. It really is that simple. So why had I and so many other would-be sourdough bakers been sold the idea of fresh orange juice, raisins, bottled water and other mixtures? No wonder my previous efforts with strange concoctions in my airing cupboard had been a disaster.
Armed with a cup of starter, we added flour and a little more water and salt. We kneaded this for 10 minutes and formed it into four equal-sized rolls. We had a choice of seeds for toppings to add texture and nutrients – and to make it look good. We left this to rise while we got on with our soda bread.
For the soda bread we added bicarbonate of soda, the raising agent that gives soda bread its name, to white flour, then our choice of liquid: natural yogurt, milk, buttermilk or water. Kneading isn’t required, just a quick mix to form a soft dough. Ready to bake as soon as it’s made, we put our loaves in the oven while we tucked in to our dinner. Afterwards we had time to check our breads and troubleshoot.
If you don’t want to bake your own bread, Dineke supplies over a hundred loaves of bread a week to Village Greens (available fresh every day) and at the Dorking Food Float on Saturdays. Her gluten-free cheese biscuits and nibbles are available from Tanhouse and Kingfisher farm shops. Working to full capacity, Dineke has plans to convert her garage to a larger bake-house to increase production.
There are plenty of reasons why you should go to Village Greens in Ockley but this bread is near the top of the list for me.