It's always a pleasure to make acquaintances from far away, especially with like-minded bakers and chefs. Even more when they share my love of sourdough. Checking out bakers with whom to connect, recently, I found Spanish panadero, Javier Marca.
Trained and working as a professional graphic artist, Javier was tired of the methodical churn of his trade. So he swapped that world for a more ancient, humbling craft - baking bread. Javier and his fellow blogger/baker Augustin Oliet whose blog, Madrid Tiene Miga (Madrid has crumb), are just a few of the new vanguard for a new "Pan Español."
They are exploring hand made loaves, in the process forsaking processed and factory flavored bread which has made Spanish bread tradition a forgotten memory. Like me they don't want flaccid pillows of bleached white bread! They want to redefine a dying craft and bring it back to life!
Jeremy: Tell us about yourself, where, what and who ?
Javier: I'm a graphic designer, and I've been working for 20 years in the editorial business, designing magazines. About three years ago I ended up dissapointed with the institutional environment of it. In the middle of that process of disillusionment, and just by chance, I found a blog about food and homemade sourdough breads. With a mix of curiosity and the will to dedicate my time and passion to something different I started baking sourdough breads, as an observer at first, then as an amateur and finally as a professional. Bread has become, for me, in a way to make a living.
Jeremy: How did you start baking?
Javier: I started baking at home, following the instructions and directions of that one blog. I kept documentating about the properties of sourdough and practicing a lot to get familiar with the techniques and the ingredients. Then I got the chance, through the british baker Dan Lepard (whose book The Handmade Loaf was, and still is, a tremendous guide), of working as an apprentice at Daylesford Organic, in UK, during the summer of 2009, getting to know the part that I was missing: chain production of sourdough bread, keeping the quality of artisan bread, far from industrial standards. When getting back to Spain I started working as the head baker of a new bakery.
Jeremy: Que es pan Español? What is Spanish bread?)
Javier: There is a huge variety of breads in Spain, depending of the regions, being 'pan candeal' one of the top breads when coming to customer's preferences. The culture of bread in Spain is totally lost, and people are not able to remember how a good bread used to taste. The culture of 'white, crunchy and soft' is mandatory, which couldn't be so bad if 'flavour' wasn't out of the equation. Bread here is loaded with chemicals and yeast, and people don't seem to care.
Jeremy: What makes good bread?
Javier: Love. Time. Hands.
Jeremy: Yeast or sourdough?
Javier: Sourdough mostly; preferments with little yeast for some specific breads.
Jeremy: What and who are your references for bread?
Javier: Iban Yarza, for his bread culture and generosity, and for getting me into the bread world; Dan Lepard, for his imagination and care, and for guiding, illustrating and advising me; my fellow partners and home bakers at the blog (madridtienemiga.wordpress.com), for their passion and dedication; the 1.255 members of the spanish bread forum (www.elforodelpan.com) for their constant will to learn.
Jeremy: With or how do you eat bread, sanduche, tostada, con mermelada?
Javier: In good company.
Jeremy: Bak, Pan Casero & Cocina, what is it?
Javier: A space that will cover everything related to artisan bread, from classes to debates, conferences, literature, friends, amateurs and professionals... where people can get together and share thoughts, experiences, ideas and techniques about bread.
Jeremy: Favorite type of bread, or food?
Javier: My own loaf. If I have a good pastrami, then my favourite is a rye sourdough. For a picnic with the kids, a soft white sourdough. And to keep my girl happy, a crunchy baguette with a poolish.
Jeremy: Are forums or blogs helping bread become a better product?
Javier: They absolutely do. They are the best way of learning for beginners and the best window for bread lovers.
Jeremy: How is commercial or professional baking in Spain?
Javier: It is terrible. So focused in profitability and far away from quality. Luckily, that is changing, even though the attempts are, by now, quite tepid. Professional bakers are becoming aware of the poor situation of the bread here, but the step forward hasn't quite arrived.
Jeremy: How do you make a formula or recipe?
Javier: Sometimes, straight from a book; sometimes looking at what I have in my flour cabinet; always translating yeast to sourdough, changing hydrations.
Jeremy: Is there a good reference for old Spanish bread recipes, ie, books, or just people?
Javier: Hummm... maybe books and blogs like panisnostrum.blogspot.com.
Jeremy: And what are you baking lately?
Javier: White sourdough loafs, whole wheat, rye and caraway, rye with pine nuts or rye with raisins and walnuts, 3-stage Detmold process, spelt... All of them sourdoughs for the classes. Also testing soft swedish flatbreads, persian flatbreads with za'atar, grilled naan...Oh and tons of sourdough pizza(00 flour and 20% Semolina!
Jeremy: When will http://labakeria.com/panes/pan-de-espelta/be up and running fully, I am very curious!
Soon, I hope.