Bread with Ed in St. Leonard's, Hastings (England)

I arrived at Ed's house in St. Leonard's (near Hastings), later than expected, which is how things are tending towards on this trip. Google maps says one thing, my bike says another. So long as I don't push her too much, the ride is comfortable and smooth. Learning to slow down and not race the clock is a lesson I have been trying to learn for some time. This makes for good practice.

I first met Ed at the fantastic Jane Ripley's house (another story) in Shepherd's Bush, back when I was still consulting for Apple and the BBC. Jane would kindly put me up for the night or nights, and we would cook up feasts, eating and talking into the night.

One evening I visited,  I was introduced to Jane's new lodger Ed. He might have been about 23 then? We stayed up till the wee hours of the morning having an inspired conversation about I do not know what, but it kept me from sleeping much. The next day at work was pretty difficult. 

Ed is a renaissance man. He can make anything. From violins to clothes, to snowboards to food and beyond. He does everything with artisan precision. Here is Ed's recipe for bread which he kindly made for the house the day I arrived. We took it for a picnic in Icklesham on land where a farmer, after digging up stones on his property, made his own stonehenge circle.

Ed kneading bread, enough said.

Ed's Bread

For the poolish (sponge):
250g strong bread flour
300ml water
1/4 tsp dried yeast
1tsp sugar

For the dough:
250g strong bread flour
Tsp kosher (or non iodised) salt

This is a two stage recipe, utilising a poolish, or sponge, starter which is made in advance and then mixed into dough before baking. I like to make my sponge before bed and then make the bread the next morning, but you could just as easily make the sponge in the morning before work and bake the bread in the evening. Each step only takes a few minutes and the actual process is not time consuming, even though the waiting periods are fairly long.

For the poolish:
Thoroughly mix dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl. Add water and stir until combined. Cover the bowl with cling film and let stand at room temperature for 6-12 hours - it will become bubbly and approximately double in size.

For the dough:
Take your poolish and stir in the flour. It will look messy but that's fine. A good trick that I use is to stir with the handle of a wooden spoon - it is much easier to get the sticky dough off than if you use it right way round! Cover and rest for 30 mins Turn out your dough on a lightly floured surface. Sprinkle the salt over and knead the bread for ten minutes until it is smooth and elastic.

Avoid over flouring the dough - it may be sticky to begin with but the more you knead it the easier to work with it will be. Shape into a ball and place onto a lightly floured baking sheet. Sprinkle with flour and cover lightly with cling film, leave in a warm place for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 210c. Remove cling film from loaf and, with a very sharp knife, make two 1/4 inch cuts in the top of the dough, in the shape of a cross.


Immediately put the loaf in the oven and bake for 30-50 minutes until the crust is a rich golden colour and the bread sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom