Angus D. Birditt
Scotland The Bread
Scotland The Bread was founded by ‘Real Bread Campaign’ founder Andrew Whitley, and mills from the local food hub Bowhouse on the Balcaskie Estate in Fife. Connie Hunter is the miller manager, alongside Liz Donald and Clement Boucherit, the project’s assistant millers. Read the following article, where Angus D. Birditt talks to Connie Hunter at Scotland The Bread, discussing the importance of using heritage grains, being part of the regenerative movement, and how important it is to build the connection between our farmers and consumers.
Tell us a little about Scotland The Bread?
Scotland The Bread is a collaborative project to grow better grain and bake better bread with the common purposes of nourishment, sustainability and food sovereignty. In plain terms, that means we are growing organic, heritage varieties of wheat and rye on the Balcaskie Estate in the East Neuk of Fife that are more nutritious than most commercially-grown varieties today. We then mill the grain here at Bowhouse into wholemeal flour.
How do you work with Balcaskie Farms?
Balcaskie Farms grow, harvest, clean and dry our grains for us – the cleaning and drying process you can see in the photographs. We work very closely together and our work is only possible with their support and commitment.
What types of grain do you use at Scotland The Bread? And why?
We have selected our grains for their suitability to the Scottish climate, their nutritional content and their genetic diversity. In our first few years, we grew three different Scottish heritage varieties of wheat separately that had higher than average results for nutrient density. From 2019, we have been growing these together as a mixture to promote resilience and biodiversity in our agroecosystem. Each year, we save the seed to re-sow, so we are gradually producing a ‘Balcaskie Landrace’ that will be adapted to the soil and climate here. This year we have grown two Swedish wheat varieties as well as spring and winter Balcaskie Landrace mixtures, the Wakelyn’s YQ population and Fulltofta Rye.
What does it mean to be part of the regenerative movement, and how important is it working with regenerative farming methods?
For us, the health of the soil and the wider agroecosystem are intrinsically linked to human health. We are certified organic by SOPA, and Balcaskie Farms are certified organic by the Soil Association. However, being part of the ‘regenerative movement’ is, for us, more than just regenerative farming practices, to which we are committed. It’s about re-building the social fabric of our food economies, about the connections between millers, bakers, farmers and consumers.
We are proud to be part of ‘Common Grains’ and the Bread Lab UK, groups that are actively working towards a more sustainable but also more equitable grain and bread supply. We are also proud to be members of the ‘Real Bread Campaign’, which promotes slow fermentation and campaigns against the use of additives and preservatives in bread. We want everyone to have access to healthy bread, and reject the idea that people on low incomes must be resigned to eating industrially produced ‘bread’ devoid of nutritional value.
We work with community bakeries across Scotland to get our nutritionally dense flour into the hands of community bakers, and provide training opportunities and support for them to bake real bread, which nourishes their communities. Our vision is of a decentralised grain and bread supply, with more farmers growing diverse grains using regenerative and organic methods that are milled into nutritious flour near to where it is going to be baked, and baked by skilled bakers who bake real bread and eaten by people in their communities.
Our goal is not to provide flour to everyone in Scotland, or to ’tap into’ an export market, as many food businesses are encouraged to do. Our goal is to see many more small mills like ours throughout the country, working collaboratively with farmers and bakers to feed their local communities in a way that builds soil and biodiversity rather than depleting it. For us, the regenerative movement is about the political economy of our food systems, not just the agricultural practices.
How can someone support Scotland The Bread and buy your flour?
People can support us by buying shares in our organisation to become a member, since we are a Community Benefit Society. Our flour is available to purchase on our website, and you can purchase a ‘solidarity’ bag of flour, which will go straight to the community bakeries we work with.
Recipe: Fermented Bran Sourdough Loaf
Connie’s favourite recipe is by Andrew Whitley using Scotland The Bread’s flour for a fermented bran sourdough loaf (this recipe has been taken from the Scotland The Bread website):
To make one small loaf
Stage 1: Sift the flour (Sift 350g wholemeal flour through a fairly fine sieve to produce 50g bran and 300g sifted flour).
Stage 2: Ferment the bran (Mix together 50g bran, 10g rye sourdough starter, 200ml of warm water (35°C), and ferment overnight).
Stage 3: Make a production sourdough (Mix together 55g wheat sourdough starter, 50g sifted flour, 15g wholemeal flour (or bran if you have extra), and 40ml of warm water (35°C). Then, ferment for 4 hours at room temp or 12-16 hours in a cool place).
Stage 4: Make the final dough (Mix together 150g production sourdough, 250g sifted flour, 4g sea salt, 150g fermented bran water (top up with plain water if necessary), 70g drained fermented bran).
1. Sift wholemeal flour to produce bran and sifted flour. Ferment the bran as specified.
2. In the morning, squeeze the bran out of the water. Use the fermented bran water to make the final dough, adding extra water if necessary. 3. Flatten the dough piece into a rectangle (portrait orientation). Spread the fermented bran evenly over the surface.
4. Roll up from the top towards your body, trying to keep a reasonable amount of tension in the dough without splitting it. If using a tin, drop the dough piece in with the seam downwards. If using a proving basket, dip the dough piece in rice flour and place in a basket seam upwards. 5. Prove under cover for 4-6 hours, depending on the vigour of your sourdough. Bake in a fairly hot oven for 10 minutes, then drop the temperature by about 20°C and continue for another 20 minutes or so.
Scotland The Bread
Words by Connie Hunter & Photographs by Angus D. Birditt