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Sourdough unleashed: “A how to” to help you get baking your own at home

Sourdough: Let’s get you baking the king of breads at home…

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A photo of our friends from LoveBread CIC

 

At the last Cake and Bake Show in Manchester, our cement mixer made a re-appearance!! over the course of 2 days, over 120 people went home with their own sourdough starter to get them going with the Bread Revolution.

Read this post to find out how to get baking your very own sourdough at home.

 

 

 

 

 

What on earth is it? 

Sourdough is an ancient method to leaven bread which dates back centuries, long before the availability of baking yeast.

How do I get one going?

If you were not lucky enough to attend the Cake and Bake show where we made some live to take home then starting your own is simple enough.
In it’s basic form sourdough starter or mother as it’s called is simply flour and water left to sit out to benefit from all the wild yeasts that are around us. I  time, it will start to ferment which you will notice through a bit of an acidic aroma and bubbling starting to occur. This means it is alive! ! 
To create your own from scratch simply combine 50g of flour and 50g of water and put in a container with a loose fitting lid.

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Photo courtesy of Emma Nichols

 

A kilner jar without the rubber seal is ideal. You can always incorporate a teaspoon of either natural bioactive yoghurt, or a decent honey or even a squeeze of sweet citrus juice (grapefruit is ideal). These will help to get the starter going a little more quickly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Keeping it alive

Like all living things your starter (which you should christen with a name by the way!!) Needs feeding.
A feed is done by incorporating equal quanities of flour and water to your exisiting starter mix.
Keeping around 400 or 500g of starter is ideal, and you will aim to take what you need from your jar for the recipe, and then simply feed it back with the amount taken out to get back to your original volume every time.  So if the recipe requires 300g, simply feed your starter with 150g of flour and 150g of water when you have taken what you need out for that day’s baking.

Where to store it

If you are baking daily then your starter can be kept out somewhere at room temperature. If however you are baking once a week or even less, then simply put it in your fridge after taking what you need from it for your day’s baking.
If you are keeping it fridged then take it out the day before you intend on baking and feed it. This will get it back up to strength to produce a delicious loaf.

Happy starter or sad starter?

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Photo courtesy of Vanessa Kimbell showing a sad starter… panic not!

 

A happy starter should have a bubbly appearance. When added to your recipe it should float in the water you are weighing up. Using your starter 8hrs or so after feeding you will usually have it at it’s best.
A sad starter is one that is flat, very liquid and lifeless. Fear not! ! If this is the case then give it a feed and it will soon be back up to strength.
Your starter may sometimes develop a liquid on the surface. Most often this is because you are leaving it for extended periods of time between your baking. This is called “Baker’s hooch” (quite alcoholic but I would’nt advise having a shot of it!!). If this occurs simply stir it back into the mix, feed your starter and this will get it back up to full strength.

 

 

 

Going on holiday? 

If you are going away, then it can sit in your fridge for a few weeks. Better still why not give a friend or relative the task of looking after it, and give them a recipe to bake some of their own? You wouldn’t leave your pet alone when going away would you?
Another option is to freeze it as when defrosted and fed it will come back to life.

Let’s get baking!!

Ok so you are all set to bake. Let’s do this!

Ingredients:

690g strong white bread flour
300g sourdough starter
350g water
18g salt

Method:

There are hundreds of recipes out there, and almost as many differing methods. This is one I like as whilst ot does require more time, no kneading is required!

1. Combine flour, water and starter in a bowl. Roughly bring mix together (a valw shaped hand with spread fingers works well). Cover and leave to sit for 15mins. This will allow the flour to absorb the water.

2. Spread the dough out on your worktop and sprinkle over the salt. Bring the dough back together and give a gentle knead. At this stage it should be all combined but tear quite easily. This is because the gluten hasnt developed.
At this stage you can decide to get physical and knead it. Or allow time to do it’s thing. Leave for 30mins at room temperature,  covered with plastic (a carrier bag is ideal for this).

3. Folding. This and time is what allows the gluten to develop to get you a beautiful, stretchy, strong dough.
Turn out on to the table and stretch the dough out bit by bit as much as it will go without starting to tear. Then fold it back in on itself and shape back into a a ball.
Repeat this process 3 or 4 times, leaving for 30mins each time until the dough feels nice and stretchy.

