Post-Bake Analysis: The Scottish Bread Championships 2017

The inaugural Scottish Bread Championships took place at the Royal Highland Show on Thursday 22nd June, with almost fifty loaves of Real Bread submitted to the judging panel. On behalf of Scotland The Bread and the event’s co-creator and convener the Scottish Food Guide, we would like to thank everyone who took the time to participate in the Championships, as well as offering our sincere thanks to the Royal Highland Show for their support.

On the strength of the quality of entries from bakers and enthusiastic collaboration from the RHS, the Championships were a resounding success, as well as hugely enjoyable and encouraging to be a part of. The full list of awards handed out can be found here.

This was the first time Real Bread has been celebrated at the Show, and the awards were open to any baker, amateur or professional: the condition of entry was that breads had to conform to the criteria of Real Bread, i.e. made without the use of processing aids or any other artificial additives. Read about the awards’ background and entry criteria in our previous post here.

Judges top-bottom, left-right: Neil Forbes, Fred Berkmiller, Chris Young, Pam Brunton, Dr Jennie Macdiarmid, Gerry Danby

The judging panel was so impressed with the entries that deliberation took all afternoon, in the form of assessments that included blind-tasting 49 entries across six categories. Fred Berkmiller, Chef/Owner of l’escargot restaurants and Championship judge, said:

Fred Berkmiller. Photo by Chris Young, Real Bread Campaig

‘I was amazed at the turn out and the quantity of bread we received for the judging. I thought there was a lack of good quality bread around, but I soon realised that I was wrong and could very quickly see that some serious varieties of bread were getting made within and around Scotland. I am confident that more and more people will get hooked on a passion for baking good bread and have no doubt that we will see more and more bread champions turning up in the next few years.

‘Even though I loved the experience, being a judge on the panel wasn’t an easy task because like many other areas of the food industry, baking bread is taken very seriously and no doubt helps to make Scotland an even better land of food and drink than it already is.’

It was fantastic to see such enthusiasm for Real Bread from visitors to the Show, as well as stallholders and the media. Visitors were particularly keen to learn about artisan bakeries in their region, and the event clearly made an impact by raising interest across the board in Scottish grains and the craft of breadmaking.

Members of the public were fascinated to learn about the benefits of slow fermentation and baking with sourdough, and were delighted with the tastes and textures offered to them as some of the prize-winning bakers handed around bread for people to try during the show. The tasting kiosk in Scotland’s Larder Live was similarly warmly welcomed: it was a valuable opportunity for bakers to showcase both their bread and the art of breadmaking.

Photo by Wendy Barrie, Scottish Food Guide

The entrants exemplified the values Scotland The Bread exists to promote. For example, both the Overall and Reserve Champion loaves were baked in flourishing local bakeries, using flour grown and milled at Mungoswells in East Lothian. They were a practical demonstration of a whole range of our core beliefs: organic growing with care; trading through short supply chains; using the produce locally; and baking in a long-fermentation process. We were delighted that Angus McDowell and Alison Campbell from Mungoswells could be at the awards ceremony to receive the credit due to them for their role in this success.

Supreme Champion Woodlea Stables’ Scottish Sourdough. Credit Wendy Barrie

Jock Sharp and the team at Woodlea Stables found themselves crowned Supreme Champions for their Scottish Sourdough. The bakery is a big supporter of Mungoswells, and Jock said:

‘The competition was a wonderful idea that has brought Real Bread to the attention of more people.

‘The loaf that won ‘best in show’ came about after many trials and errors with Mungoswells flour.  Every loaf we sell contains a percentage of Mungoswells flour as it has a great depth of flavour, and we decided that for the competition we would have another shot at making a loaf completely with Mungoswells flour but using a longer fermentation period to bring out the full flavour.

‘Winning the competition has been great for our small artisan bakery and for the team that work here, along with our customers who support us each week. We are especially pleased for our colleague Ivy Kong, who has spent many long hours experimenting with locally grown and milled flour.  We also believe that luck played a part and many others could have won on the day – I’m sure all artisan bakers will agree that it can be difficult to get consistency!’

Reserve Champions Baikhous also credited Scottish-grown Mungoswells flour for giving their winning loaf the edge:

‘It’s fair to say that I am still quite stunned about the result,’ said Michael Miller. ‘Baikhous is a one-man show at present and still very much in its infancy, so to have had the judges take note of the wholemeal sourdough was really special. I genuinely thought that it was the Reserve Champion award within the Sourdough Category, not overall!

‘The main reason that I believe the wholemeal is a successful bread is the incredible wheat grown at Mungoswells, without which Baikhous just would not be the same. I only use Mungoswells flours in our range of baiks and all Baikhous ingredients are 100% Scottish in origin. This is very important to me and goes some way to emphasising the importance of locality and sustainability to the overall Baikhous project.’

We are already looking ahead to next year’s Scottish Bread Championships: it will be a challenge to beat the standard of baking, so instead we’ll raise our expectations for seeing loaves from new artisanal bakeries that haven’t yet fired up the ovens.

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