About a year ago, Tommy Prosser and I smoked flour, something we’d wanted to do for a while. It sat on a shelf, waiting for inspiration, but after chatting with the boys from Textbook Patisserie, it’s been put to good use and is now a fine-tuned sourdough.
Since working on the article on smoking bakery ingredients in the June/July issue of Baking Business, Tommy Prosser has worked in a traditional smoker in his home country of England. Drawing on the knowledge he gained, with what we’d learnt along the way by simply being inquisitive, we’ve created some wonderful products in the smoke box.
It seemed almost natural then to attempt to smoke flour, with a view to bake a loaf with a different point of flavour.
As they say, great minds think alike. After an introduction with Steven Anderson and John Ralley from Textbook Patisserie, we discovered there were certainly bakers keen to work with smoked flour – and so began the great experiment.
Steven gave us three different types of flour: wallaby, rye and stoneground wholemeal. As a baker, the considerations all centered on maintaining the integrity of the flour. Heat, humidity and chemical reactions between the flour and components within the smoke can easily affect the integrity of the flour – or put simply – how well the flour makes a loaf of bread.
The first trial was undertaken: the flour had an amazing aroma, with Steven saying he wanted to preserve that depth of flavour and showcase it in the final product.
“I knew maintaining flavours and aromas within a loaf of bread through the long, often harsh, process of baking is difficult, but we gave it a go,” Steven said.
“I simply used the recipe and process for Textbook’s white and wholemeal sourdoughs, and where the recipe called for white flour or wholemeal flour, I used the smoked flour provided by Tommy Prosser and Jess. Mixing the dough, I observed the characteristics of the dough, water absorption and gluten development. It seemed to be coming together with no issue. Through fermentation and shaping, all the dough characteristics were the same as regular sourdough bread.”
Then began the long wait until the following day for results. The dough had developed and proofed well overnight, then after placing the dough into the oven there was still a great smokey aroma coming from the loaf – subtle, but present.
“The baking process is 45 minutes long with the final stage having the damper open to create a crispy crust. Upon opening the damper, the sweet, nutty and smokey aroma filled the entire bakery. It was such a pleasant moment! Never as a baker have I experienced this aroma from an oven of bread. Upon opening the door of the oven the aroma smacked you in the face – almost like the steam does if your face is too close,” Steven said.
“We cut into the loaves and did the baker thing; hold the loaf close to your nose, squeeze and breathe in. Wow, that same nutty, sweet, caramel, floral aroma was present and, when chewing and savouring the bread, it all just came together – the chewy moist crumb and the crisp crackling crust just made the experience complete.
“The flavour kept building as you ate the white bread, so we have dialed down the smoked flour in the recipe. We no longer use 100 per cent smoked flour, but have found the slightly lower percentage allows for a longer lasting appeal.”
Textbook is now working with the white and the wholemeal at the moment, and is keeping the bread as a weekend special. As I write this, the boys are two weeks in, and customers have specifically asked for the bread.
“We sold out both weekends will continue to produce every weekend from now on,” Steven said.
“The next stage is to work with Tommy Prosser and Jess to maintain supply of flour as well as work on some exciting projects that showcase their amazing smoking ability.
“We are also working on other bread varieties using the white and the wholemeal, but also exploring rye as well – pairing these breads with cheeses, meats and wines.”
For Tommy Prosser, the bread was best served simply, as part of a cheese and tomato toasty, saying it added a level of sophistication and flavour to the lunch staple. Now our toaster smells like bacon has been cooked in it and, when you eat it untoasted, it’s like someone hid cheese or bacon in the bread.
“It’s great working with talented people with a shared vision, who all have the skill set required to push boundaries, create trends and make amazing things happen. A reaction of this is inspiring for a larger audience to try and taste new foods, and perhaps experiment with things like this too,” Tommy Prosser said.
There are so many things we want to do in life and, in our cooking world it’s never ending. Finding time can be tough, but look what can happen when you do!