Local Artisan Bread & Patisserie

Monthly archive for March 2014

Yes, yes, yes! How your community bakery will get better & better, we promise!

Even when he was still a City boy, the Rex Baker always said that what was really missing from our local village was a decent bakery.

So it was a huge relief to finally officially raise the Rex Artisan Bakery shutters & open our doors at 8am on Saturday 29th March!  A relief to us as we enjoyed the warmest welcome imaginable from Little Chalfont – thank you so much!!  But also, we think, a relief to the many local folks who said they too had genuinely been waiting for an Artisan Bakery just like us.

rex bakery shop, rex bakery cafe

We are overjoyed with the strong support of neighbours, dear friends & family and regular pop-up visitors this past week– all of whom seemed delighted with the reality of the shop interior after patiently persevering with home deliveries, Westwood Park pop up & the pick up point under a black marquee in a building site for many months now!   People liked the Rex Baker’s choice of decor, the use of oak, even his inspiration of the scaffolding for the shelves!  And really liked being able to see through the window to the working bakery, which was always our plan.  We all agreed that this was a little more like it….

 

But it was overwhelming to experience the warm welcome from so many new Friends out there, and almost bemusing how many times we had to reassure brand new customers that Yes, this was all home-made & baked right there, by a local team, with as best quality, few, local & organic ingredients as possible, on the premises, that morning.   We do understand the doubts.  The branding (thanks to @Rick, design guru & U8 coach at Westwood Park FC) all looks so professional that many fear our shop might be stocked by some kind of “artisanal-style” factory or commercial chain.  We’ve blogged before here & here about all the confusing claims out there in the world of food & bakeries, it’s really not easy to trust what you’re buying & eating.

 

So in case you are wondering –

 

  • Yes, we truly are a local family putting our all into this 1st Rex Bakery ourselves
  • Yes, everything really is home-made on the premises
  • Yes, we really do source the best quality ingredients, local & organic where possible

 

rex bakery shop, rex bakery display

rex bakery shop, rex bakery display

The Rex Baker retrained to become an artisan baker because he believes in Real bread & values Real food and wants to bring that to our local community.  Why not?  Why shouldn’t we in Little Chalfont have the very best in baking?!

 

We also sold coffees for the 1st time ever, to lovely feedback.  TBH, we have also thought and planned long & hard to make this special & something different – apart from sitting at your choice of a sociable refectory table or more private stools at the bar (or To go…), we have a talented barista, a great coffee machine & of course, amazing Monmouth coffee

 

But as many of you will have noticed, we are still on a journey!!

 

Here are just a few of the challenges that we must address:

 

    1. The Gas engineers arrived on Friday to put right the latest Power-gate.  Hooray!   But left a huge gaping messy hole right in front of the shop, not to mention some horrible mess from traipsing up & down the shop all day….
    2. We had no Broadband, and no way to launch what is a pretty sophisticated Till system.  That meant we are still using our trusty blue cash tin for payments, for the timebeing.  Thank goodness for:
      • a cash dispenser right outside of the shop.  Although apparently it broke down on Saturday, hope that wasn’t due to over-use by Rex Friends!
      • the Post Office next door who kindly swapped our notes for pound coins a heap of times.  We need to be change-heavy!!
      • Very kind Friends who didn’t seem to mind, indeed expected to pay only cash.  Thank you!!

 

rye bread3. We ran out of bread by lunchtime.  By lunchtime!  Argh!  We had originally planned to open 8am-4pm on a Saturday haha 🙂  We had joked about starting a book on what would be the last remaining item for sale, and given the Pop Up stall experience there was money on 1 of the Rye Breads (a “Marmite” loaf – people tend to absolutely love them or really dislike the more dense, complex & sophisticated tasting Rye Breads so popular in Germany & Eastern Europe).  Instead, we sold out of every single loaf across the whole bakery range and only had a basket of Chocolate buns & Bath buns left after lunch – that would never have happened at the pop-up!  We ALWAYS sold out of Buns 1st back then!! The Rex Bakery team’s families were left happy at least… some well-deserved yummy buns to share out at home.    But we had to put down the shop shutters by 2pm – so sorry if you tried to visit us for bread in the afternoon 🙁

 

