How Spike Coates went from being unable to eat to developing a voracious appetite for Real Bread making.
My name is Spike. I was born with a medical condition called chronic intestinal pseudo-obstruction (CIPO), which meant I was stuck in hospital for the first four years of my life and I couldn’t always eat. Even when I could, it was only very small amounts of plain foods that were very easy to digest. One year, I had to go gluten-free.
When I was three, I had an ileostomy, which allowed me to come home for the first time and slowly start expanding my diet. When I was about five, my mum started making pizzas from scratch for me and the rest of my family. Not long after that, I started kneading dough with mum to strengthen my hand and arm muscles, which were very weak. This became a regular thing. Every week since, we have made dough on a Saturday night so that we can eat homemade pizzas while watching a movie. When I was about nine, I started making bread and pizza dough by myself.
Becoming a better baker
Just before I turned ten, we moved to Scotland. We were originally meant to go back to London after six months, but four years later we’re still here. Since we moved up to Scotland, I have been home schooled. This has opened up so many more possibilities to learn about bread. I had a lot of allergies when I was younger, so mum taught me to always read ingredients lists when buying food. As I read them, I noticed the loaves they sell in shops often have a lot more ingredients than the bread I make at home.
The year we moved, I entered a bread competition but the pretzels I made were under-baked and too chewy. Sometimes (okay, quite often) I used to forget to feed my sourdough starter. This would make it look horrible and it would result in a not so good-looking loaf of bread. Now my baking is so much better. I have learned how to make crumpets and flat breads in a pan, as well as how to shape dough, for example into letters and bases for pizzas. For me a good bread means soft white or multigrain, light and fluffy inside with a crunchy crust. About a year ago I made up my own recipe instead of following one and the bread I made turned out to be perfect in every way. It was so good that the loaves were eaten in less than an hour!
Also about a year ago we took a trip to all the local farms to look at the different grains they produce. I did some research and then I baked tiny loaves of bread out of many different types of flour. It was very interesting because some turned out dry and hard and other turned out soft and squishy.
Inspiration, challenges and the future
The person who has inspired me the most is my mum because she introduced me to making bread. Our local bakery and the bagel shop on Brick Lane in London have also been very inspiring to me because the bread they make is delicious. I like cooking and baking freehand, and my biggest challenge used to be using the right amount of an ingredient. My dough sometimes had way too much of something - quite often the salt! I have now resolved this by making sure I weigh everything.
I hope that in the future I can get an apprenticeship baking bread at the local bakery. I also hope that one day I will be able to travel the world learning new bread recipes from different cultures. Another goal is to build an oven so I can make my pizzas taste even better.
I love the process of making bread, how the texture of the dough changes rapidly just from kneading it for five minutes. I also love the smell of baking bread. I will never get tired of baking bread because for me it is comforting, fun and very calming. It is also very satisfying because you get to eat it after you have baked it. Watching family or friends eat my bread gives me a sense of achievement and pride.
Originally published in True Loaf magazine issue 55, July 2023.
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Published Monday 5 February 2024
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