The Loaf in the Box – Dan Lepard's Pop-Up Bakery San Sebastian
San Sebastian in July and August feels like a capital city, a vibrant and lively place with traffic congestion to match it. I can’t think of a better city with its culinary reputation to set up a pop-up bakery in, The Loaf in a Box is the brainchild of Dan Lepard. Those who are new to the bread world might not realise Dan fermented his reputation back in the day as a real baker with his elbows deep in kilos of daily dough.
Not a bad city to be deep in dough is it?
If only all bakers could have the sea view on their way to work.
The handsome Spanish trio, Nacho Bueno, Xabier De La Maza and Andoni Munduate who run La Salsera approached Dan to work together on a bakery in Spain and Dan came up with this idea of a pop-up bakery, test the local climate for this type of bread and see how well it would be received.
Dan’s sourdough book, The Handmade Loaf, which remains the most comprehensive book on sourdough was translated into Spanish, this version currently on its 4th addition has filled an obvious void in Spain. The translation was most excellently done by another handsome Spaniard, the multi-talented self-taught baker Ibán Yarza.
If you’ve been following The Loaf in a Box‘s progress on twitter @TheLoaf_es or on facebook TheLoaf.es, you already know how successful this project has been. The bakery started out with the intent of baking 170-200 per day but within days of opening had to produce 500 loaves to meet the demand.
The idea for the project was more ambitious than producing sourdough and long fermented yeast loaves with local flour, the other aim was to make use of unused space by the riverbank and turn this temporary assemble of shipment containers into a place of learning. A big objective of The Loaf in a Box is to train unemployed young people looking for experience outside their education.
The learning is also open to the public for hands-on daily courses. The day I arrived Ibán who’s responsible for Spain’s largest bread forum El Foro del Pan and his blogs La memoria del pan and Te quedas da cenar, was teaching an introduction class to beginners.
Visiting the site of these two tankers and seeing the excellent bread produced is testimony to how little is needed to produce the humblest yet the most maltreated food.
The space is tiny, the work surface is small, in the 37˚C (98˚F) heat it’s a baker’s challenge to come up with a formula for overnight fermentation, and that’s what makes Dan thrive, rise to the challenge and work with what he has.
And look how he meets that challenge.
Now it’s time for the sourdough to go in.
This is a sauna-come-bakery.
They sell a yeast loaf, a sourdough and the special loaf of the day.
This is as unglamorous as it gets in bakery outfits but the setting makes up for the rough-and-ready architecture.
The Loaf in a Box
An idea that one team put together and what an achievement they’ve actualised, never a truer saying than, ‘where there’s a will there’s a way’ and that’s the inspiration I took from here. With the right people you can make it happen.
I don’t know if this could be achieved in the UK, I don’t know how much local government would thwart a project like this. The Loaf in a Box have had their share of hurdles to jump over with the Spanish local authorities but in the end just like in a Hollywood film, after everyone has put all their might into it it’s turned out grand. Dan has a great team here, from those responsible for putting it together to those working alongside him, he’s surrounded by a can-do attitude, the attitude which makes this project one of the most deeply satisfying for him.