We are very grateful for the additional £1000 funding Edinburgh Bakers Trust has awarded us in December last year.
During lockdown Bridging the Gap developed weekly Zoom baking sessions into a more structured activity over six weeks. Our Zoom Baking group involved 12 people. We supplied the bakers with flour from Scotland the Bread and Mungoswells and high quality ingredients which were Scottish and/or organic and/or Fair Trade.
We also supplied equipment where needed and, through another funding stream, supported bakers to have a stable, usable digital device and connection. The recipes developed new techniques and more complex flavours over the weeks and bakers were prompted and kept in informal contact via a Zoom Bakers WhatsApp group.
Bakers were also encouraged to make use of the ingredients in their own time to practise or experiment. Participants were encouraged to ’show and tell’ and their baking posted on social media. They were also encouraged to share excess baking with friends and neighbours
We learned that people are up for trying anything in an environment where they feel comfortable and welcome. The informal, social element supported bakers to ‘give it a go’ and not worry about how things looked but rather about how they tasted.
Most bakers had no pre-conceived ideas about sourdough so didn’t expect it to be difficult. Most bakers had also never given any thought to the provenance of their ingredients as price is the overriding factor governing food purchases.
The sessions ran as follows:
1. Wholemeal fruit scones
2. Gorbals Loaf (overnight sponge yeasted 50/50 loaf)
3. Cinnamon buns (enriched yeasted dough) and rehydrating dried sourdough starter
Holiday week. Five bakers went ahead and made wheat sourdough in their own time guided by a High Rise Baker via WhatsApp
4. Pain de campagne sourdough and discard crackers
5. Sourdough pizza
6. Rye sourdough and rye apple cake
On some weeks, bakers did the first step the previous evening via WhatsApp instructions. In the morning loaves were shaped and set to prove and the remaining time used to bake something quicker. The bakers were given instructions on how to bake their loaves when they were ready verbally and on WhatsApp and encouraged to post pictures of the finished results. Sessions lasted 1.5-2 hours.
The bakers have continued to meet weekly over the winter. We baked yeasted or sourdough loaves on alternate weeks continuing to use Scottish flour and a quick recipe at each session. This is to accommodate bakers’ different bread preferences. Part of the thinking behind this is that in the event of food shortages over the winter and/or a further lockdown the Zoom Bakers will always have bread in the house or the means to make it.
Bridging the Gap continues to supply ingredients and any additional equipment. We bought any baker who needed one, a cast iron pot and a banneton in a matching size. Some bakers have struggled to bake good bread in ovens which heat very unevenly, and these should go some way to addressing this. These pots can be put to other uses in people’s homes, too.
I have loved this project. The strange circumstances have allowed me to participate more fully than I might otherwise because travelling hours were not needed to take part.
From the point of view of the actual sessions, I have learned about adapting methods and recipes to suit tiny kitchens with little equipment. As a result, I have gone back to some of the more instinctive ways that my family have used to bake in the past such as describing quantities as a handful, a dod or a good spoonful and measurements like a thumb’s depth for rolling out dough. I’ve also tried to make sure ingredients supplied were used in a variety of recipes to show their versatility and encourage experimentation.
The concept of ‘companionship’ in the symbiotic relationship between making the bread and sharing the experience has felt very powerful. The group have developed some close friendships and support networks and the positive effect on people’s self-confidence in baking something they never thought possible (particularly the cinnamon buns) has ben very evident. I think supplying high quality ingredients and explaining their provenance has not only meant that bakers have enjoyed high quality, nutritious baking but felt valued through that. Sourdough is ideal for people who are time rich and cash poor.
Ok so the baking group taught us new techniques in baking, taught us how to cook foods from other parts of the world. Everyone got to meet new people and allowed us to assist each other. Due to the poverty in the area it helped a lot of people very much being able to make home baking bread pizza`s etc. The new equipment we got was a bonus as it allowed everyone to participate thanks to bridging the gap for getting this funding. It allowed a lot of people to have a connection during lockdown and allowed us to bake with all the ingredients provided all through the week as well as our baking class.
The baking group is very, very good, because it opened my eyes to know what I am eating, to know what to bake with and what to avoid. It has taught me a lot. Before this group I ate bread maybe once a week, now I can eat it every day, because I trust what I am putting inside it. No chemicals, no preservatives.
Bridging the Gap is the best group I have known in my whole life. I would not trade them for anything. If I get my papers I would work for them as a volunteer for a whole year. I give them 120% out of 100%. They are people who understand. Even people my own colour don’t always understand what I am going through, but Bridging the Gap people take the time and make the offerings individual to each person. They walk it through at your pace
I’m not really a bread eater, but I give the good ones to my neighbours and the multigrain loaf was really good. For me it’s more about the fun of it; it could get really hilarious, especially when things go wrong. I’ve learned lots of skills, how bread works and how to work with it using different techniques. Pete was great at showing us lots of creative things to do with a sourdough starter like pizza dough, crackers and Kimchi pancakes with veg in them. It was amazing to have the doorbell ring and have ingredients delivered. It didn’t matter if we made mistakes because we weren’t wasting ingredients which had come out of our own pocket.
After the 6 week pilot, we continued every week, got new equipment and learned new skills. I got digital scales (so much better than the weights ones I’d been struggling with), measuring spoons, baneton baskets in 2 sizes and a cast iron pot for making crispy loaves.
I really enjoy it because it feels like we were all in the room together. I enjoy the company and it gives me structure during the lockdown. The combination of people makes for general mayhem as there is a lot going on; making cakes while the bread is proving. It’s great fun and we always make sure no one is left behind, take care of each other.