Real Bread Campaign ambassador profile: Aba Edwards-Idun
I am a Londoner, born and raised - yes, we do exist! My initial degree in microbiology lead to a seven-year career in healthcare public relations, which included a two-year stint in New York. As a single gal in her late twenties, I was living the dream! It was fun but deep down I wasn’t fulfilled, so at the age of 30, I went back to university to study law. Moving back home and being back in full-time education after eight years was definitely a challenge; at several points, I questioned whether I’d made the right decision. Twelve years, a training contract featuring brutal hours and quite a few tears, and a move to practising in-house at a bank, I can say I did make the right choice.
Unlike some of my fellow Real Bread Campaign ambassadors, I don’t currently bake professionally. I’ve always loved eating bread, then discovered sourdough while I lived in New York, where I enjoyed slices smothered in avocado and topped with a poached egg at brunch! Back in London, I started playing around with making my own bread and tried my hand at sourdough with varying degrees of success. I always approached recipes I found on websites and blogs as sets of rules. I slavishly stuck to the prescribed timings, rather than understanding a need to read the starter, levain and dough.
For a while, I gave up making my own bread but enjoyed buying and trying sourdough from various bakeries, on a quest to find my favourite. Pre-pandemic, it was an Ole & Steen* loaf that won my heart. Then came lockdown. Being stuck at home, with many hours to fill after my permitted daily one-hour exercise / essential shopping excursion, meant I had time to dedicate to something that had eluded me for so long – perfecting a sourdough loaf.
I followed #TheMuffKitchen founder Martha de Lacey on Instagram, marvelling at her loaves with a gorgeous open crumb, fantastic ears and amazing oven spring, no matter what flour she used. I told myself that I would go to one of her classes one day. When she pivoted to running online classes during lockdown, I signed up, taking the opportunity to ask questions when things went wrong, try out different flours, and branch out beyond loaves to pizza, vienoisserie and enriched breads. It’s not an overstatement to say that I loved it and still love it. My bread has come a long way in such a relatively short space of time, which is down to practice. It is also down to Martha’s passion for baking exceptional sourdough bread and explaining the underlying theory in ways that make it easy to understand the purpose of each stage of the process.
At heart, I think I am ‘a creative’. As there is little room for true creativity in my day job as a financial crime lawyer, making bread (or anything dough-based, really) provides that outlet. The hardest part of this whole journey is not quitting my job to start a bakery! That still remains a dream of mine, so the next step is to find a way to start a microbakery as a side hustle.
Striving for inclusivity in any space I occupy is something very important to me. While ‘sourdough’ can mean ’dough leavened with wild yeast’, upon hearing the word, I think that most people picture a classic, crisp-crusted loaf, with firm European and North American associations. This is why I was pleased to see that the Real Bread Campaign simply defines Real Bread as made without additives. Rather than delegitimising anything that isn’t leavened by wild yeast by classifying it as ‘fake bread’, this definition brings in flat breads from the Levant, hard dough bread from Jamaica, sweet breakfast bread from Ghana, sangak from Iran, Pan de Coco from Honduras; the list of these breads is long and global. Their dough might not be improved greatly by heritage grains of long fermentation but this fact does not make them any less ‘real’ to the people who enjoy them or important to their diets and culinary cultures. I would like to use my time as an ambassador to shine a light on these delicious breads and hope that you will join me on the journey!
*A Danish-based chain that now also has outlets in London. We have contacted them a number of times to ask if they bake what we call Real Bread and to remind them of the legal requirement to display loaf weights, but have received no response. Ed.
Originally published in True Loaf magazine issue 48, October 2021