SPOTLIGHT ON....... Real Bread and Food Co
07789 962 608
Tell me, how did you first become interested in bread making?
My mum and many of my family members were bread makers, so making bread had always been a normal thing to do at home as I grew up. Before living in Froxfield we lived in Sydney, Australia and I came across a couple of loaves in a shop in Bondi that I became particularly enthralled by - I loved them so much! It turned out that they were sourdoughs - new to me then - and I began to want to know how to make bread which seemed to me to be so much tastier and with such a satisfyingly good texture.
How did you source the 'starter' for your first batch of sourdough?
When we travelled back from Australia to this part of the planet, we stopped over for Christmas with some cousins who were living in Italy. One evening they invited their friends and neighbours over and I got chatting to one man who was a baker. I asked him about his work and what sort of bread he made. He explained that he made traditional sourdough bread with a 'starter' that had been passed down through generations of bakers and was at least 80 or 90 years old! I was super excited about this, had never made a sourdough loaf and asked him if I could have some of his starter. He returned the next day with a little jar full. I've been feeding it and using it ever since - about 10 years now I suppose!
How easy or difficult was it to make your first batch of sourdough? Did it take you long to master the process you now have?
When I started first making sourdough loaves I didn't understand much about the process - I just followed recipes - and the loaves weren't great and nothing like the ones I so missed from Sydney! I have discovered over the years that unless you understand how and why the various ingredients interact and why they do what they do, it is really very hard to master! Simply following a recipe and a method for sourdough bread is not that likely to lead to a great loaf (thought it may). There are just so many uncontrollable variables involved that could never each be considered in a recipe. It all works much better if you have a basic understanding of the chemistry of it all and can then use that knowledge to tweak a recipe or method in your favour. That's the trick - that and having really good, quality ingredients! But really, I think sourdough bakers never stop experimenting and learning - every new batch of flour responds differently to the last!
When did you decide to diversify into lots of different and totally yummy loaves?
New recipes for me are often a result of a mistake or an experiment, or trying to copy the delicious taste of someone else's loaf bought at a market. It could evolve because I bought poppyseeds instead of black sesame, or maybe I ran out of molasses so had to use honey; maybe I added flour from the wrong sack because I was hurried. But hey - it's an improvement - so it stays like that! Often though, I will talk with fellow bakers and we discuss ideas or taste combos that they like, and that will influence me. Sometimes a customer describes what they would like to be able to buy, so I toy with ways of getting there.
What are the best and worst bits about having your own bakery?
Making bread takes up lots and lots of time, lots of space, lots of expensive equipment and lots of electricity; all these things cost. So its hard work and realistically it is very difficult to make much money from selling decent bread. But the good thing about having my own business is that I can hold the values that matter to me at the centre of what I do - and being able to do that is a great privilege and adds a 'feel good factor'. The ingredients I buy tend to be expensive because it matters to me that I know minimal harm is done to the environment in their production (I only use products of organic farming and want them to have been grown as close to home as makes sense). The electricity I use comes from renewable sources, some of which we produce with our own solar panels. And its great to be able to work from home.
How has lockdown affected you - for better or for worse?
During the lockdown I've continued to make bread twice a week, about the same amount as before but in fewer days. Amounts have varied between 150 and 220 loaves a day. I had to make sure there was never more than two of us in the bakery and had to stop deliveries as I didn't want to be going in and out of shops every day. Local Froxfieldians have been walking or cycling along as usual to the bakery at Laundry Cottage to collect their orders, but for people living in other villages or in Petersfield, very kindly, customers have been collecting larger batches from me and delivering to their neighbours. This saves everyone travelling to do individual pick-ups. It's been a successful system that has enabled isolators to remain at home, fewer people in general going out and fewer cars on the roads. Madeleine's Kitchen on Lavant Street and Durleigh Marsh Farm shop also collect to sell from their shops twice a week.
What's the best way to order and pay for your scrumptious loaves?
Most people make their orders through the website which I update with what is available and when:- www.realbreadandfood.co.uk
From your experience, how would you say owning and running a business in Froxfield has been for you?
I have had such generous and helpful support from all the local community here and certainly would never have been able to develop my business without such great neighbours in such a lovely place to live. I sincerely thank everyone, customers and non-customers for the encouragement and patience and kindness that I have received while I have developed my bakery business. Thank you so much!
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Why not visit Vickie's website to discover more about her soughdough business? She really is a master baker and I personally would like to thank her for feeding us Froxfieldians throughout the covid pandemic with the most delicious mouthwatering loaves... the highlight of our week!
Tel: 07789 692 608
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contact Angela: 01730 827006
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