Krazi Baker Mark ready to show how to make healthier artisan bread at home

The growing popularity of sourdough as a healthier bread among shoppers here has encouraged craft baker Mark Douglas, better known as the Krazi Baker, to explore opportunities to teach people how best to bake the distinctively different loaves at home.

Mark, who has developed an impressive reputation baking traditional Northern Irish griddle breads such as soda farls, potato cakes, pancakes and potato apple on stalls at markets at Newtownards, Comber, Carrickfergus and at Balmoral Show and other major food events, has seen a growing demand for information about making sourdough.

This is a bread made by the fermentation of dough, micro-organisms, water and wild yeast. Lactic acid from the process gives the loaf a sour taste but is said to be good for the digestion.

“I’ve been offering sourdough loaves from my small bakery at home for a couple of years on my market stalls,” Mark continues. “The loaves have been proving extremely popular because of their reputation as being healthier. I’ve also started supplying them to delis and garden centres close to my bakery at Dromore, Co Down.

“I guess one of the results of the coronavirus pandemic is the heightened interest among families and individuals in cooking and baking more at home. This has now stretched to sourdough, encouraging me to expand my existing classes in baking sodas, potato bread and other traditional breads to embrace sourdough.”

He’s been running traditional bread classes for many years.

The trend has also encouraged Mark to explore opportunities to offer sourdough based pizzas he hopes to launch in the near future with his proposed sourdough classes.

“Sourdough is basically a very simple bread that’s made from flour, water, and salt. The bread has long been popular with foodies, especially in the San Francisco areas. The bread doesn’t contain any fat, oil, sugar or preservatives, unlike some mass-produced breads,” he says.

Mark Douglas, the Krazi Baker, is ready to offer sourdough baking classes

What produces the sourness is the production process that’s dependent on a ‘starter’, a fermented mixture of flour and water, containing micro-organisms, including wild yeast and lactobacilli. The starter produces a vigorous leaven and develops the distinctive flavour of the bread.

The starter, Mark continues, requires very careful attention as can be affected by environmental and other conditions within the bakery.

“The classes will aim to show how to make the starter in their own home. This is a delicate process that takes at least seven days and initially requires careful attention. Once the starter has been perfected it can be used time and again to make the bread,” he adds.

“I bake sourdough for customers because it’s healthy and better for the digestive system and more nutritious. However, sourdough doesn’t appeal to every customer because of its distinctive flavour and aroma.”

Mark Douglas, the Krazi Baker, is ready to offer sourdough baking classes

Sourdough is regarded as being healthier because it is said to be more digestible.

Lactic acids in the bread are believed to make the vitamins and minerals in the flour more available to the body.

The acids are believed to slow down the rate at which glucose is released into the bloodstream and lower the bread’s glycaemic index (GI), so it doesn’t cause undesirable spikes in insulin suffered particularly by those with type 2 diabetes. They also render the gluten in flour more digestible and less likely to cause food intolerance.

Sourdough bread has been around for centuries. One of the oldest sourdough breads dates back to 3700 BC and was found in Switzerland. In fact, bread production has relied on the use of sourdough as a leavening agent for most of human history.

Mark’s knowledge and expertise in soughdough is based on experience over 30 years in making a range of traditional and contemporary breads, such as the classic Italian focaccia. His artisan breads, especially potato apple and shortbread, have also won UK Great Taste Awards in recent years.

He’s also widening interest in other Northern Irish soda breads by coming up with original products such as an Irish wheaten side using sultanas soaked overnight in Irish whiskey and then baked with cinnamon.

“It’s an extremely tasty bread for breakfast as well as other times during the day,” he explains. It’s another bread based on Northern Ireland’s great tradition of wheaten breads, known as brown sodas in Britain,” he adds.

His expertise in traditional artisan breads has also been harnessed by Tourism Ireland, Tourism NI, the Deparment of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs and Food NI for events in Britain and the Republic of Ireland.

All his freshly baked breads are made without yeast or preservatives and are baked with local ingredients, such as Neill’s Flour from Belfast; Drayne’s Farm buttermilk of Lisburn; Dromara’s Abernethy Butter; Dromona cheese; and Armagh apples. He’s even used award-winning guanciale from Peter Hannan of Hannan Meats in Moira and chorizo from Ispini Charcuterie, also from Moira in his sodas.

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