  1. This was the 1st time the bakers had produced 00s of kgs of dough in the working bakery.  They certainly had issues – with extraction & smoke alarms; storage; working surfaces; the outputs of the mixer;  methods & ways of working together…  as one Friend joked, we need a Time & Motion study to perfect their processes.  The bakers will gear up to produce a lot more breads in particular & planning is underway.  We hope you enjoyed what was snapped up in the morning though…
  2.  There’s also a lack of shop storage for display basket replenishment as we are waiting on shop shelving.  There was probably more space for all the back-up bread boxes at the Pop Up, ironically!  We are going to have to chase YET ANOTHER rather slow supplier to hurry up on those, this week, so please bear with us…
  3. No proper Click & Collect just yet.  We are working hard to plan that Friends of Rex Bakery can order their Saturday pick-up choices & pay online in advance, so that baked items are put aside for you 1st thing in the morning & your bag is ready to be picked up in store without you joining the general queue.   Of course you will be able to choose any available extras in addition, but at least you will know that we haven’t sold out of your favourites.  So many people arrived to pick up their staple baguette or sausage roll only to be disappointed this Saturday – again so sorry!!  In the meantime, if you know you need choices from our regular typical bake list for the coming Saturday – please do just email us here by Thursday night and we will try to put it aside for you.

 

sausage roll

7. As yet, there were no lunchtime pies or tarts, not even sandwiches…. A lot of requests but no real takeaway savoury treats as we had even sold out of the hugely popular Rex sausage rolls in a couple of hours (at a rate of more than double our previous Saturday record).  We are looking forward to launching sandwiches at least in this coming week, for all our hungry local employees – we will be ready for you!!!!

 

And so on, and so on….  You probably noticed something you would have liked us to have sorted yourself.  We are wide open to your ideas!  Please comment below & tell us what you need from us to get better!

 

In the meantime, we really did love & sincerely appreciate all your unbelievably kind gifts, cards & comments – they make our day.  Now the close-to-zero hours of sleep, the stress of the risks & the beyond-imaginable hard graft all do feel worthwhile, thank you SO SO much:

 

“we feel privileged to have a bakery like yours on our doorstep”

“…lovely to see a fantastic bakery opening, we will be regular visitors”

“..the shop looked great, coffee excellent. Congrats”

“Ciabatta was delicious”

“…loved them!  It was lovely to try your amazing food”

“Congratulations! It’s now my girls’ favourite place!!”

Don’t forget, if you need some more love from us to make things better/ something put aside for Saturday, you are very special to us for wanting that so do email us here with your request/ order by Thursday night.

 

Otherwise, hope to see you this coming Saturday!

6 ways Rex takes the best of what’s local

6 ways Rex takes the best of what’s local

We will be opening our shop doors officially this week!   We will now have a public opening on SATURDAY 29th MARCH.

We hope that Rex Artisan Bakery will make our local community an even better place to be,  and as we move into the final throes of preparation, we have lots of opportunities to stay true to that cause.  It’s true that many of the supply decisions are about standard bakery equipment available only from specialist national & international firms.  We have tried very hard to economically fit out a best in class working bakery that everyone who visits the shop will be able to see working – here’s the Rex Baker unveiling a new mixer & others:

 

However, here are 6 decisions we have carefully made which are celebrating the best of what we could find locally:

      1. Benches.  High Wycombe in Buckinghamshire used to have a reputation as furniture & cabinet makers to the country.  It’s where Ercol was originally located & full of carpentry craftsmen.  We were very excited to track down an artisan woodturner in nearby Prestwood, who we commissioned to make 6 x oak benches from reclaimed wood to go round our big oak table in the cafe area.  We think this will be  a fantastic social way for people to have a coffee & a bun together, mixing in with the local community.benches, oak stools

 

      1. Jam.  The Rex Baker could & will probably make some of his own, but given he wants to focus on baking he 1st tried the local WI groups to source a great jam-maker who might want to supply a local business like ours. But sadly there was no lady forthcoming, they must just save their yummy homemade produce for their own families!  However, he has found an artisan jam maker in Aylesbury who has supplied a range of delicious jams for us to try (tough job but someone has to do it…)   and  they are currently researching the seedless raspberry jam the Rex Baker requires for his Benedict Bars (oooh, remember them?!).  These jams will be available for sale in the shop 🙂

 

      1. Milk.  We do like our Milk in the Rex Baker family, wading through litres upon litres of supermarket organic milk every week.  In the business, we purposefully wanted to avoid conventional milk in our coffee, we wanted to source the best milk we could find as it such a nutritious & potentially delicious whole product all on its own.  We are thrilled to have found a local farmer with a breed of Guernsey cows, to supply sustainable rich Guernsey milk to Rex Bakery.

