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Kent Bakery & Confectionary Product of the Year Finalist: 6 Seeded Loaf from The Bread Smith

Hello, I’m Sam Smith, 24, from Tunbridge Wells.

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Hello, I’m Sam Smith, 24, from Tunbridge Wells. Since baking my first loaf in the first lockdown of 2020, I created The Bread Smith, which specialises in handmade artisan sourdough loaves, focaccia and buns, using only organic flours.

Every week I make, shape, bake and deliver all my bakes to the local area and when I’m not out on home deliveries I am supplying to local businesses including The Silver Sheep in Chapel Place The George and Dragon pub in Speldhurst and Annabel’s Tea Room and Champion Wines in Chislehurst. I am so grateful to be able to make my living from my passion for sourdough! I hope to continue learning, experimenting with new flavours and ideas, meeting new customers and building a local community of sourdough lovers.

As with every sourdough bake, it starts with the levain, also known as the sourdough starter. This is a mix of flour and water that naturally ferments over time. To keep this live culture healthy, it must be fed every day with more flour and water. I have been feeding my sourdough starter, named Stan, every day since April 2020!

Along with my starter, organic flour(s), water, salt and six different types of seed go into the mix for my Six Seeded Loaf. There are many different ratios and types of flour that can be experimented with to create delicious flavours. In this recipe, for example, I start by creating a blend of white and wholemeal flour that is then mixed with water and left for 30 minutes in a process called autolyse. During this time the gluten bonds begin forming. Then the sourdough levain, salt and seeds are added to the mix, forming the dough.

Next begins the process of strengthening the dough. In order to do this, I stretch and fold the dough around four to six times every 30 minutes. As a result, the gluten develops naturally, improving the taste, texture and rise in the final loaf. Now it is left to ferment for around two to three hours. However, sourdough can react differently due to many variables such as, water temperature and levain strength. Therefore, these factors can impact the time allocated for bulk fermentation. Once I have seen a considerable rise in the dough, I divide, weigh out and pre-shape it into rounds, before allowing them to rest for 25 minutes. Lastly the rounds are shaped into ovals and placed into proofing baskets before being stored in the fridge for an overnight prove, further enhancing the breads’ flavour!

After an early start, and before the bake, the breads must be scored. There is a variety of scores that can be used to achieve different outcomes - you can even get creative with decorative patterns, but I have found that a slightly curved line allows for the biggest rise. Finally, the bake. To get the best results when baking sourdough, I steam the loaves in my bread oven for around 16 minutes. This allows the bread to rise to its maximum height without the crust becoming too hard too quickly. I then allow another 25 minutes at a higher temperature to give the loaves a nice caramel-brown colour. At last, the loaves are ready to enjoy with a soup or simply some butter