Better Health Bakery

Stean Street in Hackney runs parallel to Kingsland Road, where cheek by jowl with a dizzyingly fancy aquarium shop and an old style car mechanic’s is the bare bones but attractive Better Health Bakery. This is a great back-street lunch stop for pastries, sandwiches and – on Friday – sourdough pizza. But it’s also a thoughtful and holistic social enterprise seeking to support and train people recovering from mental health issues.

Joanna Bojczewska, the manager of the bakery, explains its goals. As a social enterprise and charity, Better Health Bakery generates revenue to feed back into its own work. Volunteers and clients are introduced to the therapeutic nature of making sourdough bread, from mixing raw ingredients to kneading, proving and baking. And it’s a source of pride to all involved that this health-beneficial product is distributed throughout the borough, to venues such as Mother Earth and L’Epicerie.

The bakery provides a structured and supportive work environment, helping clients take responsibility and break down barriers of shyness and isolation. And clients are supported on their pathways into employment, so they can use their skills to become independent.

Eat Hackney loves the Better Bakery ethos, and the eats. Try their sweet puff pastry pretzels, pop in for Friday pizza, or bag yourself an artisinal sourdough loaf. And if you want to make your own Better Health sourdough pizza, here’s how.

Recipe

Sourdough pizza

Vegetable topping: sweet potato, feta cheese, mushrooms and kale

Pizza base
Makes 1 x 10” pizza

  • 170ml tepid water (25C)
  • 275g strong white flour
  • 3g fast action dried yeast or
  • 4g fresh yeast*
  • 5g salt
  • 5ml extra virgin olive oil

* If you have a sourdough starter, use 12g

This is a two-stage recipe. Time it perfectly by making the first stage, the “poolish,” the night before, then taking it from the fridge in the late afternoon of the following day so you can have pizza for supper.

Put the water, 180g flour and half of the yeast in a bowl and mix to a wet batter. Transfer this batter to a sealed container and refrigerate for 12–16 hours — this helps the dough “ripen” and develop slowly.

Remove poolish from the fridge and leave at room temp for 1 hour.

Add 5g salt and the remaining yeast (if using sourdough add 1g dried yeast/2g fresh yeast at this stage) then add 95g of flour and knead by hand for 4-5 minutes, adding the olive oil towards the end. Leave in a warm (about 25C) place covered by a damp cloth for 1 hour.

Mould the dough into a ball on a lightly floured table and cover.

After 1 hour the ball is ready to be shaped. Preheat the oven to the highest temperature –  260°C or more. Flour the table, take a ball of dough and flatten it with both hands, pushing it out to a 6in circle. Further stretch the dough by pushing it into an oblong shape, turning it and pushing it out into a circle. This is called “opening” the dough.

You can use a rolling pin but this is the more authentic way. You can also try flipping it from one hand to the other, opening it as you go – this is the professional method.

Once the dough is open, smear with a little canned, puréed tomato seasoned with salt.

Follow with mozzarella, a sprinkling of oregano, then other ingredients, depending on what you’re adding. “White” pizza is made by smearing the dough with mashed buffalo ricotta in place of tomato.

Flour the peel or baking tray and slide the pizza on to it. Bake for about 10 minutes or until the edges of the pizza are puffed and light brown, and the underside is crisp.