Posted 15th Jan 2016
Following his involvement in the BBC's new Victorian Bakers television series, fifth generation family and master baker John Swift has been inspired to create new breads from old ideas
While filming the new three-part series for BBC2, John gained an invaluable insight into the world of bread baking in the Victorian era. The ingredients and techniques closely replicated those which were probably used by his Great Aunt Hannah Swift, when she set up the family business as Swifts Bakery in 1863.
Sponge and dough breads were made using a longer fermentation process which took time to prove before a second stage mix with the final ingredients. This was the technique used before the invention of bread improvers, which helped give bread a better taste, texture and chemistry.
John has taken this knowledge into 21st-century baking, creating two 'new' loaves. The Clee Hill Cob is a white seeded loaf which is sprinkled with wheat flakes and is named after the town where the family business has been based since the late 1970s. In comparison, the Quarry Cob is made using locally-milled Shropshire wholemeal flour and is named after the nearby granite quarries which overlook the internationally-recognised foodie location, Ludlow.
Traditional production methods, which date back more than 150 years, being merged with current techniques are explained by John Swift: 'These sponge and dough breads were originally produced as a cheap, staple food that would have been essential; especially for the very poor working classes of the Victorian era. I'll always remember the look of “I've just been to heaven and back” on the face of my fellow Victorian Baker John Foster, when we were filming and he had just smelled the first successful batch of loaves. We will respect tradition by using the same long fermentation processes; but I'm sure the newer versions will bring something fresh and appealing to the table for our modern day customer.'
John went on to talk about his heritage: 'My Father Richard and my Grandfather Charles have both inspired me and guided me, but this gave me an opportunity to learn more and feel more closely connected to earlier generations of my family as well. Victorian times were tough compared to our lives now and living conditions were often harsh. The Swift family were providing an essential service to the local villages. I'm now even more determined to blend what was important and good in the past, with what the 21st Century wants from a master baker.'
Visit www.swifts-bakery.co.uk to find out more.