A Visit To Baltic Bakehouse, Liverpool
The appeal of Sourdough continues to rise, becoming an artisan staple in bakeries across the UK. With each bakery starter dough giving the bread a unique taste, the relationship between a baker and their starter is precious and somewhat personal. Said to be the oldest and most original form of leavened bread, it was probably discovered as most things are, by accident.
The practice of making sourdough is as ancient as the bread itself. Mixing ground grains with water and leaving the mixture to sit in open air causes wild yeasts in the air to settle and mix with the natural sugars. The result? A gently bubbling, frothy mound of deliciousness. It is this conversion of sugars into acids that gives the bread its characteristic sour flavour, giving it both sweet and savory potential. Think Pizza crusts or the king of French toast. Buy it by the loaf, half or quarter, bakery shelves are stacked with these bronzed and burnished beauties. I am myself a devoted, if not slightly hit and miss baker, but never had the courage to try sourdough. But do I need to? With bakeries now carefully nurturing starter dough and churning out the most delicious bread, the chewiness of the inner dough against the perfectly formed crust reflects beauty in its purest form. Like Parisians cradling their prized baguette, the simplicity of ingredients and the dishes they create deserves to be celebrated.
3 time winners of the World Bread Awards for their Baltic Wild Loaf, it’s obvious that the team at Baltic know a thing or two about how to knock together a terrific loaf of bread. I went down to try one of their award winning creations, the only choice I had to make was how early to arrive if I wanted to miss the queue that on weekends can snake down the street. Proof that locals and tourists know the bread is worth waiting for.
For me, if I can eliminate the chance of being disappointed at the counter, which leaves me emptyhanded and stomach grumbling it means setting off early. Now, there is the type of early that leaves a brisk walk to the cafe just on opening and there is early when only you and the pigeons are left waiting outside. As any visitor to Liverpool will know, pigeons circle and cha cha across street as if pedestrians are the inconvenience, and today was no exception. Arriving, slightly later than I wanted, (thank you motorway for being closed on a Saturday), the reassurance came in that my bread and buns would be waiting for me once I arrived.
Bakeries have a sense of magic at the weekends, representing slow starts to the day which should be treated like they demand. Enjoying a cup of strong coffee with friends and good food. As the week passed in a blur of sweet promises to myself, if I resist another digestive, I can go to the bakery and indulge my sweet tooth.
Located a short walk (or jog as I was almost doing) from Albert Dock, the bakery looked hidden, almost as if you had to be in the know to be able to find it. Inside, past the wooden tables and hidden eating areas were shelves of flour, jams and books that decorated the bakery, and large chalkboards displaying possibly everything that I would enjoy for a good weekend breakfast. Thick buttered toast (sourdough of course), granola and yogurt or something a little sweeter.
Here comes the best bit, the sweet stuff! Originally deciding to order sourdough, the appeal of their fat, squishy tin loaves proved too tempting. Although like sourdough these are yeasted breads and made from their own starters, I knew this loaf would revolutionize my toast. Now, along with my reserved tin loaf (£1.95) I ordered some sticky buns (£1.50 each) I ended up trying these purely by accident. Ambling around Altrincham Food Market one Saturday I came across Baltics stall, along with the table top sized sourdoughs on offer were trays of these buns. People know what they want when it comes to sticky buns, raisins can make or break their appeal, some prefer a tender croissant like dough, others a more yeasty bread, I love the latter, as it often means more sticky filling is stuffed between the layers, making them even more addictive.
Now, everyone who loves a cinnamon roll, or similar knows that some are glazed, others covered in sugar much like doughnuts. Baltic converted me from a previous glaze lover, with their buns I realized why mess with something so good? Chelsea was the flavor of the day, was it brown sugar or the nutmeg? Whatever was sprinkled on top made me instantly regret not ordering more. The dough was soft and savory, giving the quality of the filling the chance to really be appreciated. I seriously could have days where I survived on these buns, breakfast – acceptable, lunch – who needs a sandwich, tea – I may as well finish like I started.
Deciding not to stay for anything to eat as me and my take away bag needed some time alone, I will just say, you can only image how good my breakfast was the next morning. If you love your bread, following a map on your phone, or just somewhere different to drink some coffee whilst considering like me how you would drag a sack of flour back to your car, this is your place.
46 Bridgewater Street, Liverpool, L1 0AY