Local Artisan Bread & Patisserie

Monthly archive for February 2014

Little known way to avoid chicken feathers & human hair in your bread – eww!

Little known way to avoid chicken feathers & human hair in your bread – eww!

Nowadays, many people believe that they are what they eat

So we often get questions from new & current Friends alike about what exactly goes into Rex bake range, how they taste, how & where they are made.

You are what you eat – but do you really know what you are eating?

 

We may not be experts, but many of us do care more about the human food chain today.

 

Did you know that a now-global scientific approach to modern food production heralds from nearby Chorleywood?  The Rex Baker has recently met  locals who worked in the 1960s in the now defunct Chorleywood Flour Milling and Bakery Research Association, which was almost opposite to Christ Church in bread dough, artisan baker at work, shaping dough, cutting doughChorleywood.

 

Back then, small British bakeries needed to compete on cost & efficiency versus big new commercial bakery factories that had sprung up post-war in the UK.  So the research bakers at Chorleywood developed revolutionary ideas to help – but in fact they changed the way bread was made across the entire world and today fewer & fewer of us like the result.

 

These researchers discovered that by adding hard fats, extra yeast and a number of chemicals (now with no irony called “Bread Improver” in the Industry) and then mixing at high speed you got a dough that was ready to bake in a fraction of the time it normally took. This became known as the “Chorleywood Bread Process”

 

The actual result was that the big factory bakers very quickly adopted the process and as the price of British bread plummeted, the revolution largely wiped out traditional craft bakeries from villages across the country.   This travelled worldwide and now most of the  £1billion a year UK bread industry is made this way, to produce cheap long lasting bread with generally lower quality wheat.

 

 

Some Rex Friends ask for wheat alternatives or low wheat breads – but it’s the whole British approach to commercial baking that may be affecting your digestion.  We think slowly hand-made Rex bread with the fewest, highest quality ingredients and nothing else added, gains you plenty instead.

 

One of the key additives used in so called ‘Bread Improver’, to soften many factory breads be they Chorleywood or otherwise, is  L – CYSTEINE (or E920).

 

It is a harmless enough sounding chemical and is synthesised in a typically ingenious way – it takes an unwanted bi- product and turn it into something useful.   However this chemical is generally synthesised from Chicken Feathers in the EU or Human Hair in the rest of the world. Eww!   How does that sound?!

 

We don’t know about you, but the Rex Baker tends to avoid eating both of those things 🙂 It’s hard to imagine our bodies are designed to digest extract of that!

 

Worse, this isn’t even something that bread, cake & biscuit manufacturers have to openly declare on their ingredients list because enzymes are seen as processing aids, not additives.  Most people have no idea that their bread may contain this, nor from where it hailed and so can’t even make an informed choice about what they are eating.

 

artisan bread, rex bakery, rex bread, multiseed crust

So good news for all near to Little Chalfont – now you know how to be sure that the bread & baked items you are eating DON’T feature extract of chicken feathers or human hair!!!   Rex Artisan Bakery openly states what our few essential ingredients are and you will be able to see us taking an old fashioned approach in the on-site working bakery right in the heart of our community, hand making our baked items slowly to get the rise & the taste right without artificial help.

 

We don’t want to give you nightmares but there are other dodgy sounding enzymes in modern bakery production….  for a start those mysterious “flour treatment agents” that many of the better supermarkets mention in their in-store artisanal-looking bakeries.   More on those another day, we promise!!

 

In the meantime, no need to worry AT ALL if you are a Friend of Rex! xx

 

How 1 easy step gave power back to the people

How 1 easy step gave power back to the people

The old saying “Two steps forward, 1 step back” can be so true!
It certainly has been as we move towards Rex Artisan Bakery’s opening – which should be just next month now!

1 easy step to (affordable) power

Outfitting the bakery is now coming along at apace.

Rex Bakery, window from shop into bakeryRex Bakery has planned a bakery shop with seating area for coffees, soups, baked items etc at the front of No. 4 Chenies Parade and the working bakery situated at the rear, you will be able to look through via the viewing window in the dividing door & wall (see picture).  The 2 areas have to be mainly separate to carefully manage heat versus air conditioning in a working bakery.

Here’s some of the progress we’ve made in recent weeks:

1)      Power-gate

Several weeks ago we blogged how the level of available electricity was very low in Chenies Parade, despite us having 3-phase power to our shop.  We had been told by Little Chalfont’s sole electricity supplier, that it would cost us tens of thousands & many months to source any extra electricity from the nearest sub-station – it was a real shock to learn that our village appeared to be closed to a new small business.

