The Hearth Pizzeria and Bakehouse
PRODUCER: The Hearth Pizzeria and Bakehouse, East Sussex
PRODUCT: Sourdough Loaf
REGION: London and the South East
CATEGORY: From the Earth (Artisan)
WHAT THEY DO
A baker with 40 years’ experience, owner of The Hearth Pizzeria and Bakehouse, Michael Hanson, is dedicated to transforming people’s relationship with wheat and grains. Having helped set up the British Association of Artisan Bakers in 1997, Michael champions the use of unrefined flours that have not been industrially processed, bleached and stripped of their nutritional value.
Recently, Michael has taken the step of planting 10 acres of heirloom wheat for use in his bakehouse, a project that will also reduce the business’s food miles. Developed from stock from renowned archaeobotanist and heritage grain specialist John Letts, this wheat will yield a further 20 tonnes of grain, part of which will be returned to John as a tithe payment.This is part of a project to produce a mix of wheat varieties unique to the local terroir.
At The Hearth Pizzeria and Bakehouse, Michael transforms these high quality flours into bread using traditional sourdough starters, with an extended leavening time of 12-16 hours to encourage fuller flavour. Local produce is used to make artisan breads and pastries, including beers and spirits from Lewes’ Harveys Brewery. Loaves and pizzas are baked in Michael’s hand-built wood fired oven.
The Hearth runs pizza-making workshops for children, designed to develop their food literacy and cookery skills, in response to statistics that show a third of young adults don’t know where their food comes from. A soup kitchen is also held weekly to raise funds for refugee support groups.
WHAT THE JUDGES SAID
The London and South East panel commented that The Hearth’s entry was “very impressive”, demonstrating clear provenance and commitment to the craft of baking. The bakehouse’s laudable aims and values, alongside its work in supporting producers, won its sourdough a place on the shortlist.