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Photo courtesy of new baker Allan Redoble. Great work!

 

4. Shape. I won’t go into detail here as there is plenty of information out there but portion and shape your dough as desired. Remember that shaping your dough well and producing a loaf with a tight seem will give it structure and will produce a plumper lpaf with better definition.
When done set to prove, seam side up in your proving vessel lined with a floured baking cloth, or couche.

 

 

 

 

 

5. Night night. Put your loaf to sleep in the fridge. Either overnight if made when you get in from work or for the day if made at breakfast. A minimum of 8 hours but anything up to 24 hrs. 
During this time the magic will happen. Remember time = flavour. If your dough is quite wet it will alsp allow it to firm up.

6. Bake!! Take out of fridge and preheat your oven to 240′C. Put a baking or roasting tray in the bottom of your oven.
When your oven is up to temperature turn your loaf out gently onto a baking tray or better still baking stone, apply dusting of flour and score as desired and load into oven. Pour a third of a mug’s worth of water into the roasting tray and then close the door immediately. This will produce the steam which encourages the loaf to burst and helps to produce the fantastic crust.
Baking times will vary but looking at around 30-45mins. Listen for that hollow sound when tapping the base of the loaf and an even all round crust. 
Set to cool (dont give into temptation just yet) and then EAT!!

You’ve done it!!!
Now, we would love for you to share your experiences with us. To do so, or for any more tips, joining our burgeoning group of bakers on our Facebook group. Simply search for “Friends of the Thoughtful Bread Company”. We are also on twitter,  @thoughtfulbread.

Well done, you have now joined an elite.

Happy baking

Duncan.x

Feedback from one of our Bakery School graduates

Having just had this pop into my inbox I thought it would be nice to share this with you so you get some feedback and an idea of what you might expect when you book onto one of our bakery classes:

 

“What can I say, Wow what a day! A wonderful welcome with a hot drink and pastry. This day of baking was part of my Christmas Present and it has to be one of the best presents I have ever received as this present will last and be revisited when I bake at home for others to share. The instruction, content and the whole feel for the day was simply wonderful with a good pace which felt comfortable. I loved the way we were all positioned around a table where we all had eye contact and could see what each other was doing (the good and the almost as good!) which was relaxing and helpful.

I have read and watched programmes on bread but I just felt that I needed to have that extra support and confidence. This day was good for novices and those with more experience as Duncan surrounded the activities with the knowledge base of how to work gluten, what to look for (in the process) and supported this by trying out a number of techniques, i.e. using kneading, using machines making different types of sweet and savoury bread etc. It was also fascinating to see part of a working bakery which allowed me to appreciate how this supports Duncans’s vision of “community” link’s. Our lunch was rustic, healthy, tasty and gave us all the opportunity to eat good bread which is all very important if you are a food lover like myself.

Our goody bags was full of quality items and yours and Patricks book which backed up everything we had learnt during the day. Bringing home our sour dough starter was another bonus and mine is still growing. Also all of our wares we had made allowed our loved enjoy our day also. I would undoubtedly recommend your courses/ experience days ( and have done so already via Facebook) if I am good enough I will add the patisserie experience to this year’s Christmas wish list!

Thanks you for a memorable, practical and most enjoyable day!”

 

If you are considering booking a place for yourself or a loved one, then please do take the plunge. We’ll ensure you have a cracking day and with armfuls of goodies to take home and some new skills to boot!

 

Visit our bakery school page for dates and booking.

 

Stay dry, and keep on baking!

Causing a stir at The Cake and Bake Show

I was first introduced to the crazy world of the Cake and Bake Show when on our promo tour for our book Bread Revolution. On the back of a couple of solid demo’s I was delighted to be invited back this year to showcase my bread-making skills.

With nothing to plug this year (at least not for now – watch this space) nothing short of a memorable mainstage demo would probably see this be my last appearance as baking is clearly on the up and there is no shortage of baking figures to fill their 3-day calendar of demo slots.