We then went into reinvention mode, spurred on by fantastic Friend support.  We unfortunately had to disregard biofuel energy (nice & eco but just proved impractical for a bakery business as you have to start up the ovens 5 hours before you can use them!!).  The Continental baker prefers gas ovens & so through friends & the interweb we sourced a Mercedes of gas ovens to import (albeit with a Mercedes  price tag to match) which meant we could now progress.  Meanwhile, our local expert project manager friend (he should be leading the UN) advised us to lodge a formal complaint with the power company.  Though of course a whinge about restricted supply could take an age & go nowhere.  We also had conversations with councillors & frank, tough exchanges with the electricity provider’s local rep.   All of which felt rather pointless at the time – but anyhow we had nailed our gas-powered plan B, so all were just ways to vent steam.

Then 1 week ago, out of the blue, we received a letter from the power provider offering to upgrade our electricity to the necessary levels for a few hundred pounds instead.  Yay!  We don’t exactly know what changed the supply problems or their minds, but we grabbed at this immediately & hey presto after they changed 3 fuses we now have all we need & more to open with the standard British electric commercial bakery ovens!!

Amazing!  Friends may expect us to be more pleased than we are – but given the wasted energy (excuse the pun), time & money in sourcing alternatives, all of which are in too short supply when starting a new business –  it doesn’t feel all that sweet.  A good learning for us all though – let’s just take that 1st step of lodging a strongly worded complaint.  If you kick up a fuss, stick to your guns, don’t just lie down & take it – this proves that the little guy can win out over the big guys on occasions 🙂

So the selected electricity ovens are paid for, are on their way, we’re still on track & we want to say thanks to everyone for your support & interest – woop woop!

2) Inside

We have fitted soundproofing  & a new ceiling, air conditioning & extraction, 1st fix electrics, plumbing, interior walls.  We shutter, Rex bakery little chalfonthave a new electric shutter from which we can see you outside but you can’t see in to us!! We have fixed multiple leaks in the ceiling, we have sourced flooring, shelving, seating, worktops, Farrow & Ball paint samples (that’s the nicest bit…).  Plastering should take place this week…

 

3) Outside

Back doors are replaced, front window glass has been replaced, the shop sign goes up this week which will be more than exciting!

 

4) Staff

We have been busy meeting candidates, interviewing & assessing and are now at a point of making some offers on critical positions – the whole team is not yet established but there are some great people who are going to work alongside Rex the Baker to bring the dream to life.  Actual opening date is dependent on the team being in place, as you can imagine.

 

Meanwhile the pop-up continues to grow every week in sales & in number of new Friends discovering us for the 1st time – it’s really nice to actually be inside the shop shell now to shelter from the last of the winter weather.

Have a great week again!

Who else wants to know the secret of Rex product development?

Who else wants to know the secret of Rex product development?

You might wonder why it has taken the Rex Baker MONTHS to develop his new Malt Loaf.

On the other hand, those new local Friends who aren’t of a certain age or didn’t grow up in the UK, haven’t even heard of Malt Loaf!    As well as wanting to develop the Best of world breads, Rex wants to champion great British produce like Malt Loaf which is practically unique to the UK.

The secret of Rex Artisan Bakery product development

The Rex Baker is inspired by food memories.

He fondly remembers enjoying Soreen Malt Loaf with his Granny, who he loved very much & who was wife to the original Rex. So in a way,  his efforts to recreate a distinctive, delicious, wholesome and healthy malt loaf  is homage to her.

When it comes to developing such a loaf, many of you may see the parallels between the brewing & bread baking professions. In essence the same basic ingredients are used: grain, water & yeast.   It turns out that the Malt Loaf has come from Britain’s love of Bitter Ale, which has the malty tones & also hops for the bitter tones.malt loaf

In Rex Malt Loaf we therefore introduced Malted Barley, which gives British beer its colour & malty overtones but we don’t want the bitter  undertones from hops (although – that could inspire another bread in the future!)

Further, we want sweetness, we want moistness & stickiness but we want a rich malty flavour.

The challenge we faced was in deciding to avoid the use of certain ingredients common to Factory bread versions:

Instead after multiple attempts, the Rex Baker has settled on the combination of Black Treacle for rich deep caramel overtones; & Honey for light sweetness & natural preservative qualities. Together they give a rich deep flavour.  Then Rex discovered the winning  mixture of Organic Prunes again for their deeper richer flavour with sultanas for their sweetness – sultanas only made a reappearance in Version 8 of Rex Malt Loaf!  Most other loaves on the market just seem to use Raisins.

malt loaf wrapped in clingfilmIn Version 15 which finally reached the February bake list, the Rex Baker has selected four different malt flours, straight from the brewing industry, to achieve the malty overtones and the stickiness. Of these flours, Chocolate Malt is very dark & bitter and is used to make Stouts & Porters like Guinness.  These different malt flours together make the product very tricky! So tricky that the Yeast finds it difficult to do its thing, so the Rex Baker has employed a technique called a ‘flying sponge’ where we get the yeast very active in a very wet pre-ferment before we make the final dough.  It also means as usual with Rex bread, the flour is all well fermented which gives you a more complex flavour and is thought to be better for your digestion.

