Local Artisan Bread & Patisserie

Monthly archive for October 2013

What is the hallmark of a good baker?

They say that baguettes are the hardest bread to make, and that a good baguette is the hallmark of a good baker.  The Rex Baker has made literally hundreds of baguettes since the Village Day launch back in June, they are the centre piece of every week’s Bake List and we often sell out of any extras made for the Pick Up Point.  

What’s so special about a baguette?

artisan baguette, baguettes, baguette, organic white baguetteSome people say that even in France, baguettes aren’t what they used to be.   Baguettes date from the 1800s in France with the name deriving from the Latin baculum, for “rod” or “stick.”  In  baguette contests, the best are judged to have an open hole soft & springy interior structure which gives off the scent of flour with yeast;  with a chewy irregular coloured rustic-looking crust, a  & of course the taste must be irresistible.

Like many of our British supermarkets, some French boulangeries today bring in “industrial baguettes” which are frozen white dough with preservatives.   One tell-tale sign to these is the braille-like dots you sometimes see on the underbelly.   In addition many French bakeries now undercook baguettes in the belief that softness, palest colour & doughy texture  is in demand.   With these underbaked baguettes, a caramelisation flavour & browning process known as the Maillard effect which happens at the end of baking, has not had time to occur.  There’s a place for a soft white bap, but how could anybody want that for their baguette??  Tell us what you think in the comments!

The traditional artisan baguette method, which the Rex baker exclusively uses, takes time & hand crafting.

rolling baguettes, artisan baguettes, artisan baguette, baguetteCare & loving attention is given to the ingredients (see below) and technique.  Everything matters in the process, from the temperature of the water added to the dough, to the gentleness in handling the dough during shaping; the folding of the separating cloth & even the depth & distance of the cuts.

All good things take time.  Rex baguette dough is left “retarding” for 12-18 hours in the fridge to develop complex flavours & an irregular hole structure.  We put it in the fridge to make the yeast work really, really slowly.    The Rex baker then shapes & bakes the baguettes within a few hours early Saturday morning, ready for the Pop up Point collections.

Organic stoneground White Flour
Fresh Yeast
Barley Malt Extract

You will spot a small addition of Barley malt extract in the ingredients above, which gives a good colour to the crust.  It is a natural sugar extracted from Malted Barley, which tastes a bit like Shreddies and has the texture of golden syrup.

This makes the Rex baguette rather more than the Baguette Ordinaire, which by French law may only contain flour, water, salt & yeast.

epi, artisan baker, artisan baguette, baguetteSome baguettes have pointy ends to look especially artisan, or are presented as an “epi” which can be broken off as rolls. But the Rex Baker wonders whether our Rex Friends would prefer round ended baguettes so that even the ends are easy to eat?  Let us know your preferences in the comments.



All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt

As Charles M. Schulz of “Peanuts” fame said, all we need is love – but a little chocolate now & then doesn’t hurt.  That’s why Rex invented Chocolate Buns, to introduce a chocolate-y dough that’s not overly rich but just enough for a sweet treat.

All about the Rex chocolate bun

chocolate buns; chocolate breadUnique to Rex Bakery, our chocolate buns are an  inspired innovation based originally on an Italian bread.  This is not a Brioche , laden with Eggs & Butter, but a sweet bun . The Honey gives a natural sweetness with the Belgium Chocolate giving chocoholics that chocolate hit but without the fat levels of a traditional chocolate bar or cake.  Think of a hot cross bun texture without the mixed fruit and full of chocolate. Our selected chocolate comes from the biggest chocolate company in the world “Callebaut“, as does normally the cocoa.

Chocolate buns bought fresh on the bake day are delicious scoffed all on their own, as soon as possible to most fully enjoy the soft moist slightly-sweet bread dough.  If your family can resist eating immediately, try freezing a in a plastic bag & then placing to defrost in a lunch bag for a great packed lunch treat OR slicing & eating with butter & jam the following day.  The Rex Baker particularly likes this with Blackcurrant Jam. We think Rex Chocolate Buns are a great way to introduce children to artisan baked delights – they even get a little healthy Rye in their diet this way.


Organic stoneground White Flour
Organic Whole Rye Flour
Callebaut Cocoa Powder
Callebaut Chocolate Chips
Fresh Yeast

The chocolate bun “sponge” grows overnight 12-14 hours, then the dough is mixed & proved twice over a few hours before baking & finally glazing with sugar syrup just before delivery & sale – yum yum. This is always one of the last items baked to keep the buns as  moist and soft as possible for sale.

