Time was, if you wanted to be a baker, you went to Paris. Then, thirty years ago, the axis shifted. You want to be a baker? San Francisco became your destination. Home of ACME bakery, of Chad Robertson’s Tartine, of Craftsman and Wolves, of B. Patisserie, home of San Francisco sourdough. When Paul Bertolli wrote “Chez Panisse Cooking”, way back in 1988, the book included lengthy recipes on how to make pain au levain, and spontaneously leavened sourdough bread. Thirty years ago, the guys in San Francisco had already taken on the mantle. They defined the cutting-edge.
And what does that cutting-edge of baking look like, exactly?
Simple. It’s darker than you imagine. Just take a look at the breads, croissants or pain au chocolat baked by Shane and Charlotte, of Dublin’s Sceal Bakery, for example. The first surprise is that the Sceal crusts are so dark. Even their croissants have a dark caramel colour. This is the Sceal Bakery signature, but it’s also the S. F. signature. And then there are the parts you don’t see, the mechanics that Shane and Charlotte have adapted to superpower the flavours of their breads and cakes: the potato in the sourdough; the miso in the cruffin; the freshly milled spelt in the sourdough; the brandy soaked cherries in the Bostock; the kumquat in the babka.
Sceal Bakery have an astounding bag of cutting-edge tricks. They likely learned many of them when they were in San Francisco – Charlotte worked at Craftsman and Wolves; Shane worked at MH Bread and Butter – but there is something about the creative power of this duo that suggests they feed each other’s creativity just as happy bacteria feed a sourdough starter.
The Sceal breads and cakes may be complex and time-consuming to make – it takes them 3 days to make a croissant – but when you slice through that crust and bite into that crumb, you confront something that seems simply elemental. The powerful flavour of the breads, and their toothsome, sustaining texture means that they don’t need anything – they don’t even need butter. Use the Sceal breads and those classic European bread-based classics – panzanella; pan bagnat; pan com tomate; bruschetta; panade – will suddenly make sense, because the Sceal bread is the Diva. It’s the star. It’s the bomb.
scealbakery.com, for details of markets and outlets.