And then finally the Rex Malt Loaf also uses a mixture of White & Wholemeal Organic Flours – this seems to make Rex unique, no other recipe seems to use Wholemeal but we believe the 30% Wholemeal further adds to the richness of flavour.

So it took no fewer than 15 versions & a lot of trial & error to develop the latest new Rex product – that’s the secret.

We do hope you enjoy our Malt Loaf.   Rex Bakery can guarantee it will not last anywhere as long as the Soreen Loaf which might sit on shelves for months, and will not be as artificially sweet.  But we do think it is much richer in flavour, is nearly as sticky and the all-naturally healthy home-made Rex loaf  inspires the food memory of Malt Loaf with Granny as a child.

We are supplying Malt Loaf wrapped in food-safe clingfilm & recommend you keep the open end wrapped in this until all consumed.

Ingredients check:

Organic White Bread Flour
Organic Wholemeal Bread flour
Water
Yeast
Salt
Diastatic Malt Flour
Sunblest Malt Flour
Amber Spray Malt
Dark Malt Flour
Sultanas
Organic Chopped Prunes
Dark Treacle
Honey

You will also note that Rex Malt Loaf has NO DAIRY , so it can be enjoyed by those with an allergy in that area 🙂

 

3 ways to Taste the Globe’s best of breads right here in Little Chalfont

3 ways to Taste the Globe’s best of breads right here in Little Chalfont

Aren’t we an international bunch in Little Chalfont?

You may have noticed how some of the more worldly Rex baked products sell out every single week at the pop up point, perhaps even before you got a look-in!  Well for those wondering how best to eat the more Complex-to-develop Sourdoughs (common in Central & Eastern Europe and California) or Italian bread specialties, we have some delicious top tips for you this week.

3 Ways to Taste the Globe’s best & lift your day

1) Sourdoughs.  More & more Friends of Rex Bakery ask after the speciality & regular Rex sourdoughs each week – their extended home-grown yeast process, depth of taste & texture and believed superior digestion impact is capturing local imaginations.  Anyone concerned about suspected bloating from mass commercial baked products, should try the gentle & delicious effect of our Sourdoughs instead.  Read our favourite ways to eat Rex Sourdough here.

Alternatively, a taste of Italia is brightening up our last weeks of Winter – the Rex Baker is up to focaccia & ciabatta baking capacity in our home working bakery every week now.

2. Artisan ciabattas olive ciabatta interior(handmade, not just derived from a concentrate or packet mix) are rarely found in retail chains because they are very hard to make – our dough is made from Italian organic durum wheat flour, olive oil and due to its very high water: flour ratio content, it’s tricky to handle.  Fresh Rex ciabattas make a wonderful accompaniment to pasta; toasted slices can be topped with mozzarella cheese & Italian cured hams; and Rex olive organic ciabatta is a meal by itself thanks to the huge whole organic Kalamata olives uniquely grown in Sparta, generously distributed throughout.

 

 

focaccia3. Focaccia. Many people in Little Chalfont are still discovering Rex Focaccia and how to eat it.  The starter dough is made the same way to Ciabatta but then proved & baked in a tray – the Rex Baker tries lots of different toppings on his Focaccia.  Personal favourites included the sea salt & herb toppings, but Friends also love a few pieces of vegetables or goat cheese.  Our favourite ways to eat Focaccia:

  • Fresh from the pop-up point – enjoy the slice just as is, because it was baked just a few hours earlier. Or dip into an Olive oil & balsamic vinegar blend.
  • Slice it horizontally and fill the fresh bread with cheese, cured hams, rocket & tomato slices.  What a lunch time sandwich that makes!  We hope to offer varieties of this in the Rex bakery café.
  • Slice it horizontally & toast cut side under the grill.  Use to make an open sandwich topped with roasted vegetables, drizzling with olive oil & basil.  You can also regrill your lightly toasted open focaccia slice with slices of cheese for an easy cheesy toastie.
  • If it’s a few days old, warm up in the microwave for just 20 seconds on full power & serve it any of the ways above, it will be warm & taste perfectly fresh.
  • If your Focaccia slice was frozen (it freezes really well wrapped in plastic), then place in the oven (180/ 350) for 15 minutes from frozen then serve

As one Friend of Rex Bakery said of Focaccia in their order:
“It’s me new secret pleasure, I don’t let the others in the family know about it!!”

Our focaccia looks quite belissimo (if we say so ourselves 🙂 so do try 1 of our Focaccia varieties this week!  We wonder what’s your favourite  ways of eating focaccia?  Do tell us in the comments here or on our Facebook page here x