No, I didn’t succumb in that first lockdown to making my own sourdough. Life’s too fleeting. In the past I’d had more starters than University Challenge… and more flaccid failures. So the pillars of my home loaf baking remained a classic white tin loaf and an Irish sourdough (Richard Corrigan’s tried and tested Gentleman’s Journal recipe with extra treacle).
Sticking with the Irish, I knew a chef in deepest County Cork who rose at 3am every morning to start the daily croissant making process. Five hours later the cute little viennoiseries were sitting in your breakfast table basket, crisp, flakey and buttery.
Yet which of his guests would have given a thought to the Herculean effort involved in juggling the temperatures of the ‘beurre de tourrage’ (butter block) and the ‘détrempe’ (yeast-leavened dough) as folding and folding created the requisite multiple layers demanded by La Tradition Française?
On occasions I succumb to the convenience of supermarket croissants but there really is no substitute for the real thing. Manchester patisserie chain Bisous Bisous manage the trick, as do Pollen Bakery at the city’s New Islington Marina. The added incentive in the trek there is, after a cappuccino and croissant in the cafe, to carry home the absolute star of the Pollen range – the 28 hour sour, which is made with a blend of white flour, wholemeal flour and rye, each added for nutritional value and flavour. All flours organic and 100 per cent stoneground
The length of the proving process is to allow all the water to fully hydrate the grain which allows it to lock all the nutrients and make it more digestible. The glossy exterior is the evidence of that work having been done, apparently. The only sourdough that has bettered it in my experience is one we discovered at the Wild Flour Bakery at Freestone along California’s Bohemian Highway (I kid you not).
Co-founders Hannah Calvert (she has a croissant tattooed on her arm) and Chris Kelly started up the bakery in late 2016 in a Sheffield Street railway arch near Piccadilly Station before moving to the Marina premises, which allowed them to open their hugely popular café. Now there’ s a fresh Pollen in the offing.
Let’s ‘Pollinate’ KAMPUS
KAMPUS, Manchester’s self-styled garden neighbourhood of variegated apartment blocks, cultivated by CAPITAL&CENTRIC and HBD, seems to be competing with the rival developers down at Deansgate Square to plant quality food and drink offerings on the doorstep of their new tenants.
After the success of high profile pop-ups Higher Ground and Tine the indie likes of General Stores and Nell’s Pizzeria have signed up for permanent units, but Pollen relocating their pastry team to a Kampus ground floor site is the real coup. Looking out over the ‘tropical’ garden, the Pollen café will offer indoor and outdoor seating and room for workshops and supper clubs. Plus an expanded brunch menu. Opening is planned for early 2022.