Chef, author and keeper of the kitchen garden at Hertford's Foxholes Farm, Tina Richardson celebrates sourdough bread from a Ware family bakery gaining a loyal following for its delicious breads and pastries.

Nestled away in Ware is the small artisan bakery Proto. Pass through the door and you are greeted by the fabulous aroma of baking bread and other delights. The enticing smell makes you feel like you haven’t eaten for weeks.

The bakery was started in 2020 during lockdown by husband and wife James and Jo-Anne Proto - a big step up from baking and selling from their home in Cheshunt.

Proto produces and supplies a wide range of baked goods including their signature recipe sourdough which is created over three days. The sourdough starter is proved, baked and then sold the minute it comes out the oven, so it’s still warm. It's available seeded, plain and wholemeal.

High quality produce in all the bakes is key, such as Cacklebean eggs, stoneground organic flour from Mill Green in Hatfield and deeply rich golden butter, purchased in slabs ready to be pressed down in-house for use in the pastries. The couple's sweet bakes are simply on another level. Cinnamon swirls, savoury filled buttery croissants and golden Portuguese tarts are seriously rich.

This delightful family bakery has gone from baking 100 loaves in three hours to 110 loaves in 50 minutes and James and Jo-Anne are proud to provide customers with first class produce and customer service, even offering a wholesale delivery and pre-order collection service.

Fresh from the kitchen garden this month is delightful and aromatic basil, a fantastic culinary herb used in so many dishes, perfectly paired with my panzanella recipe using Proto's sourdough bread.

Ingredients (for three to four)

100g kalamata olives
2 shallots, chopped
1 large bunch fresh basil
4 thick slices sourdough bread, diced
400g large tomatoes
1 small can anchovies fillets
50ml olive oil
30mls cider vinegar
1 tsp dijohn mustard
1 tsp honey
Salt & pepper

Method (prep 15-20 mins, cook 5-10 mins)
Place the sourdough on a baking tray, drizzle with some of the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Cook in a pre-heated 160C oven until golden brown. Take out and leave to cool.
Add the tomatoes, olives, shallots and anchovies to a bowl, then add half the basil leaves.
In a jar, make a dressing by adding the remainder of the oil, vinegar, mustard, honey, salt and pepper, and shake until mixed.
Add the dressing and sourdough to the salad ingredients and allow to sit for at least 15 minutes. When serving, sprinkle the remainder of the basil leaves on top.