An Early Night Before An Exciting Early Start

Harry Dyer – Co Owner V & H Cafe, Holland Road, Hove, August 2015

You know what it’s like when you have an early start the next day for something exciting… You tell yourself, “Get an early night”. This – as I’m sure you know – is a wasted effort.  One goes to bed earlier than usual which is silly – you’re not tired. You get to sleep later than usual as you’re excited for the next day but you weren’t tired in the first place! As a result, by the time you start to cascade into a bliss and saturating REM, POOF! The alarm pierces your brief spell of cloud-like ecstasy with the flashing, swift efficiency and coldness of an assassin’s dagger.

I’m used to early mornings but this time it’s a few hours before even the seagulls are up and about 4am. However, if they knew where I was going I’m fairly sure they’d have transported me there on a giant peach in exchange for a slice of the action. Am I still dreaming?

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This month, I’ve been invited by Sussex Bread Co – a Worthing based, totally gluten-free, artisan bakery and café – to observe some of their produce being made first-hand and to also discuss this slightly misunderstood issue of gluten intolerance. Founded and owned by three sharp entrepreneurs and food fanatics, Jane McLaughlin, Lush Trezise and Ed Synnott, they produce cobs, brioche, focaccia and seeded farmhouses as well as savoury tarts, pastas and sweet baked products, all of the highest quality.

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Suppliers To Many High End Eateries

They supply many high end eateries in Brighton, Hove, Sussex and the South of England including, the Michelin starred Curlew in Bodiam, Chewton Glen Manor Hotel, Baker & Spice deli/cafés in Chelsea, Belgravia and Maida Vale plus English’s in Brighton and soon, Selfridges in London and of course not to mention, V&H Café in Hove!

Near Worthing Station – Follow Your Nose!

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I arrive at Worthing station at around 5am and make my way to SBC’s Café and Bakery (opposite the Worthing museum on Chapel Road, an easy 5 minute walk). However, if you get a little lost follow Gandalf’s advice and simply follow your nose!

There is the beautiful smell of yeast and baking in the hazy morning air as I near the beautiful old building that the café is situated in.

Not a sensation we Brits experience enough these days. I could have been in some sleepy French town.

Baking Since 11pm

I’m welcomed by Jane, one of the owners, who is surprisingly spritely for someone who has been awake since God knows when!  As I take in the surroundings of the café I see that baking has been going on for some time already (since 11pm the previous night in fact) and I was just catching the end of it. Stunning, rustic yet perfectly formed sourdough loaves, Hove loaves, tarts, quiches, Bakewells, cheese straws and buns surround me cooling on old traditional wire racks on every spare surface.

The humidity and pungent aroma of the freshly baked produce is wonderfully intoxicating.

Jane kindly makes me a perfect “Horsham Coffee Roaster” flat white and we make our way to the kitchen where we meet baker and co- owner, Ed, who has just finished baking the Hove seeded loaf, a V&H staple and is just starting the Brioche buns, 60 of which I know will be coming to V&H Café!  At V&H Café we use SBC’s “Bracklesham Brioche” buns for our Benedict’s, Florentine’s, Hebridean’s, Royales and brunch muffins.

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Hove Everyday Loaf

They are wonderfully light, especially when toasted, and have a fantastic chew factor, ideal for a burger bun or English muffin alternative.  We also use SBC’s “Hove everyday Loaf” as our gluten- free bread. This was the real deal maker when we first started using SBC as a supplier. Before we discovered SBC, gluten-free bread seemed to be a bit of an imperfect art. Many we bought simply crumbled apart on slicing, others had a cave fit for Captain Barbosa’s plunder under the crust, or simply tasted like reconstituted newspaper mixed with PVA glue. However, with Ed’s ingenious techniques using high protein flours and fibres, and deep knowledge of baking and fermentation processes, the Hove loaf is none of these.

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Wonderful Bread In It’s Own Right

It is a wonderful bread in its own right, regardless of the gluten-free factor. It has a wonderful crust, is beautifully springy to touch, has a wonderful nutty flavour, packed with mixed seeds. It toasts incredibly well and will be just as good as the day you bought it should you need to freeze it. While Ed is mixing her ingredients for the brioche and activating the yeast we discuss the ethos behind SBC.

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Understanding Gluten Intolerance

Gluten intolerance is not a fashion as many would like to believe. It is an ever increasing condition in the UK where Coeliac disease affects over 1 in 100 people. It has come about rapidly due to the huge demand of wheat and gluten enriched products in our developing world where crops have been modified to contain a far greater gluten content then their ancient relatives in order to be used in thickening agents for things like ice cream, sauces and ready meals.

With 12 million loaves of bread sold in the UK every day, mass production has meant that there is no time for fermentation so additives and rapid fermentation processes have been adopted therefore skipping the essential stage where the break down of the gluten proteins occurs.

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Not Just Another Gluten Free Product

This example can be proven whereby many people with only moderate gluten intolerances have no adverse effects from traditionally made loaves with long fermentation processes.  However, SBC’s ethos is not only to make “just another gluten free product”, but to create better quality products as a whole, with the added bonus of being free of gluten. This entails using wonderful ingredients in their own right such as polenta, rice flour, chestnut flour and buckwheat. In our view at V&H Café, we believe providing gluten free products in fact shows far better technical ability than taking the easy route and reaching for a bag of wheat flour.

To think there was once a time where I felt sorry for those with gluten intolerance… But for those in Sussex and within reach of these guys, there is no need!

A Rewarding Business

Jane and Ed tell me how rewarding the business has been to the trio, describing more than one incident where customers have literally come to tears with overwhelming joy, being able to once again experience the taste of a childhood favourite which due to a gluten intolerance they thought they would never have again.

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Strict Processes To Avoid Contamination

The Brioche mix is placed into individual greased tins and left to prove. We take this time to enjoy our coffee and discuss a few more of their products and processes employed in the bakery. One example being their system in which all bake schedules start with the dairy-free products. This means they start with clean, uncontaminated equipment, ensuring no dairy comes into contact with the respective ingredients.

Zero Tolerance to Any Gluten

They also have a zero tolerance to any gluten inside the building at all. Ovens have to be purchased brand new so there isn’t even the slightest chance of a gluten-ridden crumb falling into the mix. The zero tolerance also extends to the very few cheeky customers that bring in their own sarnies to eat with their coffee (although an alternative is always politely offered or, “an offer you can’t refuse…”). This level of diligence is un-apologising and a total necessity in providing constant reassurance to customers with gluten intolerances.

SBC’s love and passion for food and the industry is truly embracing.

As we chat away the brioche dough starts to expand as if it’s taking a long deep breath. Just as it’s time for them to enter the inferno of a turbo-fan oven, I look at my watch and realise with a familiar stab, that it’s time for me to leave this wonderful place. I wish I could have stayed “just another 5 minutes”. But it was time to open up V&H café, and I was already late!

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Thanks Sussex Bread Company

With their ever expanding range of products we will be stocking more of Sussex Bread Co.’s gluten-free goodness, so keep up to date on our social media pages.  A very special thanks to Jane, Ed and Lush for making the time in their very busy schedules between baking, running their café and delivering!

The Sussex Bread Co. café has such a charm and we hope to work with you for a long time to come!