Gemma Llorca lives in Poboleda, and she has replaced her father-in-law, Lluis Porqueres, in the adventure of baking bread. The business is physically located in Escaladei, where he worked, and she uses the same bakery and, most importantly, the same wood-fired oven.
From him, from Lluis, she has learnt the trade, and she has also inherited, besides the enthusiasm and excitement about baking bread in the way people used to bake it before, the sourdough starters that he used. Now, she shows them to us when she has just activated them, they will not be ready until the next day. First, she starts feeding them 24h before mixing them with water, flour, and salt: “This is the white bread sourdough starter and the wholemeal bread sourdough starter, all our breads come from here”, she shows them to us. It is what is known as the pre-ferment. When it is ready, it is time to mix. “The white bread sourdough starter must be about 10/15 years old, and the wholemeal bread sourdough starter, a baker that he visited gave it to him, and I think it must be over 300 years old” We talk based on the fact that it has been kept active since then, because, over time, the sourdough starter is modified. The same sourdough starter, from one place to another, changes over time, and it can become a completely different sourdough starter, because environmental bacteria influence the sourdough starter and modify it. “That is why they are unique!” she tells us.
To make bread from these sourdough starters, besides flour, water, and salt, you need to add a bit of fresh yeast. It is a way of keeping the speed and give a boost to the process, because, otherwise, it would depend too much on the temperature and the environmental humidity.
Another treasure which Gemma uses is the flour. In this case, she trusts Can Mestre, an agricultural family business from Sta. Coloma de Queralt which has recovered ancient wheat varieties. They grow them in an environmentally friendly way, and they mill them in a stone mill to treat them in the best possible way and respect as much as possible all their properties and special flavours.
White and wholemeal bread made with spelt and kamut, only with kamut, multigrain bread with sunflower, pumpkin, and oats seeds; gluten-free buckwheat bread, which is not suitable for those with celiac disease because, as it is made in the same bakery, there may be cross-contamination. Olive bread, nuts and raisins bread, milk bread, hamburger buns and frankfurt rolls… The list increases as time goes by.
Usually, the first thing she does is build a fire to light the wood-fired oven and heat it at 300º. She spends two hours kneading the different breads, which is enough time for the oven temperature to drop at the ideal temperature to bake. She can bake 20 breads in a batch, and with a load of firewood she can bake two batches. When she finishes: she takes the ashes out, she sweeps, and she cleans. Then, she also must deliver the breads. “A long working day, but it is worth it” she tells us. Because, at the moment, she does not have a shop, she only works to order, but she is thinking of setting up a stall at the weekly market in Falset more or less in the immediate future.
Thank you, Gemma, for wanting to take over the business and keep working on this art of baking bread, and let us enjoy the taste of your bread, which is so authentic.