Long Fermented Ciabatta

Martha Brown of Forge Bakehouse Sheffield was Winner of the hotly-contested Ciabatta category and also Runner Up in the Muntons Malt Bread category in 2018.

She is seen below receiving her award from Alex Gooch (left) and Stephen Hallam, Chair of Judges (right).

Martha Brown, Forge Bakehouse

We have invited her to the blog today to find out more about her winning ‘Long Fermented Ciabatta’ and her bakery.

How did it feel to win your category?

Surprised! It’s the first year we have entered the Tiptree World Bread Awards with Brook Food so we had no idea what to expect. It was a bit of fun to pit our bread against other bakers so it’s pretty awesome that our Ciabatta came out on top. I was a lot more nervous than I thought when it came to the announcement of the winner.

What were the highlights from the awards evening for you?

It was great to meet other bakers and people working in the industry. When you run a small business on your own (and for years as the Head Baker too) it’s really hard to get out to meet others doing the same thing. I saw a few familiar faces, so it was great to catch up but also met people whose bakeries I have admired from afar online for years.

Tell us more about your winning loaf.

Our ciabatta is actually our only loaf that doesn’t contain any sourdough. It’s made over two days, bulk fermented overnight. We use Shipton Mill flour, hydrated at 90%. We’ve been told by an Italian customer that they are too big to be called a ciabatta (meaning slipper), as you’d never have slippers that long! They are really open textured with a chewy crust that’s soft but also got a little bit of crunch.

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Describe a normal working day at your bakery and what makes your bakery unique?

Our bakery is also a café, meaning we have lots of different people working over 3 kitchens and 3 floors of our building. Our bakers start at 5am, baking all the sourdoughs straight from the fridge and shaping all the baguettes and ciabatta. Pastry chefs start a little before 7am so both sections are working together to get the shop set up for 8.30am. Our café and shop open then with chefs cooking a brunch menu that is completely made from scratch. We make everything we sell, from jams, sauces, bread, baked beans, patisserie and more.

As well as the daily bakery and café service, we run bread classes and evening events throughout the year. We also pop-up at Sheffield Train Station once a week and head to Farmers Markets.

We’d love to hear more about your baking background.

My professional baking experience is actually pretty limited. I spent a year studying baking at the School of Artisan Food (2011-2012) and set up a few months after the course finished. I had never worked in a bakery or even a café before, so it’s been an incredibly steep learning curve. The business has grown organically over the last 6 years, starting in a very small shop, moving premises, opening a small café space in the bakery, then expanding the café into the two floors above the bakery. For a good few years I was the Head Baker and worked more than full time on bake shifts while trying to run the business around that. Now I have amazingly skilled bakers, pastry chefs, chefs, baristas and service staff who enable me to steer the ship while feeding into the creative direction of the bakery. I am still chief handywoman and work across all sections to cover holidays etc. It’s a large team so there is always somewhere to fill in!

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What tips would you give to young apprentice bakers hoping to bake and even own their own bakery one day?

I think I would definitely have benefitted from more experience in other bakeries. Everyone works in different ways so seeing a broad range of techniques, experience and skills would help you make educated decisions and problem solve. I’m not sure it’s essential to study baking formally, although the theory I learned during my course has been invaluable.

To visit or find out more about the bakery:

Address: Forge Bakehouse, 302 Abbeydale Road, Sheffield, S7 1FL

Website: www.forgebakehouse.co.uk

Instagram: @forgebakehouse

Twitter: @forgebakehouse

Facebook: /forgebakehouse

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