Why I bake
I was born in the 1950s, so my earliest memories of bread were of real bread, bought from a local baker. When the large scale industrial production of soft white sliced breads began in the 1960s, my mother wanted something better, so she bought a Kenwood Chef and started making her own bread every week.
In my teens, I moved to Ireland and went to Quaker schools where I was influenced by the particular ethos that many Quakers have towards food in general, and bread in particular. I became used to the soda breads, but also fell in love with the wonderful whole grain breads baked by Bewleys that I came across while at university in Dublin.
One summer I went to Finland as an au pair, I discovered rye breads, which were so completely unlike anything I had known before.
In my twenties, I went to live in Edinburgh, which was then very much the wholefood capital of the UK. I lived in a shared house with a very good Jewish American vegetarian cook. We were community service volunteers, living on next to nothing, but we got all our ingredients delivered from one of the whole food co-operatives, we made all our own food, including great bread, and we were able to live very well.
For years I stopped making bread, as my gas oven was not ideal. It was too easy to get to the shops and buy whatever they had, but then I began again, and the whole process is addictive.
What I particularly love about baking with yeast is that it is alive. You have to respect it and understand how it will respond to the different temperatures throughout the year, to the small differences in moisture levels, or tiny additions of different ingredients.
I have dozens of recipe books, from skilled bakers working across the world, and there are always new things to learn, small differences in how to make the dough as good as it can be.
After a few years of learning all that I could about mixing, kneading, and proving, but always fighting with the limitations of my old gas oven, I decided to invest in a Rofco bread oven, which transformed the appearance and texture of the bread.
I now buy in all my flour from Shipton Mill, and bake for my farmers market customers. It would be difficult to stop now, as there are a number of people who have learned to love the way that I bake and rely on being able to get breads from me.
The reason I finally now have some time to put this website together (It has been on my to do list for years), is the Covid-19 crisis. The suspension of the farmers markets has meant that though I could still bake for my special customers every week, I was working on a smaller scale than usual, so I have had more time to think!
It seems clear to me that the early panic with the Covid lockdown made many people more aware of where their food comes from, and of the importance of eating in a way that helps them stay as well as possible. It has also made it pretty important to eat food that gives pleasure, and maybe even allows us to “travel” whilst we are still in our own homes.
I am now looking at new ways to share my passion for good food, that can help to keep us well, and keep producing interesting breads, for local people, at a manageable scale for hopefully the next decade or so!
The virus has shown many people that good local food matters. This website will be linked to several different initiatives that are emerging now to make it easier to find and take a fresh look at local food.