Raise a glass – or slice – to the Companions and Brewpoint collaboration for Real Bread Week

Elly is one of the volunteer chefs

Real Bread Week (RBW) is being celebrated in style at Companions Bakery, thanks to a collaboration with Wells & Co’s new Brewpoint brewery.

The bakery team were scratching their heads trying to come up with something new, special and uniquely Bedfordian to make for the annual celebration of the art of real bread (20 – 27 February).

While Gordon, Taff and Elly were coming up with ideas, someone mentioned Brewpoint, which lead to a discussion about the German spent grain bread’, biertreberbrot. None of the bakers had ever made it, so the challenge was on.

Julian Polhill, volunteer director at Companions, made a  phone call to Peter Wells at Brewpoint and, within 24 hours, the bakers were the proud owners of two sacks of dripping, beery malty spent grain.

“Brewing takes most of the sugar out of the malted barley but what is left is very moist and full of delicious beery fibre that works extremely well with the slow natural yeast fermentation of proper sourdough bread – ‘real bread’,” said Julian.

“And it’s good for you.”

Taff and Elly in the Companions Bakery experimented with different proportions of it in their regular Woburn Wild and Russian Rye doughs until it was perfect.

“They’ve created a real Bedford bread for RBW that fits with our motto – ‘good for you, good for your community’,” said Julian.

The donated mash came Brewpoint’s newest beer, Terrain, described by lead brewer, James Hunter as ‘a full-bodied, dark amber ale brimming with malty complexity and hints of dark fruit and toffee on the aroma.’

The 4.1% brew will be available from next week, just in time to raise a glass to Real Bread Week.

Serendipitously, Brewpoint Brew Crew member, Sam Moss, was able to offer some advice to the bakers, having incorporated spent grain into loaves before.

“My advice to Julian was to start with about 25% by weight of spent grain and cut back on the liquids as the grain holds quite a bit of moisture and can lead to making soggy loaves.

“I did also mention that you can use beer as a substitute for water in making the dough to further enhance the flavour.”

Bedford biertreberbrot for lunch

On tasting the new loaves, Julian said, “For a Bedford lunch I had it with a glass of Brewpoint’s Hop & Heart – as I thought that was what the brewery had shown us – and a slab of Montgomery Cheese.

“OK, Montgomery is not in Bedfordshire, but it did come from the Bedford Cheese Company on Manton Heights. Delicious!

“There was some good Terrain mash left over so I fed it to my pigs. I’ve never seen a pig smile before.”

What is real bread?

Real bread is made from flour, yeast, salt and water and features none of the cocktail of additives found in nearly all supermarket breads.

Companions Real Bread is sourdough, using only the natural yeasts present in the wheat flour, slow fermented and broken down over 24 hours and so digestible by many (not all) who react poorly to the fast, additive-laden industrial bread of today.

Furlough volunteers

Earlier in the year, the Bedford Independent featured a story about Companions Bakery’s search for furloughed chefs to help them out.

Read:Community bakery seeks support from furloughed chefs

The article lead directly to four talented bakers and pastry chefs on furlough volunteering for the charity.

Elly (left) is one of the volunteer chefs

“We have been absolutely blown away by their commitment and particularly their generosity in sharing their delicious recipes – not always the case with chefs I’m told,” said Julian.

“I think both teams have found pleasure in swapping skills and ideas. I know their legacy will be with us long after lockdown is over.

“But none of it would have happened without the help of the Bedford Independent, so may I say a big personal thank you.”

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