Picture the scene.
Morning has broke. Outside of your four walls you can hear the gentle trickle of rain falling from grey clouds (probably no surprise in the UK lets be honest). The streak of light squeezing through the gap in your black out curtains (best purchase ever) awakens your brain to the fact you should, one: probably get out of bed, and two: have you been baking? Stretching your body to be as awake as your brain, you make your way weary eyed downstairs and open the door to the best room in the house; the kitchen (the room of food). Your senses are smacked with the warm, comforting aroma of freshly baked bread. You can taste the carbohydrate lovers dream already, smothered in butter, making one of life’s simple pleasures. What a way to start the day, right?
Truth is, that is one hell of a fabulous dream because the lovely bread maker I was given as a birthday present many years ago has been lovingly stored in the cupboard for, well, a bit less than many years, after an initial flurry of bread maker excitement. Unless, that is, you are the talented bakers of The Appledore Bakery, with a sourdough starter named Betty.
Sourdough Social Media
Whether you love it or hate it, social media is a power house for exposure, and it was this power that drew me to this local bakery and started a bit of a relationship. A simple Instagram enquiry of where and when to best purchase the famous bake led to a generous gift of a three day old boule and two packs of cinnamon and raisin bagels. Their kindness was literally free, and to thank them for their generosity ever since, they have been bombarded with photos, videos, and tags galore from yours truly! Another boule purchase made since because no other bread hits the spot or gives as much satisfaction as this local triumph (it was a very disappointing morning when the boule was no more and sliced bread was all we had). Supporting local feels pretty darn good too, and everyone should give it a go, even if it is just the once. And don’t worry, full blown bagel blog coming soon for you to all get excited about.
The White Sourdough Boule
Imagine waking up in the home of The Appledore Bakery. That warm, carbohydrate filled dream must be a reality every single day! Who would need perfume when you can carry the scent of freshly baked bread instead! I know what I would rather smell like. Note to self: Dragon’s Den idea for freshly baked bread perfume scent. I can smell the millions already. To get that beloved, fresh, sourdough boule? Organic flour, sea salt and de-chlorinated water. You can’t get more simple and natural than that. Well, that isn’t just all; add around one year of trial and error to perfect the brilliant boule I fell in love with only a few weeks ago. Simple and natural even extends to the packaging. Gloriously white, recyclable outer, encasing the beautiful, three day labour of love product inside. Three days! How many things do we dedicate three days to? For me, probably not many; unless its dissecting the menu of the next establishment I am going to invade and eat my way through. Three days of bringing each boule to life for us all to enjoy and get out the bread knife.
Oh to have been The Appledore Bakery children having to tireless sample sourdough after sourdough after sourdough. A tough job but someone had to do it. Sounds bloody brilliant if you ask me! And what a part they have played because this local boule is something special.
It was this crust that blew my bread brain when I opened the white, rustic package for the first time a few weeks ago, along with the instantly recognisable odour of flour, water and salt. On this momentous occasion; a lightly browned, slightly hardened crust, surrounding a soft, air bubble filled middle (more on that middle next – I got your back). Despite being three days old, the first (freebie) boule still held its ground in the world of triumphant Appledore bakes; a noticeably harder crust than my second (non-freebie) fresh boule, but still just as joyous for all the senses. If I thought the freebie boule was good, the super fresh second boule I purchased from our fantastic local store John’s of Appledore was about to blow my mind right out of my head.
Sliding probably the most under used knife in my kitchen out from its home in the knife block, the golden sourdough boule was awaiting its first carve. It was a nerve racking thing carving into the Appledore boule. Too thin and the delicate texture of the bread would crumble before my eyes. Too thick and, well, I would have to eat more bread. Wait, is that even a bad thing? It would be a crying shame to waste such produce wouldn’t it, so I would just have to tackle that doorstop slice if it came to it. Luckily, I just about got it right, and vastly improved my slices as the days went by. The teeth of the bread knife gnawing their way through THAT CRUST. A sound you could gently hear amongst the increased heart rate between my ears, before the knife flowed through the textured middle and ending once again at THAT CRUST (you can probably sense the scale of how much I loved THAT CRUST). Slice completed, it was time to breathe and top it with worthy ingredient combinations. But first, the middle.