 

      1. Soft Drinks.  We have joined Bucks Business First, a helpful organisation that makes the link between various start-ups & have been a kind sounding board during our (ongoing…) utility company sagas.  Through them we found out about a group of local ex-Challoners boys who have established an artisan home-made drinks company and we hope to sell their drinks in Rex Bakery for those that don’t want a coffee.  Although the Rex Baker’s wife finds it hard to believe their home-made lemonade is better than hers, so let the battle of the lemonades commence!!  One thing’s for sure, we won’t be selling those canned fizzy drinks that are getting such a bad press for their impact on our teeth & health….

 

      1. Grocery.  We are loyal to local Prestwood friends who handmake & will deliver our selected sausagemeat sausage rolls, puff pastry, artisan bakingfor the eponymous Rex sausage rolls & various charcuterie for our sandwiches, and with the quite-close Heathrow greengrocery serving local markets & suppliers we are assured of excellent fruits for our cakes & buns and salads for our cafe.  We have sourced fresh organic eggs from Seer Green – we will be using a LOT of eggs in the bakery!!

 

    1. Staff.  We have  a lovely team of 4 to work alongside the Rex Baker through the week, and several more Saturday helpers.  Whilst we had enquiries for the baker vacancies from all around the UK and indeed all the way from France, Cyprus, Portugal… we are very excited to be welcoming experienced baker, patisserie chef, cafe & barista staff from Chesham, Watford & right here in Little Chalfont!!  The Rex Baker’s wife & oldest daughter have been the face of the Saturday morning pop-ups for some time, but will be handing over to the experts.  Although expect to see the family in the beginning Saturdays to help with the handover, and from time to time thereafter as we enjoyed meeting all the local Friends so much!

      It must be coming together in the way we hoped because 1 kind Friend said on Facebook this week: “It’s looking SUPER-COOL in the parade, looks like it’s from Marylebone not Little Chalfont”.  We are very chuffed! Because, we love Marylebone, it’s only 35 minutes away on the train and – why not here in Little Chalfont???See you in the shop from Saturday 29th March!

 

 

 

Is this Power-gate 2, the Sequel? How we have a target Open date

Is this Power-gate 2, the Sequel?  How we have a target Open date

We have had our last Saturday pop-up.pop up shop; Rex Artisan Bakery

There is no bake list or orders being taken this week – we are transferring the secondary ovens & equipment from our home working bakery up to No. 4 Chenies Parade in the coming days, and attempting to dot all the i’s & cross all the t’s with target public opening date now of Friday 28th March.

In the meantime, there are just a few biggies still to sort…

Friends of Rex know that we have had a rough ride with the Utilities in Little Chalfont.

But after a dramatic U-turn by the electricity provider, that was all put right behind us and we have surged forward, powering through all the other (apparently very many!) challenges of opening a new business.  As 1 good Friend put it – running a bakery should be a cinch compared to opening one!

But this past week we have learnt of some new Power issues.  Oh no, here we go again!!

Whilst we have our shiny new much loved Electric-powered bakery ovens & most of the bakery power (lights, catering equipment, air conditioning) will be electric, we of course planned Gas for hot water.  The alternative –  immersion heaters in a hot water tank  – should only be a back up because they would burn out every couple of years, proving expensive in the long run.

We of course became acutely acquainted with all things Gas earlier this year when we had gone so far as sourcing Gas bread ovens from the Continent, after being informed there was no reasonable way to go Electric in Little Chalfont.   At that point, we learnt of 4 stages to using Gas at all for your business which involves 3 different companies, none of whom can do the others’ tasks.

What do they all do?

1) Transco.  They come & check your gas supply through your existing pipework and then have a second separate team who will organise the installation if you haven’t any gas.

2) The middle-man.  You pay them for all this work (British Gas in our case) to liaise with the upstream Transco check & the downstream metering, connection & of course bills moving forwards

3) The metering company who come & re-check the supply, install a meter, report back to the middleman.

We have had no problems all the way along this rather complex chain of hand-offs (except for the usual waiting around for each of the said-agents to arrive).  Transco had been and confirmed the supply & we thought we were in the final stages of meter installation last week.

So, imagine our shock to be told by the metering agent that there is NO GAS SUPPLY after all, so he cannot legally connect a meter or try to help us find out why.  His experience was that for some businesses who haven’t had Gas supply for 12-18 months, we might possibly need  to dig a trench( through our new floor) to install new pipes & connect to the  gas main in Chenies Parade, which of course takes many weeks.

Err… No thank you.     That’s not quite what we had in mind for our target opening date,  our working bakery operations nor budgets!!

