Local Artisan Bread & Patisserie

Monthly archive for September 2014

Pseu-dough? How the new supermarket bakery is bad news for you

Pseu-dough?  How the new supermarket bakery is bad news for you

Who has checked out the new rustic approach to our in-store hypermarket bakeries, including a certain local one?

It seems Britain’s biggest grocery retailers are scrapping their “scratch bakeries” (which made up brought-in mixes in machines on the premises & baked them in-store), laying off heaps of in-store bakers in the process, and have moved to transporting finished baked items and dough from a factory, then to be baked off instore. Now the focus is on store appearance – on creating an “artisan” look & feel.   This is all no doubt with the hope of increasing profits as well as trying to up their foodie image & cash in on a premium trend. Here’s why we think this is all really bad news for you:

Spurious claim #1:
“Award winning bakery”
Well yes, maybe that was true of an original artisan bakery brand back in the day,  but just buying rights to use a name doesn’t mean that then using that name across stores in the South East guarantees any quality.  Rex is a rare & grateful finalist in the World Bread Awardsworld bread awardsand we’re pretty sure that the new supermarket rye, “multigrain” and baguette samples we tried aren’t going to win real bread awards anytime soon. Word is, there’s real quality issues right across the new baked range…

Spurious claim #2:
“artisan bakers ready to compete on the world’s stage”
Again, no doubt true of original London independent bakery employees but just can’t be true of the new hypermarket staff, or indeed those in the central factory operation.  We have had job applications from real bakers who couldn’t stomach the “fast food” machine efficiency mentality they were asked to work with to roll out this new range to our hypermarkets…

Spurious claim #3:
“Great value proper bread & cakes”
Hmm.  We noted £1.80 for a croissant, £2.90 for a small tin loaf, £3.50 for a plain ciabatta, £1.80 for a wizened-looking scone… wowzer.  Even if you “buy” that the bread & cakes are indeed “proper”, these are certainly eye-watering prices for out of London.  We feel that Rex is missing out on a price revolution!

Spurious claim #4:
“Fresh thinking”
In our local hypermarket, you walk past the open (too open?  Hope nobody manhandled those loaves before you!) layout of some highly priced open-display new baked items… & find yourself in front of the same old, same old.  4 muffins for £1.50, jumbo packs of soft mix rolls, bargain bloomers etc etc.  Difficult to spot the new thinking back here! New Project name, new decor but not a lot more??

Spurious claim #5:
“without love & affection, our dough would only contain flour, water, yeast & a pinch of salt”  
Is this pseu-dough at its best?  Its not just about WHAT goes into real bread (though Rex is obsessive about the highest quality ingredients possible such as best organic flour across our bread range and top patisserie butter in our viennoiserie)

patisserie butterbut also HOW bread is made.  The best in texture, taste & health comes from long slow traditional careful hand crafting techniques to ensure full fermentation before the bread hits your tummy.     Beware bloating from poorly fermented, rushed factory bread…

Spurious claim #6
“Good, better, bread” 
Well, strictly speaking there’s nothing being claimed here – just the intimation of supremacy via a nice play on words.  But at Rex we believe good always outs – good will prevail.  Given how discerning our Friends are, let’s leave it to the purchasing public to decide if the new rustic looking super-premium priced approach to supermarket bread & baked items is the best option to bread…. or not.


We’ve blogged before about what it really takes to be an artisan – and we like the definition referring to a high quality, hand making craftsman.  But today we’ll finish with a really lovely mission statement by an artisan – has crossovers with the Rex Baker values.  And such a far cry from the hypermarket factory “only in name” pseu-dough approach emerging in our groceries today 🙁

“A kind of personal integrity that can be confused with eccentricity: ‘however strange it may seem to you, this is the way I do things’.

Pride without arrogance: a sincere belief in the excellence of their work.

Humility and steadfastness: the ability to light the wood stove, milk the ewes, coax the bees out of their hives – quietly, without pretence – day after day, year after year.

The belief that their work is not a means to something else, but one of the ways to give meaning to their lives.

