This week’s Bread Sunday brunch was spent in the sunny Ladbroke Garden of Rachel Cockerell, the baking mastermind behind what we think is the best bread in London. Less than a year ago she launched Roy Bread, her one-woman sourdough delivery service. Since then she can be found pedaling the freshly baked flavour of the week to her costumer’s front doors every Saturday.
Rachel (Roy to her friends and family) made her first loaf whilst in Venice doing an internship at The Guggenheim. The bread there, she says, was ‘awful. Really white and crumbly…’ She set to work creating her own sourdough, and it turns out she wasn’t half bad at it. In fact, we can’t imagine it getting much better.
We visited her for a brunch of thick slices of toasted walnut sourdough rubbed with garlic and topped with freshly made pesto, cherry tomatoes and avocado. As if that wasn’t enough joy, Rachel then produced a heavy glass jar from the kitchen filled with her sister’s own version of Nutella; a mix of cacao powder, coconut sugar, hazelnut butter and coconut milk. Which, needless to say, was unreal.
In between studying History of Art at The Courtauld, Rachel is receiving more orders than ever as word spreads about her superior sourdough. With her loaves, which are prepared ‘simply, just how they used to do it thousands of years ago’, Rachel wants to prove that bread is no enemy when made properly. She insists that proper, organic, whole wheat sourdough never leaves you feeling ‘bloated, swollen or any of that’. And it has to be said that even after a good loaf and a half, we were feeling light as feathers. Well we might have been, if it weren’t for that giant jar of chocolate spread…
Here’s what we found out about Roy Bread while trying to eat the feast at a socially acceptable pace. If you haven’t made an order of Roy Bread yet, get to it. Your Sundays will never be the same.
Why do you think our opinion of bread have changed so much recently?
Bread is the food that humans have eaten for the whole of humanity.
Sourdough was the original bread eaten in ancient civilizations. It has always worked, but modern consumerism has changed that. Bread-making should be a slow process, but people are so set on everything being done quickly. With sourdough, you have to leave it for about 24 hours. It’s a really gradual and slow process.
Tell us about the first loaf you ever made.
It’s funny, because you never think making bread is something that normal people do. And then you make it and cut into it and you’re like ‘Oh my God it actually looks like real bread! It was real bread!
When I was in Venice I was so excited to try the bakeries. There was one right next to our house, and I couldn’t wait. I went and bought a Ciabatta on my first day to make a sandwich, and it was just terrible. It was crumbly, white and tasteless…so I started making my own. There was one health food shop in the whole city that I could buy wholegrain flour in. Even the first loaf I made, which wasn’t that great, was just leaps and bounds ahead of the bread they were eating in Venice.
Does your bike have a name?
It doesn’t actually! Someone gave it to me before I even started doing Roy Bread. It’s weirdly perfect for it though, with this little ledge where the box fits perfectly. I love cycling now; it’s the best way to see the city.
How do you think food in London is changing?
I feel like it’s changing massively. Everyone’s becoming a lot more conscious of what they eat. People are actually starting to realise that eating proper sourdough doesn’t make you feel full and tired and all of that…Of course eating processed food makes you feel rubbish, because all of these corners have been cut in the process. It’s not real food any more. It’s been messed with.
Do you find baking bread therapeutic?
When things get a bit crazy I don’t! When I was delivering to Tart’s Kitchen pop-up, I was making 27 loaves a week. Which was kind of mad. But then if I don’t bake for a few days I miss it, and then when I do it again it’s so relaxing.
What is your favourite bread flavour that you’ve made?
The walnut is a real crowd pleaser! I love that one.
Avocado, garlic, tomatoes…lots of Mediterranean flavours like this! I’ve started eating sandwiches or bruschetta every day. I can’t even decide what to have for lunch anymore without it involving sourdough.
What do you do on Sundays?
My family and I go swimming on Sunday mornings at this giant pool at St Paul’s. It’s got this glass ceiling and the sun just streams through, it’s absolutely beautiful. I love swimming, because it doesn’t feel like exercise. We’re all really addicted to it. It’s a giant pool and no one really knows about it, so it’s usually empty! Then we come home for a big Sunday lunch and read. I feel really lucky with my family. I’m one of 7, and we do as much as possible together.
What’s the plan for the future?
As soon as I find a big oven I want to expand a bit. Partly the reason for proper bakeries being overpriced or not so good is because actually running a bakery is so expensive. I want to stick with delivery, and do more wholesale for restaurants and delis. There isn’t that much competition for proper, organic sourdough, so it could be quite easy at the moment. Having said that, I think in 5 years time there will be so many places where you can buy proper bread. So I better get my skates on…!
Words and Photographs from The Curious Pear