Fortunately British Gas  organised Transco to come out very quickly a second time(in 48 hrs) who have now confirmed there is no Gas, but need a second team to assess how to reconnect the gas . So we await a second Transco team!
But we aren’t planning on waiting on them, we will use our Immersion Heaters for  hot water at launch.

rex bakery shop, rex bakery interiorSo please do standby to come & visit us end of March, we will be excited to welcome you into the new bakery & shop which we think is shaping up beautifully (yes, we’re biased) with staff lined up, painted walls & ceiling, floors laid, lights fitted, counter tops in place, shelving & furniture about to move in.

See you soon!!

 

 

Rex takes two steps forward, one (or two) back…

Rex takes two steps forward, one (or two) back…

Every week our new & existing Friends ask “how much longer now”.

The truth is, there are major challenges to test & stretch us every single week if not daily, and this week has been especially full of ups 🙂 & downs :(.

Two steps forwards and one (or two) back…

This week the Rex Baker was TERRIBLY EXCITED when his new electric oven arrived.  Regular Friends will recall the hassle we faced over power, which was miraculously resolved.  Amazingly,  the very kind supplier delivered brand new ovens for the price of reconditioned ovens, and 5 men spent 7 hours building it on-site.  It will take about another week to plumb & connect still and then after that we still  need to transfer our working home bakery equipment to the site.

rex bakery oven video

It was great to welcome so many Friends into the shop with its newly smooth concrete floor, almost painted walls, grouted tiles, ceiling lights ready to work & woodwork installing.  It’s all visibly getting there…

On the other hand, we’ve had setbacks and some of them are potentially significant. We continue to say we hope to launch by end March and we hate to use the word, but like Power-gate, 1 or 2 could be showstoppers in terms of opening date.

 

This week’s showstoppers

1. Our patisserie fridge
Many Friends of Rex Bakery seem to enjoy our cakes,lemon blueberry cake buns, sausage rolls and for the past 2 weeks only until the shop opens, Croissants & pain au chocolat & pain au raisin (which sold out within 1/2 hour on Saturday).  For hygiene & health standards we need to keep many of these chilled & guarded once the shop opens.    So we set about finding a patisserie fridge, and of course like everything the Rex Baker is selecting, a beautiful top quality unit was chosen.Imagine our excitement when we found that the exact product we were after was available nearly new on ebay!

We successfully won the auction and chose a highly rated courier to transport our new multi-kilogram, 1.2 metre (virtually square) fridge to Little Chalfont.  We asked for delivery as early as possible as our good friend  George Noble the builder, was building a full length counter around the patisserie fridge & a polished concrete worktop is being installed above it.  So super-frustrating when after a week, our seller let us know that they had had no contact from our courier.  Argh!

We asked the courier if we could cancel, with an idea to hire a van ourselves to go collect it.  Upon which, the couriers told us that they had now organised a date to collect from the seller and that they would deliver to us at the end of that week and if we wanted to cancel that would cost us 50% loss of the original hefty courier payment.  So Hobson’s choice – but we decided we could only afford to hold on so George’s team built the  counter around an imaginary fridge…But to our horror on the expected day of delivery, the seller told us that the fridge had STILL not been collected.  The courier’s response was that they expected us to cancel so hadn’t sent their van to collect it in case we did.

More argh!!!    What’s worse, it would be a further week before they could collect & then deliver to us…Beyond painful but with no fast alternative to hand, we went with it and at last our seller confirmed the fridge had been picked up.  Yay!!  So…. imagine how we react on Friday (bake prep day… kind of busy…) when we were on standby to receive the ginormous patisserie fridge at the shop – only to learn that the courier’s van was involved in some big country lane accident whilst on its way to us.  Hmm.  Glad that nobody was hurt BUT when we hear that the write-off is not just the van but the patisserie-fridge inside too –   YET MORE ARGHH!!!   So, we now have to source exactly that patisserie fridge model (to fit what’s been built around it) brand new at full price, and sincerely hope we can do that in good time.  AND we predict a major dispute with this slippery courier to retrieve our full payment prices.  Sigh.  Life is never easy, is it…

2. Bakery staff

Our bakery team is 80% complete now with wonderful people, very exciting.  But we’ve STILL been unable to recruit 1 critical position, let down a couple of times now unfortunately.  We have to keep on trying..  there is no such thing as 80% there if we are to open the shop – this really is a lynchpin role..

3. council planning

We continue to be in planning discussions & paperwork around all sorts of steps including even air conditioning unit details…
The good news is that we can of course fully trade from No.4  as a shop like all Chenies Parade ground floor inhabitants, as well as food provision & preparation like other units up & down the parade.   But the bad news is all the paperwork….

