Review: BReD by Ed Tatton (with Natasha Tatton)

BReD: Sourdough Loaves, Small Breads, and Other Plant-Based Baking by Ed Tatton (with Natasha Tatton)

Penguin Canada (2023)

Vegan baking, sourdough bread adventures and more! I've reviewed this one on the BC Review.

This article was originally published on The British Columbia Review (thebcreview.ca) on June 18, 2024.

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What is it that makes opening a new cookbook feel like an adventure? The recipes often take centre stage, but I’ve come to appreciate the other, less flashy parts of a cookbook, like the introduction and the recipe headnotes. Perhaps it’s because so much of modern recipe-searching is online, but these days more than ever, I appreciate a cookbook not only for its recipes, but also for the story it tells. 

BReD: Sourdough Loaves, Small Breads, and Other Plant-Based Baking by chef Ed Tatton tells a fantastic tale that takes the reader through Tatton’s origin story of how he became a master sourdough bread-maker and co-owner of BReD cafĂ© in Whistler BC. He is quick to give much credit to his wife Natasha’s vision for a vegan cafe, and she collaborated with him on the cookbook. 

Whistler-based professional chef Ed Tatton brought expertise to Canada that he gathered in kitchens in the UK, Australia, and New Zealand. Photo Janis Nicolay

BReD is a cookbook that seeks to marry this couple’s dedication to a vegan lifestyle with their love of traditional baking. 

Tatton is a baker to his bones. At sixteen, he began culinary school and never looked back, working in feted restaurants in the UK and gradually honing his bread-making skills. A love of sourdough bread-making caught him early. Several years ago, the couple relocated to BC and while working on Vancouver Island farms, Tatton cultivated his own sourdough starter. 

I have happy memories of us going from farm to farm carrying a large canvas bag containing the starter, a small digital scale, and various flours and seeds, asking the farmers if they had a fridge I could keep the mother ferment in, and the amusement on their faces at this farm worker travelling with a live culture, us riding rusty bikes around and delivering rustic loaves to the farmers’ families and baking bread in all sorts of ovens…

That’s certainly dedication! After he re-settled in Whistler and began baking bread for friends, the demand overwhelmed his ovens and he and Natasha conceived of their own vegan sourdough bakery cafe. That’s BReD, and that’s what this cookbook showcases. 

Ed Tatton collaborated on the book with his wife, Natasha Tatton. She is manager and co-founder of BReD – Organic Sourdough in Whistler. Photo Janis Nicolay

Let’s talk vegan for a moment. Tatton is passionate about his veganism in the book. Full disclosure: I’m a pescatarian, meaning that I avoid meat and poultry but eat all other animal products including fish. However, I’m gradually trying to decrease my intake of animal products, and reading Tatton’s words about veganism lit a fire under me. He notes that most eateries have a “token vegan option,” something I’ve found increasingly true and helpful when eating out. But he notes: 

If you can make something just as good or even better with vegan ingredients, why not eliminate its animal-based counterpart and cut out harming animals and potentially other humans too? There shouldn’t just be vegan options in restaurants–vegan should be the new norm. Why should vegans have to label our foods when we are the ones causing the least amount of harm?

However, the book is an invitation rather than an admonition. It welcomes all with its ultimately positive message: 

Expecting anyone to put their hands up and say ‘I’m vegan’ is not the goal of this book, though. We are sharing our recipes to make it easier for everyone to participate in a vegan world, to demonstrate that eggs, butter, cream and all of that is unnecessary, and maybe not even as tasty as plants can be. 

I chose several recipes to test and was off on my baking adventure. It was a walk along the vegan path with some unexpected surprises: a couple of new cooking techniques, and–for my sourdough experimentation–some surprises bordering on disaster. But read on, it all works out…for the most part! 

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Reviewer Trish Bowering went for it and tried Ed Tatton’s route to Ginger and Molasses Cookies, as well as some of his other recipes. “Ginger cookies are a basic that almost everyone loves, so baking Tatton’s version was a fantastic place to start.” Photo Trish Bowering

Ginger and Molasses Cookies

Ginger cookies are a basic that almost everyone loves, so baking Tatton’s version was a fantastic place to start. I want a ginger cookie that’s got a slight crunch on the outside, still tender and moist on the inside, and with a good kick of spice. This recipe was easy to pull together, but I was surprised at the quantity of ginger and cinnamon–it seemed a lot for the recipe. An intrepid recipe tester, I followed the instructions faithfully. I made one pan of bakery-sized cookies as directed, then decided I couldn’t possibly eat cookies that big, so downsized the rest, dusting with organic cane sugar before baking. The cookies took longer in the oven than directed, but both sizes came out with a beautifully cracked top. The verdict? Delicious! These are boldly spiced gingerbread cookies with an assertive ginger and cinnamon flavour. They freeze beautifully, too. 

