Andrea Damon Gibson is the president of Fred’s Bread in North York, Ont. In this Q & A with former Bakers Journal editor Jane Ayer, she discusses her experiences with sourdough bread, a subject featured in depth on pages 34-37 of this month’s Bakers Journal.
|Andrea Damon Gibson is the president of Fred’s Bread. Fred’s Bread’s cheddar loaves (1) are made with sourdough starter exclusively, while the Ontario Asparagus and Cheddar Pizza (3) is a seasonal specialty and is made with a 24-hour polish using fresh yeast.|
Andrea Damon Gibson is the president of Fred’s Bread in North York,
Ont. In this Q & A with former Bakers Journal editor Jane Ayer, she
discusses her experiences with sourdough bread, a subject featured in
depth on pages 34-37 of this month’s Bakers Journal.
Ayer: What first attracted you to making sourdough bread?
Damon Gibson: I have always loved bread, and, as a pastry chef in the early 1990s I was reading a lot about sourdough breads being made at Alice Waters’ Chez Panisse, ACME bakery, La Brea Bakery and at James McGuire’s Le Passe Partout in Montreal. On subsequent trips I visited all these bakeries – the bread tasted “authentic” to me and had real depth of flavour. I credited this to the sourdough cultures and pre-ferments that these bakers were using – old methods that had been lost to mass-produced bread here, and in Europe.
A : Do you remember your first attempts at it? What was that like?
DG : My first attempts were extremely frustrating! I was following recipes in commercial books that didn’t have the “science” of breadmaking defined. I made a lot of “flying saucer” loaves that were excruciatingly sour. Much trial and error was involved before I was able to make good, consistent loaves, but I continue to enjoy the development process.
A : Sourdough breads are still a big part of your business – the cultures take a lot of time and nurturing: why is it still important for you to continue making sourdoughs?
DG : Our breads have distinct flavours and characteristics that are developed with our sourdough cultures – a great crust, some chew to the crumb, moisture and texture from gentle mixing and a long, slow rise. We continue to develop and bake unique products, in part, because we persist in our efforts with these sourdoughs; it sets us apart in the marketplace. I don’t know of another wholesale bakery that dares to make artisan, hearth-baked loaves with sourdough culture exclusively, with no other additives, improvers or commercial yeast.
A : What sort of misconceptions around the process do you think need to be cleared up?
DG : First, sourdough cultures and the resulting breads should not be exceedingly sour – not vinegar tasting, not mouth-twistingly tangy – this is a sign that the culture is not fed often enough. When a culture is not fed often enough it gains acidity in the extreme and loses its wild yeast dough-raising capabilities. Second, there is no magic intuitiveness involved. Good, solid, baking science determines the success or failure of your culture: Is it the right temperature? Is it refreshed on a regular schedule before you bake?
A : What tips do you have for anyone looking to make sourdough bread?
DG / Go and buy the English translation of The Taste of Bread by Calvel. Real baking science is revealed; use it as your development starting point. And then thank James J. McGuire for his genius and persistence.
Visit Fred’s Bread at 45 Brisbane Road, units 13 and 14, North York, Ont., call 416-736-3733, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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