Javier Marca is a key person in the bread industry in Spain. Panic has become such a success that it is difficult to get their bread without preordering it. It is definitely worth the extra effort though. It is interesting because Javier doesn’t come from a baker’s family. One day he just got tired of the tasteless bread he was buying at the bakery under his place. He met Iban Yarza, who is one of the bread revolutionaries in Spain. By following his advice, he started making bread at home. “I distinctly remember the first bread I ever made. It was not good but it had some flavor. I couldn’t understand how my first bread was tastier than the one I was buying downstairs,” he mentioned. Six years have passed since he made that first bread. We spoke to him at his store and workshop on calle Conde Duque in Madrid.
You started making bread at home. How did this hobby turn into a profession?
I started meeting with other home bakers in the city and that is when Madrid Tiene Miga was born. It was a blog that talked about bread. I then met Dan Lepard and he helped me find a temporary position at Daylesford Organic Farm to learn more about bread. I spent there one month happily making bread eighteen hours a day. Every time I knead dough, I remember this time. It was the first time that I dealt with 80 Kgs of dough.
What did you learn during your time in England?
I was very surprised by how open and generous people were over there. The day I arrived in Daylesford the bread formulas were out in the table open for me to see. I remember thinking I should take pictures as quickly as possible. Then I learned that this is not the important factor since you need to adapt the recipe everyday to the changing conditions.
“We don’t make Spanish, European or Nordic bread; we simply make homemade bread.”
Has that experience influenced your decision to have an open workshop in Panic?
We’ve learned from people’s generosity like Ibán Yarza, Dan Lepard and the people from Daylesford Organic Farm and we want to be exactly the same. We are happy to welcome anyone interested in learning about bread. The first thing we do when teaching a course is to write the recipes on the wall. I love surprising people when they take pictures of the recipes. It reminds me of how I felt when I started. Besides, having an open workshop shows that we are very open and transparent, and gives the idea that this is a bakery where we make bread.
Is that the concept of Panic?
The idea is doing the same that you would do at home. We don’t make Spanish, European or Nordic bread; we simply make homemade bread. At home you knead, place the dough in the fridge and take it out to ferment. We don’t have a fermentation chamber, a splitter or a shaping machine. The difference is that instead of making 1 Kg of bread per week, here in Panic we make 400 Kg per day. But we do exactly the same thing. We just have an oven, a fridge and a kneading machine. Imagine kneading 500 Kg of dough by hand everyday; it would be crazy!
“We have not invented anything. We are just doing things as they should be done.”
What is your definition of good bread?
Good bread must have some acidity. It is something inherent that comes from the fermentation and it is nice to find it in bread. Of course good bread must be heavy, must be tasty and must last. But above all, good bread must have some personality. Tasty bread is different than good bread. Tasty bread is any bread with chocolate or dried tomatoes in it. It’s tasty because of the saltiness of the tomato or the sweetness of the chocolate. It is easy to make tasty bread. In Panic, besides our seeded bread, the rest are all simple breads. We make wheat (white and whole wheat), spelt, rye and a blend of wheat and rye bread.
What is the key to making good bread like yours?
Time is crucial. As Xavi Barriga said before, the most important ingredient of bread is the baker’s chair. We don’t use yeast; our bread is 100% sourdough. We knead the dough today and leave it for 18 hours in the fridge to develop the flavor. Then, we leave it 3 to 4 hours to ferment at room temperature. Being a baker consists of knowing the dough and identifying when you have to place it in the oven. It is still hard for us today. Sometimes we all gather around a bread to decide if it’s ready. We have not invented anything. We are just doing things as they should be done.
Panic’s crispy crusts are very unique and characteristic. Why have you opted for this profile?
Bread may have a more moist or less moist crumb and a more crispy or less crispy crust. In our case, we like a more humid crumb and a crispy crust. This doesn’t mean this is only one way of making good bread; this is just how we like to make ours. Toasted crusts have many nuances. Many customers ask if we add coffee, chocolate or honey to our bread, but we add nothing. These are only different flavor notes from the crust.
You sell your bread at fair prices. Is this part of your philosophy?
I may be a terrible businessman, but personally I have no interest in accumulating money. Of course, we need to pay rent and salaries. I am satisfied with that. Bread is a product for everybody; it is not for a special dinner or for the elite. Furthermore, bread is made mixing flour, water and salt, which are three inexpensive ingredients. We believe in selling bread at a reasonable price that allows us to cover our costs.
Do you still make the bread everyday?
I developed an allergy to flour. It is very common among bakers. Now I cannot breath flour. I go to the workshop less than I would like. I am allergic to wheat, rye and barley flour. I can eat it but I cannot breath it. It is curious that nature is able to take you away from something you love.
Why do you teach courses?
I’d love to have more bakeries in Madrid. There are some bakers in Spain but it is ridiculous compared to the percentage of bakeries. I intend to teach courses that explain how bread can easily be made at home and at the same time, educate people so they are able to differentiate between good and bad bread. I want people going to restaurants and to demand good bread. I would like to raise the level a little bit. In order to achieve that, I believe it is necessary that people have the opportunity to learn just as I did.
How is the home baker’s community in Madrid?
One of the reasons of the current boom with bread is the home bakers. The three bakers that work with me here in Panic are home bakers. They got interested in bread with curiosity, love and excitement instead of from a business perspective. That makes a huge difference. We’d like to set up a home bakers club in Panic. Everyone could come once a month to talk about bread. It’d be a time to learn and improve. We plan to do this soon.
Besides setting a home bakers club, what’s in the horizon for Panic?
At some point, I’d love to offer sandwiches and artisanal products that would pair well with bread, such as olive oil, jams or pates. For now we make sandwiches once a month. We call it la Cofradía del Santo Bocata and we always invite someone to make the sandwiches with us. Last time Monica Escudero was here preparing a delicious one. I am also looking for another workshop that will allow us supplying to restaurants that want to offer our bread as well as fulfill the demand we have at the shop.
Finally, where do you like to go eat in the city?
I love StreetXO, Nakeima, Lakasa and even though I haven´t eaten there yet, I look forward to trying Chuka Ramen.
Calle Conde Duque, 13, 28015 Madrid