Back in July & inspired by names for the new & less-than-healthy deep fried “cronuts” (croissant-doughnut hybrid) and “crookies” (croissants with Oreos), www.facebook.com/rexartisanbakery asked for nicknames for Chocolate Buns and we got some great suggestions, including

  • Choc’o’buns
  • Choccoroll

and “Chocolat au Pain” which we thought was a nice play on Pain au Chocolat, in every way.  This week, we are going to gift a pair of freebie Chocolate Buns to Amanda Bradbury for her boys, to congratulate her clever word-smithing on this one 🙂

Reactions to Chocolate Buns:

“the chocolate buns were fabulous!!!”
“Chocolate Buns every time!!!!!!!!!!!! “

“..extremely delicious Chocolate Buns”

chocolate bun; Rex artisan bakery

And of course a smile from little Iona designed to break hearts.  Awww!


Anyone for le goûter?

This week’s bake list celebrates the French afternoon tea tradition of le goûter. 

 What’s le goûter?

We always think of Afternoon Tea as uniquely British, and probably consisting of scones, little cakes & sandwiches.  And to be honest, very few of us ever actually sit down to consume a spread like that in Britain, delicious though it is.  We’ve learnt that in France, however, there is a strong tradition of enjoying something sweet & bread-y in the afternoon daily between 4 – 6pm, especially with families after school who stop by their local boulangerie-patisserie on the way home.  This is called le goûter.

pain au chocolat; artisan bakery; viennoiserie

Favourites for le goûter include Pain au chocolat, brioche and bread with chocolate spread or even pieces of dark (no doubt superior quality) chocolate.

This snacking occasion is a lovely chance to gossip & socialise over a coffee or hot chocolate and staves off any hunger between lunch & evening dinner.    It’s so important to the French that you can notice queues at cafes & patisseries at l’heure du goûter, and is the reason that many bakers in France will bake twice in the day.

Clinical studies have reviewed the difference in eating habits between American, French & German families and it’s even said that regular le goûter prevents grazing on unhealthy processed foods & sweets by French children, explaining the low levels of childhood obesity in France.  Indeed, French parents are focused on teaching their children to taste & enjoy the widest possible range of foods, whereas elsewhere many of us are more focused on our children’s own choice & trying to avoid any food problems.

For all these reasons we wonder whether le goûter can come to the Chilterns?  We would recommend Pain au chocolat or Chocolate buns, NEW almond croissants or iced Pain au raisin not just for breakfast, brunch or lunch… but now also to fill that 4-6pm hunger spot too!!  Let us know what you think would be your choice at that time of day in the comments.

pain au raisin, schnecken, escargots au raisin




“Can you do a granary loaf?”

The most popular bread with Rex friends last week was Multiseed with Honey, never off our bake list since we launched at Village Day back in June!



multiseed bread, wheatmeal, granary bread, artisan loafIt is a bestseller but perhaps it sounds like a specialty bread to some of you, even you might have thought it would be sweet?

In fact Multiseed is our Rex Bakery equivalent of a “granary” wheatmeal loaf, with a mixture of 30% organic white & 70% wholemeal flours plus linseeds, sunflower seeds, oats and honey.   We don’t use commercial granary “mixes” in Rex – we only use 100% organic flour with nothing added to the flour – no bleach, no improver, no stabiliser, no preservatives. And nothing taken away – all the micronutrients & Vitamin E in the wheatgerm stay in the flour.  Keep it simple – our white stoneground organic flour currently from Bacheldre is made simply by sieving wholemeal flour to remove the wheat bran.   In contrast, wheatgerm is taken out of regular steel-milled non-organic flour to create a whiter looking flour and increase the shelf life because wheatgerm can eventually go rancid.  The shame is that the micronutrients are removed at the same time.

There are 2 crucial steps to the Multiseed loaf:

multiseed mix, Rex bakery, artisan baking1)    20% of the Multiseed loaf consists of seeds & oats and these are soaked overnight in hot water & honey to enhance the moistness of the loaf and create a very fine flavour.  The honey absolutely does not provide a sweet taste, it is a natural antiseptic, preservative and acts more like a seasoning!

2)    Following the “old dough” method, about 15% of the Multiseed dough is prepared the day before and pre-fermented to aid flavour & digestion.  That  “sponge” grows overnight whilst the seed & oats mix soaks, then the following day is mixed in with the rest of the bread dough, shaped & baked early on Saturday bake morning.  All of our loaves take at least 24 hours to develop in this way.

Bread that tastes this good, takes time & it takes a baker like Rex that loves what they do.

Multiseed ingredients:

Organic stoneground White Flour
Organic Wholemeal Bread Flour
Fresh Yeast
Pure Croxton Manor unsalted French butter
Organic Rolled Oats
Organic Linseed
Organic Sunflower seed

 “Bought some of your bread and it was delicious..”

The bread naturally keeps moist for longer, is ideal sliced for lunchbox sandwiches & toast and besides, looks beautiful with its shaped crust.

multiseed loaf, bread crust, granary, wheatmealIf you haven’t tried it yet, why not add Multiseed with Honey to your order this week?