Can good quality bread be made available for everyone to eat?Michelle Eshkeri, baker and owner of Margot Bakery, considers how we can make good quality ingredients, more egalitarian
One day I hope that there will be an artisan bakery on every high street across the country,” says Michelle Eshkeri whose passion for baking bread has led her to develop a now renowned sourdough challah.
Michelle worked as a cake- decorator before she started baking. At home and caring for her small children she began to experiment with sourdoughs. But, for the traditional Jewish Shabbat dinner on a Friday night, she would usually bake challah – braided bread – using yeast. It was around this time that she realised how heavy the commercial flour and yeast now sat in her stomach but because of “childhood memories” she wanted to find a way to still eat challah on a Friday. Which was why she decided to start baking challah from a sourdough starter.
It was, she says, an enormous effort. To get the recipe just right, she tried hundreds of combinations, before finding a way to make a sourdough that wasn’t so dense it could still be braided.
“Sourdough challah is the most unique thing we make,” she says. Challah, brings people right back to their mother’s kitchen on a Friday night, or to a Saturday morning using leftovers to make French toast with lashings of butter. No surprise then when she says it usually sells out quickly on a Friday morning.
The bakery also offers other treats using sourdough starter including Babka and cinnamon swirls. At the time when they opened in 2016, there were no other bakeries in London doing 100 per cent sourdough products, the effort that has to go into making each item by hand, maintaining the starter and allowing the dough to rise in the right temperatures, makes the operation very time-consuming. Michelle released a book chronicling these treats because, at the time she was writing, the recipes were so difficult to find online.
The mission of the bakery is to help people make more informed choices about what they eat.
Michelle says, “I want to see sourdough become more of a normal part of life. There should be a bakery on every high street, it shouldn’t be niche. I want people to buy a loaf of really good bread that lasts for a long time and is healthy for them to eat. When you buy bread with really good ingredients you can appreciate the people who grow the flour and hand-make the bread for you.
“Those things have a lot of value and people are starting to appreciate that more. It will take more time for slow bread to be mainstream so it will happen slowly but it will happen and become part of normal life.
“The only thing that bothers me is it’s very much for middle-class people at the moment. It needs to be more egalitarian. There should be good bread for everybody.”
To tackle this is a challenge, “the bread we make costs a lot more to produce because of the time it takes, you don’t want to cut wages to make a cheaper product so we need to make some of the range less time consuming and sell that at a lower price point.”
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