Local Artisan Bread & Patisserie

Monthly archive for August 2013

Why Rex Artisan? Learn what’s in a name

artisan baker; artisanal baker

Our Rex Bakery friends often ask where “Rex” and “Artisan” come from

The name Rex is inspired by his grandfather, Rex, who was THE original artisan.   The Rex Baker was  always impressed by how his grandfather Rex would & could turn his hand to anything – superb at gardening, carpentry (he made dolls’ cots & a beautiful dolls house when the Rex Baker’s mum & aunts were little girls), he also built his own brick workshop & then an extension to his house including  laying all the drainage pipes for the  indoor toilet, all on his own. He could cook and even dress-make for his girls.    Rex was a self-educated man, having left school at 14 because his own parents needed him to bring in moneyto the house, much to the regret of his teachers.  He started as a gardener’s boy and was in the Army reservists but once World War II started he formally joined the Royal Artillery to fight all across Europe.  Over nearly 40 years with the Army he made his way all the way up to be  Major with an MBE.  

At the end of his career he trained officer cadets at Cambridge University – typically getting up at 5am to work on his own workshop projects, working a full day & then coming home to continue his graft.  Sadly he died only in his 60s after suffering a rare & severe form of arthritis leaving him totally debilitated, unable even to wash & shave himself.  Rex left an incredible legacy of work ethic & artisan passion to his grandson & the name Rex is in our own son’s names in his memory.

Besides – it’s a short sharp fabulous name, and as the Rex Bakery aims to be a sharp & modern take on artisan baking, this seemed the natural choice.

What does Artisan mean?  As part of his training, the Rex Baker took a course at the School of Artisan Food & apprenticed at an Artisan Bakers in North London and whilst there’s no exact definition, we do like these:

An artisan (from French: artisan, Italian: artigiano).…. practice a craft and may through experience and aptitude reach the expressive levels of an artist…

Artisan means a skilled person, a skilled worker, or a craftsman. It comes from the word artesano, which means ‘to instruct in the arts.’

artisan pain au chocolatIn foods (baking, cheese etc) artisan is not just the craftsman but it’s used as an adjective (aka artisanal)  to describe the approach to creating the food.   It means hand crafting, not automated/ industrialised factory processing.  It refers to small quantities, simple slow traditional methods, high quality & an art (innovation) in creating new products.   Unfortunately it can be rather misused so don’t be fooled by “artisan” claims by big brands & chains!

The whole artisan bakery movement started as a reaction against factory bread.   Instead, we hope to bring you lots of inspired, delicious hand-crafted artisan treats  in the coming months & years.

 

 

Ready for bread again!

After a few weeks sampling the delights of lots of continental bakeries – French, Luxembourgian, Belgian, Dutch & especially German – the Rex Baker is back full of ideas and excited to bake for you again. Germany is definitely a major power of baking in Europe because whilst the French have mastered crusty white light breads, Germany has led the drive for healthier & perhaps tastier, more dense breads.

We noticed some interesting differences in German bakeries & bread versus UK:

  1. There are very many bakeries, even in the tiniest local Black Forest village there were 3!  We learned that a Backstube meant baking takes place on the premises and a Backerei that the bread is baked elsewhere & shipped in for sale – the shops looked the same out front.
  2. People shop at their favourite bakery every single day,  typically in the morning to get the just-baked fresh bread.  You see slow cyclists of all ages with bike baskets laden with loaves or even just with a baguette in it
  3. They have different favourite breads to us – long crusty  white bread rolls called Knupel  are ubiquitous in Swabia, Knupel bread rollsevery picnic seems consist of these.  There aren’t many tin or bloomer shaped  loaves like you see in England , instead Germans love lots of different varieties of bread. Some very dense dark loaves packed with seeds , nuts or fruit such as Schwarzbrot or Vollkornbrot and others lighter and tangy to the taste  (looking like Rex sourdoughs) called Bauern Brot or Berne Brot (Switzerland is a couple of hours away) which people tend to get sliced when they buy. Their flour, even the white flour, is darker than we are used to, and they use a lot of rye flour (rogge) and spelt flour( amusingly called dinkel ! ) in their bread.
  4. All this bread accompanies a daily favourite meal of smoked Blackforest hams, wursts such as blutwurst & leberwurst, pâtés and cheeses. We suspect they’d love a Rex sausage  roll…
  5. Cakes & buns are different too! Our family favourites were the  krantz , which is like a cinnamon nutty twist using danish pastry dough and the streuselkuchen , baked in a big tray like focaccia, but sweet buttery dough with a crumble topping.  Of course as good tourists we also sampled schwarzwalder kirschen torte. As is often the case in Germany there was quite a bit more cream than than chocolate sponge and cherries !

Have you noticed anything specGerman kuchenial about continental bread or bakeries? Please share by clicking on this post to post.