So, I decided at the last minute to jack in my planned demo of horseradish leaf bagels with signal crayfish in favour of something a little different…

In honour of Sourdough September and with my new Real Bread Campaign Ambassador hat on I took to the stage. In 30 minutes I aimed to dispell the myths behind sourdough and show that it can be done at home, it doesn’t require a culinary degree and you can fit it into a busy lifestyle.

But what of the sourdough starter? I could offer up a recipe (very straightforward) but just didn’t “trust” that the 100+ people in the audience would go home and get on with it… so, out comes our secret weapon… an industrial grade cement mixer.

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Our friend Andrew Webb (Editor of LoveFood.com) was compering and took great delight in unveiling the appropriately Real Bread Campaign branded mixer, and that was that… 20kgs of Stoneground White Flour (thanks to Mariages!) and 20Kgs of Water along with a small vile of our very own starter from back at the bakery is all it took.
As the demo ended, I was amazed. The whole audience got up, and then proceeded to form an orderly queue and with the help of our bakery apprentice Felix we sent over 200 people home with their own starter.

I thought it nice to create a parallel to anyone familiar with tamagotchi’s and simply ask they follow us on twitter @thoughtfulbread and await further instruction. The twitter chat continues, and people have given their starters some great names (there’s Porthos, Aramis and Athos, and others including Dougall and Betty – fantastic!).

As at today with the end of the month looming it is great to have played a small part in what has been a fantastic campaign to help put sourdough on the map.

For those of you not in the know, the Cake and Bake show is the industry show for all you cakers and bakers out there. They run two shows a year, one in London and one in Manchester. For more information and tickets, visit http://www.thecakeandbakeshow.co.uk

Here’s to hopefully being invited back to the next show for the chance to continue to put Real Bread on the map, and thanks to Luke and the team behind the show, and Kate and her team at Nudge PR for looking after us all so well.

 

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Your chance to snap up a share in our growing bakery business!

The Thoughtful Bread company is turning to a new funding platform to help raise the necessary funds required to secure and open it’s first bakery shop and bakery school in Bath. 

The company, which has developed a reputation through its innovative and sometimes quirky range of breads and supplying farm shop and restaurants is making the move from it’s humble beginnings in Green Park Station in Bath to a yet to be disclosed location at the very heart of the World Heritage City of Bath. 

Duncan, founder of the company had this to say: 
“This is a hugely exciting next step for us. This feels like the culmination of almost 4 years of hard work for myself and my team and we have some really exciting plans for the months to come. The funding mechanism we have turned to will allow us to offer the local community to own a small share in the company. Whilst we have always been supportive of, and supported by the community through our bartering scheme, charity support and more, it has always been privately owned and this is all about to change”. 

Crowdfunding enables businesses or organisations to raise necessary capital for a start-up or next stage of growth by turning to a larger number of smaller investors rather than a smaller or even individual, large investor. 

The Thoughtful Bread Company is looking for investment from as little as £500 and as much as £5000, and as well as owning your very own share in a local, artisan bakery they are offering some rather tasty rewards and are even offering bread for life to the top tier investors! 

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Find out more:

Click here for full information on how to invest

 

Finalists in Baking Industry Awards

There are no other awards more seriously contested and highly regarded in our field than the Baking Industry Awards.

Every year, applications are welcomed from bakers, confectioners and bakeries around the country, willing to pit themselves against the best of the best.

 

As a very young company we were a little hesitant to enter and put ourselves up against much longer-established bakeries, but there was no better way for us to measure ourselves against the competition.

 

After a visit from the judging panel we were delighted to have made the finals, and an invite ensued.

The venue, The Hilton in Park Lane, London, no less, and the date was set for the 7th of September.

Due to a recent bereavement, Duncan Glendinning, founder of The Thoughtful Bread company, was unable to attend as he needed to fill in at the bakery on the night shift. Head baker Patrick Ryan was there to represent.

 

The product that got us to the finals in the category of Speciality Bread Product of the year was our Slow Grana Padano loaf.