We Made It To The Middle Ground
With my heart rate lowering, my senses were filled to the brim. My eyes dazzled by the array of multi-sized air pockets weaving their way throughout the boule. My nose twitching at the slightly sour scent of the oven fresh bake. My hands gently embracing THAT CRUST whilst my fingertips instantly detected the give in the boule; it was showing off its light and bouncy midriff. And can you blame it, just look at it, what a sense sensation. I needed to get back into bed after all that.
With the boule almost perfectly sliced and my stomach rumbling (it is always rumbling if I’m honest), it was time to lightly toast the slice, and crown the bread royalty with an array of jewels.
The only way to first taste such a pure and simple ingredient was to keep it just as simple. Placed into the toaster for a few minutes, the sourdough slice appeared with a brand new outfit. The air bubble filled middle effortlessly dressed itself in varying degrees of toasted shades, which I loved. Some regions of the slice provided the desired texture and flavour of “toast” we all know and love, whilst the other regions were not conquered by the blistering hot flames of the toaster (don’t worry, the toaster did not set on fire), still possessing their soft and bouncy nature. Proudly laying on its rounded throne, the first jewel was spread; good old fashioned butter. The radiating warmth providing the perfect temperature to slowly melt the partially solid golden nugget adorning my chosen knife onto its toasted surface and into its soft crevasses.
I don’t think I will ever forget that first bite. The buttered soaked surface soft with the adorable taste of the creamy, melted dairy. The outer edge enhanced by the heat of the toaster, became even more crunchy and textured than when I first experienced it with my now not so underused bread knife; I repeat again, THAT CRUST. My heart was full, my stomach was full and now my brain was full of ideas of how to further dress the crown in more beautiful jewels.
I have a bit of a sweet tooth, and sometimes that tooth needs satisfying in the morning at breakfast! Breakfast is definitely one of my most enjoyed meals of the day because it is so versatile; sweet, savoury, early, later, or all of these combined! My favourite sweet and savoury combination? Peanut butter and jam. When this american classic came into my North Devon life a few years ago, I was never letting it go (if you have read my previous blog, you will know I have a ridiculous love of peanut butter). But lets not be boring here. Lets add a personal twist to the beloved combo and layer it up on the toasted crown.
Crunchy peanut butter – always! In my opinion, the pieces of nut give the butter so much more of a peanut flavour than it already has. Second, it adds even more texture and crunch to the meal you are blessing it with.
Fresh strawberries – the twist on the normal flavoured jam. Fresh, juicy, naturally sweet, and, they look like actual jewels perfectly buffed and layered on the peanut butter bed. Now that is something I would definitely sleep upon. Note to self; second Dragon’s Den idea.
Finally, for extra luxury and another dimension of sweetness, a glistening drizzle of Quince Honey Farm Devon honey It is a drizzle that elevates everything it touches; toast, porridge, cakes, roasted vegetables, the list goes on! Just down the road at South Molton, you best get in your car and bag your golden drizzle.
North Devon PB&J on sourdough toast, what a way to start the day, or massively enhance any part of it *heads downstairs immediately to unashamedly eat peanut butter straight out of the jar*.
The breakfast/brunch obsession continues and we arrive at egg central. Fresh, free range, local eggs topping our fresh, local sourdough toast. What more did you egg-spect (my first egg pun and probably not my last. You have been warned). My love of eggs is pretty close to that of the crunchy peanut stuff, and mixing each egg filled occasion up with a twist is an almost daily occurrence my stomach expects. Scrambled? Add some smoked salmon. Boiled or poached? The golden yolk must ooze out like lava from a volcano, and trickle down the dazzling white and into the sourdough crevasses, sometimes having to tirelessly make its way over a mound of wilted pesto spinach and griddled halloumi. Be warned; once you start tucking into this Mediterranean inspired egg brunch, it will not look pretty. In fact, very few runny egg adorned toasts hold onto their initial eye catching glamour I have noticed. Your multi layered volcano will collapse, sending the golden stream, well, everywhere. And lets not even get into the molten egg inside a sandwich situation. Carnage.
Now for the ultimate crown jewel; smoked salmon. So easily available and reasonably priced nowadays, it is a regular feature of our fridge and always feels like such a decadent treat. The slightly smokey flavour diffusing its way through silky soft scrambled eggs, or elegantly laying over the warm, buttered sourdough to be united with its perfect match of flawlessly poached (most of the time) free range eggs, before being rained on with a large grind of black peppercorns.
What a lucky thing that sourdough boule is being the perfect match and vessel for so many other fantastic ingredients and flavours. And how lucky are we to be able to purchase and appreciate this amazing bake, from just down the road.