For this instalment of Tastes of Faversham we spent a relaxing afternoon in the back room of Vino sampling a selection of local loaves, along with the choice of a chunk of salty butter or an olive oil and balsamic dip. A couple of bottles of Fabio’s delicious wine were also on hand to aid digestion and lubricate the senses!
Our team of tasters sampled bread from the supermarkets and independent bakers of Faversham. We have a huge variety of artisan bread available to us in this area but on this occasion we opted for standard white batch bread or the nearest relative. Attention was given to the following areas:
- the loaf: shape, size, weight, attractiveness
- the dough: springiness, aroma, texture, density and taste
In this round of Tastes of Faversham there was a unanimous winner – the Oscar’s Irish Batch (£2.30), which we all agreed was ‘heaven in a loaf’! This comforting, mammoth batch would be wonderful served with a warming soup, toasted or made into a world-beating bacon sarnie. Its pillowy dough passed the thumb springback test with flying colours. It smelled delicious and left a moreish aftertaste. We also sampled the Oscar’s Small White (£1.50), which we felt had a great crust, good spring-back and would be great for sandwiches. This family-run bakers has a wide variety of bread on offer including some of our tasters’ other favourites: Kentish Cob, Sussex Oaty, Bavarian Rye and their unique Corn Loaf. Get there early, order ahead – or miss out! Some of its loaves are also available at the centrally located M.B. Foods.
After sampling what the supermarkets had to offer, we were surprised to find that the Tesco Small Crusty Farmhouse (79p) came out top. It had a good crust, soft texture and it tasted pretty good. We wondered whether the superior quality was to down to the number of additives used, but it was definitely the supermarket winner. Tesco also stocks an interesting range including a tasty Corn Bread.
The Morrisons Coburg Cob, currently on offer at 50p (usually 60p), came second. This great-value loaf looked rustic and would be great for soaking up the juices of a warming stew. It didn’t quite have the flavour of the Tesco loaf though, and the dough was slightly denser. Following closely was the Co-op Small Farmhouse (95p), which had a decent crust and that freshly baked smell but still seemed a bit ordinary. Surprisingly, considering its quality supermarket credentials, Sainbury’s Small Farmhouse (80p), drier and more unpleasantly solid than the others, struck us as pretty disappointing.
In town, Crust offers a Large Farmhouse for just £1.80. This large, dense loaf had a chewy crust and a disappointing middle. The dough appeared slightly grey in colour, failed the spring-back test miserably and ‘balled up’ in the mouth, leaving a salty aftertaste. It is, however, big on quantity and would stretch to feed the masses.
Just out of town, Macknade stocks a wide variety of bread from the Wingham Bakery. For our white bread test comparison, we selected the very pretty Wingham Cottage Loaf (£1.75). We may have been unlucky with this particular loaf because the texture was a little doughy (possibly undercooked) and the flavour somewhat lacking. All agreed that one of their best loaves was the Artisan Sourdough (£1.99), which had a very distinctive flat, crusty lid and a delicious, soft sourdough centre. The Wingham Bakery range also includes some interesting fruit and nut and date and walnut loaves.
Last but certainly not least, we would like to mention Wild Bread Bakehouse’s White Sourdough (£3.50), which prides itself on producing a fully organic range. Although we were sampling standard white bread, we did not want to exclude one of our local bakers, James Thorn, who runs Wild Bread. Their loaf was much denser than the other samples, as you might expect, and had the distinctive tangy flavour typical of sourdough loaves. Bread like this is in a different league. It is additive-free and best consumed within a few days, or toasted, in the unlikely event you’ve still got some left! Fortunately, it freezes well. Excitingly, it’s coming up to that time of year when you can purchase the Wild Bread Boxed Marzipan Stollen – an essential Faversham Christmas speciality!
Collated by Helen Fisher