Dan Lepard is an Australian born baker, food writer, photographer and television presenter and currently resides in London.
He has published nine recipe books on baking and has been a regular recipe contributor in newspapers both in the UK and in Australia as well as a stint on TV. Dan also holds regular sourdough masterclasses in cookery schools for domestic cooks as well as masterclasses and consultation work for professional bakers.
Back in 2012, Dan joined forces with the founders of The Loaf Bakery to create The Loaf In A Box – a pop up bakery built with shipping containers and located in a park in central San Sebastian, Spain that ran for the summer from July to September. The pop up was a huge success – San Sebastian has such a strong food culture with the highest concentration of Michelin stars in the world, how could it not be successful!
San Sebastian is also the long-time home of Salva Industrial who collaborated in the Loaf In A Box pop up. So it was only fitting to get the band back together and invite Dan back to San Sebastian for a sourdough masterclass. In fact, two masterclasses.
The first masterclass was held on 12 June for home bakers at the Tabakalera – the former cigarette factory that has now been converted into a brilliant Cultural Centre. Over 140 people attended the event to hear Dan talk about making sourdough at home, paying particular attention to the challenges home bakers face. Dan provided tips on how to try to achieve the results from professional bakers when you only have domestic type equipment and ovens to work with. The session finished with bread sampling from The Loaf Bakery and locally made beer from Basqueland Brewing – keeping the artisan theme going.
The following day was the masterclass for professional bakers, held at Salva Industrial’s start of the art Demonstration Kitchen located next to their main factory in San Sebastian. Over 40 professionals attended with visitors from Spain and France, instructors and students from the Basque Culinary Centre plus a couple of travelling Australians! It was very much a hands-on demonstration with encouragement given to all participants to get involved. One highlight was seeing the professional bakers teaching some students on hand moulding techniques – the old guard sharing their knowledge with the next generation.
Rather than being a straight-out demonstration the day was an opportunity for open discussion and sharing of ideas and methods. Discussions ranged around the type of flours being used, the use of improvers and enhancers in sourdough and ways to maintain quality and competitiveness.
Dan has become a huge fan of the Salva equipment and has given rave reviews for the Salva Retarder Proovers and the Salva Modular Deck Ovens both for the build quality of the equipment and the quality of the baked product. He particularly enjoyed using the Integrated Setter Loader and could see the massive time saving this gives the baker as well as reducing the heavy working loads – something all business owners should be aware of and engaging.
One of the key points made during the masterclass was concerning working to your strengths, not your competitors’ strengths. Why go head to head with an industrial baker that can produce loaves very fast and at a lower cost per unit than the artisan baker. Instead, concentrate on products they can’t make. Give your bread an extra twist for example – something automatic machines can’t do.
Dan also made reference to the use and provenance of local ingredients and regional breads and baked goods, encouraging bakers to celebrate their local specialities, rather than making or replicating bread like everyone else makes. He gave the example of the famous Tartine Bakery who have now opened a bakery in South Korea – do we really need this? I am sure the Tartine loaf in Korea will be fabulous but why not celebrate Korean baked goods and Korean flavours and keep the local traditions alive, rather than bring a product made famous in San Francisco?
Overall the event was a great success. The home bakers loved learning from and being with Dan and many photos and stories were uploaded to social media. The professional bakers enjoyed the opportunity to share their problems and ideas, learn something new and catch up with old friends or meet new ones.
Congratulations to Salva and Dan Lepard for a brilliant event.