What is chef Richard Bainbridge’s naughty bread-based snack this Real Bread Week?

Jazz-up toast this Real Bread Week by making flavoured butters with herbs and flowers says Richard B

Jazz-up toast this Real Bread Week by making flavoured butters with herbs and flowers says Richard Bainbridge of Benedicts Restaurant in Norwich. Picture: Katja Bainbridge - Credit: Archant

Great British Menu veteran judge and owner of Benedicts Restaurant Norwich says there's nothing like proper bread and butter this Real Bread Week.

Real Bread Week is coming up and, to me, nothing is better than bread and butter. If someone said to me 'what is the one thing you can't live without?' that would be it.

Growing up in the 80s margarine was a big thing. I must have been about 14 when I first tasted toast and proper butter, and from that day on I was hooked.

We went through a really bad stage in this country eating commercial white bread that was soft and pappy, full of sugar and salt. It was either that or brown.

A real treat, growing up, was a crispy loaf from the shops. That was a proper treat!

In England our food heritage and culture has been growing from the mid-90s and we want those artisan products.

Bread has become a massive thing in people's lives and there are artisan bakeries popping up all over the country. Guys who used to be chefs are now becoming bakers. I think there is a real resurgence in people wanting to go to their local bakery on a Saturday morning to get their bread. I love that.

What I love about bread as well is, when you're looking into the history of it, it was kind of an accident.

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Some ground wheat was a left in a bowl with some water somewhere and it started to ferment and grow on its own. The idea that bread could be made from that started there. There's so many different places it come have come from. Some say the ancient Greeks or the ancient Romans. But who cares? We've all got bread now!

We only use sourdough in the restaurant so there's no yeast or additives. It's flour, water and salt. But I don't make the bread – shock horror. I really, truly believe bread is a true skill that's been passed down from generation to generation. It's a skill bakers use day-in, day-out.

For me, I love to cook and prepare dishes in the kitchen. I've got a few friends who are bakers, and never should the two really cross. When you go to a restaurant and they give you homemade bread you get all excited, but more often than not it's dense and tight. When you come to bread it's a science. It's knowing the temperature of your flour, and knowing your yeast, and knowing the moisture content in the room. There are so many variants to make a loaf. To get a great, consistent product you should leave it to the professionals – that's why we don't make bread at Benedicts.

Nothing irritates me more than when I go to a restaurant and the bread is flat, or dense or soggy.

Heston and Gordon don't make bread. They buy the best quality they can. When I was setting up the restaurant Tom Kerridge said to me 'can you make fantastic bread and is it better than the guy who makes it down the road?'

I said no. And he was like, 'get it from there then!'

I'm not giving a bread recipe this week, but a great idea of how we are now starting to serve our butters going into summer. We make our own butter at work. We get great local, fresh cream from various farms and it's beautiful – really light.

Now we have a supply of wild flowers from marigolds to borage to Jack of the hedge, to wild garlic which we use in the restaurant on a daily basis. I had a brainwave. Why don't we mix them into the butter?

I started chopping up flowers (some of the ones I had too many of) and we started folding them through our fresh butter. And the variants of flavour you get from it – floral to garlicky – are beautiful. Really, really lovely.

What I'm trying to get everyone to do this Real Bread Week is making flavoured butter. At the moment we've got pansies and marigold and borage. They are really easy to grow. Or try Jack of the hedge. It's a lovely wild flower that looks a bit like a stinging nettle but has mild garlic flavours. Or nasturtiums. Chop a couple of leaves and mix them in.

The phrase of 'I'd like to break bread with you' is a bit cheesy, but the idea of sitting having bread and butter is a magical thing and hasn't changed from thousands of years ago. The idea of sitting down and having bread with someone is the original way of having a dinner date, and I love that in our mad hectic world bread is still the cornerstone of everything we eat.

My favourite cheeky snack

Now I'm going to tell you my great chef's treat – a secret. When I finish work I usually get home any time between midnight and 1.30am in the morning. I'll slice some bread, toast it, spread on fresh butter and then dip it in tomato sauce! That is my go-to snack.

My top 3 bakeries

Bread Source: Steven at Bread Source makes a great product only using water, flour and salt. It's that purest form of bread. He's got three outlets and is starting to mill his own flours and trying to bring back an ancient type of Norfolk wheat.

The Penny Bun Bakehouse: John's bread is brilliant. So simple. And he's so passionate about selling a great loaf. He doesn't go too far away from the idea of what bread is. He keeps to what he knows and specialises in it.

Pump Street Bakery: There's a lot of passion behind this family-run coastal bakery. Chief baker Chris put the place on the bread map with his sourdough loaves, inspired by dinners at St John's in London. They make amazing bean to bar chocolate too.

Richard and Katja Bainbridge own and run Benedicts Restaurant in Norwich.

Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @RestBenedicts

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