Hay-on-Wye baker serves up a slice of ancient Egypt

Ledbury Reporter: Alex Gooch's grains from the tombs of Egyptian pharaohs bring a sense of legacy to his loaves. Alex Gooch's grains from the tombs of Egyptian pharaohs bring a sense of legacy to his loaves.

BAKING bread that is millennia in the making, an award-winning Hay-On-Wye artisan baker is using live yeast and grains from the tombs of Egyptian Pharaohs to bring a sense of legacy to his loaves.

Sourdough specialist Alex Gooch supplies stores throughout the north and west of Herefordshire.

However his use of ‘heritage grains’ – strains of wheat that date back thousands of years – is seeing him gain wider acclaim.

He is currently experimenting with emmer and khorasan wheat, which were discovered by archaeologists excavating the tombs of Egyptian Pharaohs.

Having scooped nine titles at the World Bread Awards, and received recognition from BBC Food and The Food Programme, Mr Gooch is now teaching the next generation of bakers.

This month he will be taking a break from his organic bakery in Hay-on-Wye ¬– where his days start at midnight – to teach at the prestigious Bodnant Welsh Food Centre in north Wales.

“I am passionate about what I do - good quality bread has to be made with good ingredients, as locally produced as possible,” said Mr Gooch, who uses grain grown near Aberystwyth and has it milled at a nearby water-powered mill.

“We should be going back to these heritage grains and re-discovering them.

“Heritage grains give completely different flour to the strong white flour that most home bakers are used to; there is very little nutritional value in commercially made bread that comes out of a factory – because it has virtually no fermentation tine and has a number of dubious artificial flavourings.”

The secret to Mr Gooch’s success, at least in part, is a live yeast older than most Year Five schoolchildren.

Affectionately named ‘Daphne’ after the Kington chef Daphne Lambert who he was working under when he first made the sourdough starter, Mr Gooch now passes some of it on to each of his students.

The yeast starter is what helps sourdough to rise, and gives the bread its unique taste

Alex said: “She does need a little looking after but live starters act as a natural preservative and flavour enhancer as well as giving breads their open texture.

“Sourdough is a longer process but the bread is infinitely better. It tastes so much better when the acidity balance is just right. Good bread takes patience, passion and instinct.”

To book a place on one of Mr Gooch’s courses, visit bodnant-welshfood.co.uk or call 01492 651100.

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