Julian Carter, 51, has been Head Baker at Britain’s Best Bakery 2013 winner, Hambleton Bakery, since it opened in 2008. Baking runs in his family and has always been a huge part of Julian’s life, so it seemed logical to carry on the tradition.
“Baking has been in my family for 10 generations. My granddad was a baker, my dad was a baker, my uncles were bakers and my brother is a baker. I think getting into the profession was just a natural progression for me.”
Before committing to baking full-time, Julian had a successful career as a chef. It was his time as a chef that made him take a fresh look at baking.
“I bake bread very differently now to the way it was done when I worked for my dad. It was very old-fashioned and your classic sort of English bakery. I still wanted to be a British baker and make British products, but I wanted to modernise the way we do it.”
Go Back to Basics
Julian is a firm believer in the nutritional value of bread produced from scratch and made with natural ingredients.
“The best bread takes 24 hours to make, which involves long fermentation. This creates texture and flavour. Just use flour, water, yeast and salt – don’t add anything else to the bread.”
Factory produced bread is a world away from bread made using only these four simple ingredients.
“Factories make their bread within an hour from flour to being in a packet. You get up to 15 different additives in a modern loaf of bread. You don’t need all those additives in your diet. It’s all there for the benefit of the producer to make it cheaply, quickly and make the most amount of profit from it.”
How to Bake the Perfect Loaf
When he’s not baking for hungry customers, Julian likes to experiment with fresh bread ideas at home.
“I quite like to bake sundried tomato and olive bread, or I might make some rolls to go with soup. A lot of my experimenting I do at home. If I come up with a new idea I’ll always test it at home first,” he says.
1)Firstly, get your oven really hot, as hot as you can.
2)Place a tray in the bottom of the oven and a baking stone on the oven shelf.
3)When your dough is ready, put it on a piece of wood and score it.
4)Put the dough straight on to the stone in the oven and the heat within the stone will make your bread lift. It forces the gas up.
5)Throw two ice cubes into the tray at the bottom of the oven, shut the door and turn the heat down.
6)The steam from the ice cubes will create moisture in the oven. The steam works to stop the bread from setting solid before it’s had a chance to expand.
7)The stored heat and the steam trapped in the oven is the secret to a good-quality crust and a nice, light loaf.
Baking with Technology
With so much technology at our fingertips, Julian says there’s no excuse for not baking at home.
“You can have your iPad in front of you with the recipe on it, you haven’t got to write it down or print it off. You haven’t got to buy a recipe book and turn the pages every five minutes, because you can watch a demonstration on the internet of someone making it. It’s never easy to read a recipe book and get it right first time.”
A Healthy Rise in Home Baking
Julian thinks the rise in people trying their hand at home baking is due to the healthy eating trend and being able to use hand-picked, fresh ingredients.
“I find people are a lot more health-conscious about what they are actually eating. I think people want to bake at home because they know exactly what they’re making and what’s in it.”
Baking is Easier than You Think
Anyone can give baking at home a go. After all, nothing beats that feeling of personal satisfaction you get from eating something baked from scratch.
“Baking isn’t as complicated as you think. It’s not rocket science, it really is very straightforward. Once you’ve made something once or twice, you’ll suss it. It’s so much nicer to eat something fresh out of the oven than something that’s already been in a packet for five days before you have it,” says Julian.