 

This very special bread was born out of a unique partnership between ourselves and the Slow Food UK organisation. The partnership was born at the BBC Good Food Show Winter ’10 when we supplied the Slow Food stand with some of our Great White Sourdough for them to use in there popular taste adventure. As their way of saying thank you, they donated a good portion of the Grana Padano cheese, a Protected  Designation of Origin (PDO) cheese of real pedigree. We set about developing a very special loaf as our way of sharing the Slow Food story and a small thank you for their generosity.

The bread is a heady mix of the hard italian cheese, walnuts and honey, made as a sourdough, providing a perfect balance of sweet, savoury with a slight sour undertone from the sourdough.

 

The event was star-studded with TV presenter Richard Madeley kicking off the proceedings in a glamorous Carnival themed night where no expense was spared.

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We sadly did not bring home the trophy on this occasion, but came a close second to Bachmanns Bakery’s Rosemary & Raisin loaf. The other finalist in our category was Greenhalgh’s Craft Bakery’s Sweet Carribiean Brioche Naterre bread.


Find out more:

Baking Industry Awards
Slow Food UK

 

Thoughtful Bread Company scoop GOLD at Great Taste Awards

 

At this year’s Great Taste Awards we were delighted to win the coveted 3 STAR GOLD award for our Wild Garlic Bread.

Here at The Thoughtful Bread Company we love our foraging. What better than to use the fruits of nature’s wild larder to produce something a little special.

 

The Judges had this to say:

“Lovely crusty appearance and good texture. Greenness adds to attractive appearance and the flavour balance is quite superb.”

 

Our bread was later featured on BBC Radio 2′s Drivetime show, presented by Simon Mayo, where resident chef Nigel Barden (judging the awards) served up our bread live on air.

 

The Wild Garlic season is very short, so look out for our loaves when they are on sale, as they don’t hang around! We also produce a rather tasty Wild Garlic Pesto. Sort of our locally-sourced variant of the popular pesto, made to our secret recipe.

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Other awards included Gold 1 Star for our Great White Sourdough, Spelt Sourdough and Light Rye Sourdough.


Find out more:

Click here to view this year’s winners

Major Commendation for the bakery at Prestigious Environmental Leadership Awards

The Business Commitment to the Environment (BCE) Environmental Leadership Awards scheme is the longest running, and one of the most prestigious, environmental award schemes in the UK.

 

The BCE Awards are sponsored by businesses for business, and are given to companies that the judges recognise as meeting the commercial demands of the present, without compromising the environment for future generations. The BCE Awards aim to provide a unique opportunity for any business to demonstrate clearly that corporate responsibility is an integral part of their organisation, they are innovative and are ahead of the competition.

 

We entered the awards as a means of pitting ourselves against the very best businesses in the country. Those that are on the frontline of responsible, sustainable, ethical business. The process was gruelling. After a lengthy application form was submitted we were delighted to hear we had made the next stage. A visit from a senior environmental consultant, (part of the judging process) ensured we weren’t all talk and we were delighted to show him round our premises and talk about the very many processes we have in place to minimise the impact the business has on the environment. These include anything from meticulously segregating and then weighing the recylable, compostable and landfill waste we produce to ensure we are doing everything we can to keep what we send to landfill to an absolute minimum (which by the way is less than what an average family household produces. Other measures include running our delivery vehicles on Biodiesel made locally in part from waste vegetable oil we collect from restaurants we supply, and growing or foraging for as much of our ingredients as possible, and limiting the rest of our sourcing to within a 40-mile radius.

 

The event was fantastic, with awards and commendations presented by the sustainability goliath that is Sir Stuart Rose, who had this to say:

 

“I’ve been very impressed with the quality of this year’s BCE Award winners and commend them for their commitment to the environment, particularly in the face of such challenging economic conditions. They’ve really set the bar for other companies. I know from my own experiences at Marks & Spencer that businesses need to display qualities of leadership, innovation and excellence to succeed with sustainability initiatives. These demanding attributes are also required to win a prestigious BCE Award and all the winners deserve enormous credit.”

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We were delighted to be a finalist in these awards, pitting giants like Sony, BAE and Sharp to the post, and were even more delighted to be awarded a Major Commendation, which I collected from Sir Stuart Rose himself.

