Bread in Common

Stoke-on-Trent's real bread bakery

Interview with: Shaun Smith

Chris Twigg

Date: 16/04/14

Location: Newcastle-Under-Lyme

Interviewer: Steve Cooling

Permission given to use interview for website, exhibition and Staffordshire archive: YES

Question asked “What do you remember about bread or bread baking”.

I've always enjoyed cooking and have tried baking bread.  About 4 or 5 years agos I got a book on 'leven' breads and using wild yeasts.  Since then I've been making my own bread and the taste of it is just phenomenal.  Supermarket bread just doesn't come close to it, I also think it's a healthier bread.

I very rarely buy any other bread, you haven't got an artisan bakery round here to buy proper bread from.  If you did it would cost about 3-4 quid.

I've got a leven in my fridge that's been there for about 5 years.  When ever I want any yeast I just top it up, feed it and it gets going, but it's slower, it's a slower bread.  A leven is a live yeast culture.  It's made from organic flour, the yeast is already in the flour.  Just add water and leave it to ferment.  It goes off a little bit and you just top it up with fresh flour and water and after a week youv'e got some useable 'leven' or sourdough.  I don't like to call it sourdough as mines not very sour!  I don't know if it's the way I've created, it's just a wild yeast.  It's lovely it tastes like bread on steroids.  It has a taste where as a lot of bought breads don't taste of anything anymore.  Even our kids are starting to say supermarket in house baked bread doesn't taste of anything.

You can leave the leven for 3 months, feed it again and it'll come back to life.  It's quite a fantastic thing, it just goes on and on and on, I've shared it with a few people.

I got the recipe from a book by Dan Leopard called 'The Handmade Loaf'.  It's a really lovely book, I've tried lots of recipes but I just make them up as I go along now.  I just see what I've got left over, chuck it in and see how it goes.  I started off spending 2 weeks making a loaf of bread a day, the first 5 or 6 were terrible.  I don't know why I just stuck at it and at the end of the 2 weeks they were coming out perfect.  It's a slow process, I think we do things to quickly.  It fits in better because it's slow, you leave it over night and bake it in the morning.  This one (the bread in the pictures) was started this morning and baked this afternoon.  It's just about ready now, I had to rush it a bit that's why it's gone all bobbly.


This bread is wetter and harder to shape.  I proved this one in a Banneton, a wicker basket, that's what gives it the pattern.

I mark the top of my bread with a 'hashtag' that's my signature.


I think the water makes a difference I have shared this recipe with someone in Cheshire and it doesn't seem to work.  It's liek brewing, it's a live yeast and every piece of the jigsaw makes a difference.  One of my favourite variaions is to use a cup of left over porridge, it's really filling and hearty it's a bit like a crumpet.

I started making my own bread because the stuff you get in the shop is just dreadful, it's such poor quality.

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