“The batter came together beautifully, though I kept the bread in the oven for an extra 20 minutes because it seemed wet.” Photo Trish Bowering





Spiced Carrot and Walnut Cake 

I love carrot cake with cream cheese icing, though I can’t recall the last time I actually made it. The perfect opportunity to revisit a classic. This was a simple recipe using a flax egg (ground flaxseed whisked with oat milk) in place of eggs. The walnuts smelled heavenly when toasting in the oven, and I used my box grater to shred bright orange carrots. The batter came together beautifully, though I kept the bread in the oven for an extra 20 minutes because it seemed wet. For the Cream Cheeze Frosting, I splurged on high quality, cashew-based vegan cream cheese, and the fluffy white icing tasted indistinguishable from its dairy-based counterpart. 

Had the loaf baked adequately? I felt like I was on a baking contest show when I finally sliced into this impressive looking cake as I served it to guests. It was perfect and got rave reviews from everyone.

“The flavours were strong but hearty and bracing.” Photo Trish Bowering

Smoky and Spicy Baked Beans

I was interested in trying a savoury recipe. Would Tatton’s baked beans hold up to his breads, cakes and cookies? I’ve made many pots of baked beans in my time, but perusing the ingredient list, I was taken aback by the audacious quantity of seasoning: Over half a cup of garlic powder and a half of a cup of onion powder, with generous additions of liquid smoke and smoked paprika. After pressure cooking white beans and adding all the spices recommended, I’m glad to report that it all worked out beautifully! The beans and tomato base held up robustly to the seasonings. The flavours were strong but hearty and bracing. This is not a quiet baked bean recipe; rather, it shouts its flavours loud and clear. 

“I confess to a weakness for an excellent cornbread, and I immediately wanted to pair this bread with the Baked Beans I’d just made.” Photo Trish Bowering

Cast-Iron Skillet Cornbread

For those limiting gluten, Tatton includes a chapter dedicated to gluten-free recipes. I confess to a weakness for an excellent cornbread, and I immediately wanted to pair this bread with the Baked Beans I’d just made. This cornbread–sans gluten or dairy–was one of the best that I’ve tasted. Tatton uses a technique of adding the batter to an oiled, preheated cast-iron skillet, which resulted in a flavourful bread with a perfect crumble and a crisp-brown crust. I’d never used this technique, but I certainly will again: it’s easy and gives impressive results. It’s also a fantastic way to present the bread for a dinner party.


Country Sourdough

My sourdough adventure was a week-long journey marked by fits and starts, and frequent consultation with the cookbook. I decided to make a sourdough starter with the ultimate goal of accomplishing Tatton’s Country Sourdough loaf, the most basic recipe. 

“I decided to make a sourdough starter with the ultimate goal of accomplishing Tatton’s Country Sourdough loaf, the most basic recipe.” Photo Trish Bowering

For what is a hands-on craft that requires some apprenticeship, Tatton did a decent job teaching the sourdough process, with helpful pictures to aid the beginner. Even so, occasionally I felt lost. To make the sourdough starter, I began with rye flour and water. It’s a five-day fermentation process but it took me a week. Alas, my starter seemed sluggish rather than happily vigorous and bubbly. I fed it flour and water faithfully every day, but it developed ever so slowly. 

Why? My best guess is that my house was too cool, and my flour too old. Tatton notes, “Fermentation is much more active with fresh flours. We recommend using organic flour, locally sourced and as freshly milled as possible, for all our recipes.” 

Finally, the time came to make my loaves. The process takes a day, followed by an overnight proof and baking the next morning. The kneading, proofing, and shaping was satisfying and fun though my less than vigorous starter didn’t help, and I gave the whole process extra time. I baked two loaves and…they emerged from the oven as a happy disaster. The texture was distinctly squishy, but they tasted of sourdough, and I kind of like squishy bread. It’s pretty amazing toasted with butter, though I suspect it tastes so good partly because I worked for over a week to make it. 

I don’t count this as a failure. I made something resembling a sourdough bread with only old flour, water, and salt. Tatton notes that one should make this recipe ten to twenty times before moving on, so clearly I’m where I’m supposed to be on attempt number one. I plan to try again with some freshly milled flours, and the temperature in the house should warm up nicely as summer approaches. I’m optimistic. 

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Photo Trish Bowering

After my success with BReD, I have a new appreciation for vegan baking. Tatton has succeeded in showing that eliminating animal products can be the standard of baking in these recipes rather than the exception. This book will appeal most to those with some baking experience who want to explore new techniques and varied ingredients. It’s crucial to read all the steps for a recipe before starting because organisation is definitely required for some bakes. 

I also came away with an enthusiasm for sourdough bread. I’m looking fondly at my sourdough starter, even contemplating giving it a name, though I don’t think I’ll go as far as taking it with me on vacation. I’m up for the next nineteen bakes that will promise to make me a beginner sourdough maker. 

Most of all, I had a ton of fun with this cookbook and I suspect you will too. I’m on board with Tatton’s wish to readers:

This book is a nod to where we have come from and a bridge to where we all need to go. Our hope is that you will fall in love with our recipes and be inspired to keep on baking and eating vegan.


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