 

You can see the short video we produced for the awards by clicking here.


Find out more:

More on the BCE Awards

A week in the life working for Thoughtful Bread Co – by Neil Whitehead

When Ross (the current bread shop man down in Green Park) flew off on honeymoon, I was lucky enough to help out in the Thoughtful Bread Co’s Green Park Market shop for a couple of weeks.

 

And what a great two weeks that was! I’d forgotten how much I loved retail (I used to manage a teddy bear shop in another life!) and very soon felt at home with my apron on, surrounded by hundreds of freshly baked loaves…heaven! I’d spent some time with Duncan beforehand so, after getting to know each loaf, set about selling my wares to the good folk of Bath!

 

I met so many great people, people who really love their food. From rosemary foragers to cheese addicts, everyone was fun and friendly. Thoughtful Bread Co customers are a discerning bunch and rightly so. They love the products and are passionate about taste, ingredients and quality – I guess that’s why they love Thoughtful.

 

I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Thoughtful – I love what they stand for and what they do. Good luck with future plans fellas – I hope I can hang out with you again one day.

 

Neil Whitehead (PR and Thoughtful Bread Co enthusiast)

Duncan Glendinning named Food Hero @ Good Housekeeping Food Awards

Founder of The Thoughtful Bread Company scoops “Food Hero” award at this year’s Good Housekeeping Magazine Food Awards.

 

After being invited to deliver some bread samples to the prestigious Good Housekeeping Magazine judging panel, Duncan Glendinning, founder of The Thoughtful Bread Company with its bread shop in Green Park Station at the heart of Bath’s City Centre was recently awarded the accolade of Food Hero at the awards.

 

Andrew Fleming, Assistant Editor/Head of the Good Housekeeping Institute, explained: “This year we have once again enlisted the help of Slow Food UK to draw up the shortlist for our small producer award categories. This movement started in Italy and endorses small-producer products with minimal environmental impact or high standard of animal welfare – at a price fair to both producers and consumers. It is clear that bread-making for Duncan Glendinning at the Thoughtful Bread Company is a labour of love. Each hand-rolled loaf is made with ethical ingredients that are seasonally and locally sourced or foraged.“

 

Alice Murray, from Slow Food UK, commented: “Slow Food UK are delighted that their ‘Food Hero’ award went to Duncan Glendinning at The Thoughtful Bread Company. The tireless energy and passion that goes into Duncan’s bread is reflected in each hand-rolled loaf bursting with local and seasonal ingredients. This eco-artisan bakery is a true labour of love”.

 

Duncan was unfortunately not able to attend the big night in London on the 25th of May as he was committed to his night’s baking: “I was bitterly disappointed not to be able to attend the awards night but I am absolutely delighted to be the recipient of this prestigious award and would like to dedicate it to the rest of the team at Thoughtful Bread, and my gorgeous wife, who have been such a big support throughout the infancy of the business.”

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Andrew Holloway, head of logistics and health and safety at The Thougthful Bread Company was invited to attend the ceremony and was presented the award by BBC’s “Great British Menu” judge Prue Leith: “I really enjoyed to be amongst such good company at the awards and was honoured to collect the award on Duncan’s behalf”. The Good Housekeeping Magazine Food Award is one of several recent awards recognising the continuing efforts the small artisan bakery are making to root themselves firmly into Bath’s community. Their shop is open tuesdays through to saturdays in Green Park Station in Bath.


Find out more:

Good Housekeeping Magazine
Photos of the event

Welcome to our new sales manager!

Hi, I’m Ross Davies and I am the new recruit for the Thoughtful Bread Company. Some of you may recognize me as I have been working next door for PJ’s Farm on a Friday and Saturday. I also had a life away from the market which was completely different to this, and I have now taken the BIG step to work for Duncan and his team as I feel I have a lot to offer, I have a true passion for food, love the drive for what Duncan wants to achieve, and I really want to be part of that. I can’t wait to get going now, it’s an exciting time for The Thoughtful Bread Company and I’m over the moon to be here, so please next time you pass the shop, please come and say ‘hello’ and buy some real,award-winning, handmade, good for you bread!!

 

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