So you can see there are plenty of developments away from the simple craft of home-making the Rex Bakery produce for the Little Chalfont pop-up every Saturday morning.

Many thanks & here’s hoping we all have a truly great week after last week, we all deserve it!!

6 ways to get great value from Rex bread

6 ways to get great value from Rex bread

Few Brits truly value Real bread. We have got used to low supermarket prices of British bread, to bread lasting an unnaturally long time due to the high level of preservatives & bread additives in the mixes many bakery chains & in-store bakers use, and to throwing away old bread.  So what does Rex the Baker recommend for home-made Rex bread?

6 ways to get great value from Rex bread

Apparently the British pay the lowest average price in Europe for their bread, and it’s the Number 1 food we throw away with about 1/3 of all bread sold ending up in the bin.  Perhaps because so much bread is really cheap, even when times are hard we just buy too much of it, and then don’t eat it because frankly it doesn’t taste all that great.  In short we don’t respect a lot of the bread we are sold.

Our 6 tips to really value Rex bread:

1) Choose your favourite loaf as a regular item.

Our intention is that every baked item we sell tastes delicious, better than you can buy elsewhere.   Many Rex friends are adventurous every week and like to try the rotating Sourdoughs, the new products such as the Eating Loaf, or have adopted Focaccia or Olive Ciabatta.  As bread geeks ourselves we are right with those Friends.  But if you aren’t yet so sure, we recommend that you go with the loaf that inspires your best real bread memories.  In our case this is probably an Organic White Bloomer, because it conjures up memories of the delicious loaf bought from the local village bakery at lunchtime from Sixth Form, devoured at home with friends well before the end of that blessed “free study period”.Rex Artisan Bakery, pick up point, pop up shop, pop up bakery, basket of bread

2) Naturally longer lasting

We explained last week that Rex bread is all hand-made and you get nothing but the best in high quality ingredients, organic where possible, for the Rex price you pay.  You also get nothing nasty added such as preservatives in your loaf, and real bread is for sure best when eaten soon after it was freshly made & baked.  But some of our loaves naturally last longer – ciabattas & focaccias due to the very high water content in the dough, Multiseed due to the touch of honey and our Potato, Oat & Apple sourdoughs thanks to the fruit & vegetable content.

3) Can’t put a price on your health

The Rex bread price includes the love & labour that goes into making good food, slowly.  Unfortunately the big bakery chains & supermarkets cut corners & avoid the traditional bread making techniques which take time & craft – because of their cheap industrial processes they can charge very little for loaves that you don’t then really enjoy or value.
In addition to being hand-made with no mixes, all Rex loaves take a minimum of 24 hours to prove, with sourdoughs taking up to 7 days.  For anybody with bread intolerance concerns, we always recommend trying the Rex Sourdough first.   Our traditional methods mean that the yeast & starters are properly fermented for ease of digestion, the right rise & texture is achieved naturally and no bread additives or accelerators (with worrying risks for your gut) are required to artificially create a loaf.

4) Freeze me!

We have blogged before about 7 ways to keep your bread fresh.    Our favourite method at home is to freeze half or the whole loaf until required, always wrapped in plastic and not paper to prevent the bread moisture from evaporating in the freezing & defrosting process.    All Rex baked items can be frozen & naturally defrosted – and all the savoury items can be warmed up before serving.  Yum!  If you do want to freeze your loaf already sliced, let us know in your order & we will provide it sliced & pre-wrapped.Rex Bakery artisan bread sliced & bagged

5) Crumbs!

The Rex baker’s family loves its chicken pieces & meat escalopes, fishcakes, pasta bakes to be coated in breadcrumbs. Not only delicious, breadcrumb coating is an economic way to bulk out your meals.  We have successfully used all the Rex breads, as a mix of loaf ends or singly, with crusts on or off.    All varieties can be declared delicious 🙂  We therefore recommend any loaf ends are breadcrumbed in the food processor & simply frozen in bags until you are ready to use.

6) Pudding club
Oh yum, we love puddings!   For bread & butter pudding, we like Nigel Slater’s recipe best.  And if you ever have such a thing (unlikely, we know…) as leftover croissants, these work a treat too.  For dried or stale bread, also try Queen of Puddings, Summer Pudding, Bread Pudding.  All of these also work with fresh bread by the way…

 

You probably have your own favourite uses for leftover bread – maybe Eggy Bread or chunks to feed the birds or ducks? Please let us know yours in the comments.