Genius: the brilliance that comes to those driven by their personal vision rather than by a desire for success, money or fame.

Generosity: they have no secrets. If you appreciate what they do, they’ll tell you everything they know … and usually set a place for you at their table.”

 Come & try the authentic #realbread approach to real artisan baking here at Rex next week instead xx rex bread display

Do you know the top 3 Foodie trends headed this way from North America?

Do you know the top 3 Foodie trends headed this way from North America?

We’re BACK following our 2 week summer ’14 shutdown, oh lovely Friends of Rex!   We were in the Vancouver area of Canada & have spotted lots of bakery-relevant trends, opportunities…. And ironies to think about.  Here’s 3 we expect to hit Little Chalfont…

1. Gluten-free

“Free from” claims are being made EVERYWHERE alongside Organic, Natural, Wholefoods as if gluten is something Nasty to now avoid.

gluten free, free from, wheat free

In fact only a tiny proportion of the population actually has a gluten allergy, whilst most of us are just reacting to poorly fermented fast-bread & bakes.  We ALWAYS recommend Rex Sourdough first for those concerned with Health, because it has been developed care-fully & slow-ly by hand to ensure a full 3-day fermentation of the live culture before it hits your tummy.  Read here how Rex Sourdough WITH gluten in its organic flours is a naturally low GI, health bread…

Given the “free from” trend, we expect our wheat-free alternatives like Hazelnut Chocolate Brownies, Granola Bars, Light Rye and Spelt Loaves to become increasingly fashionable…  especially the sourdough loaves!

wheat free. rye, light rye, rye with caraway, rye boule






2. Timbits & sweet treats

Oh the irony.  At the same time as we see Gluten-free as a health claim, on every single Canadian intersection you will see a Tim Hortons, a DQ (Dairy Queen) and an A&W (root beer & burgers).  Tim Hortons specialises in doughnuts & hot drinks, and has just been acquired by Burger King.  Its Timbits are considered an essential feature of any big-Canada road trip, they are the balls from the centre of ring doughnuts & come in many different flavours.  Watch out, arteries!

Timbits, Tim Hortons, doughnuts, doughnut balls, doughnut centres, doughnut centers

We visited loads of bakeries… which weren’t!  Even when Bakery was in their shop name, they in fact sold coffee & sweet pastries and NO bread?!  As an artisan bakehouse we like to think they are missing a trick.  However, we were interested that some were chocolatier specialists (we liked their mini brownie bites), others displayed mainly viennoiserie especially chocolate croissants, and many specialised in large sweet gateaux for sale in slices or as whole cakes.   Canadians seem to like to get their sweet hits from their bakeries and the choice is inspiring!    Expect more new indulgent products in Rex very soon…




3. Coffee & tea

The breadth of coffee choice goes from Starbucks on every block, to that undrinkable black stew found all day in a heated coffee pot in diners… and in-between these extremes, this Coast is of course where real coffee cafe culture with latte art originally developed.  There are many, many places to buy coffee literally everywhere; and everybody seems to be carrying a take-out cup at all times.  Little Chalfont has a long way to go because Vancouver coffee consumption levels are double ours – even though it was honestly quite hard to find extremely tasty coffee like our delicious Monmouth!

Tea is hot, hot, hot in North America!  World teas are so much more popular & fast growing in Canada than here – perhaps because theirs is a relatively young culture melted together from so many immigrant settlers in the last century or so, each with their own strong tea traditions.   This is a part of the world that likes to experiment with food cuisine, and world teas & new innovations are on poster ads everywhere.

For example, we came across London Fog – a combination of Earl Grey, frothy milk and vanilla syrup (ok, that risks being a bit yuk & chemical).  This tea latte was apparently invented in Vancouver and has been in Starbucks since 2004.  At Rex, as well as our Monmouth coffee & excellent hot chocolate, we do sell a wide range of world teas.

Rex tea pot

All these trends could make us thirsty – so we are planning to start a hot drinks loyalty card scheme soon.  We do hope our world teas  will be chosen by friends of Rex as part of that!

Thanks for coming back to us after the shut-down, and see you soon xx