As with all good food, quality of the ingredients is important. ELEVEN uses only organic flours from Shipton Mill, balancing taste, texture and nutritional considerations in the selection and combination of flours.
Fortuitously the local water supply is exceptionally good, filtered down throughout the southern edge of the Cotswolds aquifer and gathered in Chilcombe and St Catherine.
Salt is from mined ancient marine deposits and has organic accreditation.
Mixing is done in a restored Artofex diving arm mixer which mimics the action of hand kneading, gently stretching and folding rather than the twisting action of spiral mixing which can tear and heat up the dough, compromising the eventual texture of the bread.
The bread is baked a masonry oven with an eight inch thick dome and hearth to store heat. This yields long wave heat which penetrates the loaf better then the short wave heat of convection ovens, giving sustained heat throughout the baking cycle resulting in better crumb and crust.
Unhurried is the style of the best sourdoughs, where every stage of making from refreshing the leavens through cooling the baked loaves is done in a way that releases the energy and taste in grains to best effect.
The smell, the feel of the dough, the aroma of baking, the colour and crisp heft of the baked loaf. It all tells you there's something ancient, something special for us here that lives in the moment.
There's a kind of magic in witnessing the gradual fermentation of flour and water that harks back to the curiosity that enabled the transformation of plain baked flour and water into a food that with some justification is known as 'the staff of life'.
Bread connects us to earliest human history, and to some of the basic building blocks of life; grain, water, salt, natural yeasts and bacteria.
Fermentation can improve gut flora, re-establishing balance and well-being, radically improving nutritional value and taste in foods such as sourdough. It breaks down phytin, the naturally occurring substance that makes gluten indigestible. In a fully developed ie fermented sourdough, as much as 90% of the phytin will be broken down. This compares to a typical 10% in unfermented Chorleywood process bread.
As many people now understand, mass produced bread made quickly with the aid of laboratory formulated yeasts and additives to compensate for the speed of the process is a travesty far removed from what our ancestors ate.
Proper sourdough uses only three ingredients, flour, water, salt ... and time. Time is so important that it might almost be called the fourth ingredient. As the dough ferments nutrients are released and gluten is broken down, becoming digestible. Long fermentation is essential for flavour and nutrition. Which is why ELEVEN invests in 40 hour cold fermentation of the entire dough (not just the starter) to hold the rise back while allowing full development.