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Could this be a show stopper?

It’s been a tumultuous week for the Rex Baker.   What we learnt is going to require inventive thinking akin to the “Apollo 13” square peg in a round hole scene to keep going, lol.

It’s ironic because the feedback from the local community continues to be overwhelmingly warm, with so many of you ordering here by Thursday night for Saturday morning collection at the pop up in the Parade; and visitors to No 4 telling us time & time again that an Artisan Bakery is “Just what we need in Little Chalfont”.

Could this be a show stopper?

Last week we told you that it was taking longer than you’d think before we’d be ready to open the bakery.  An important factor we mentioned was the utilities required to operate a working on-site bakery, and that we  had a good idea we would Rex sourdough, sourdough in oven, commercial bakery ovenneed to increase the electricity supply to power all the ovens, retarder provers, chillers etc.    Well just days ago we heard from the electricity supply company that the power to the Parade’s individual shops is woefully inadequate – less than we have to our own home garage in fact – and that all excess capacity to the Parade has been bought up by a certain popular supermarket.  On paper there isn’t enough to the shop to service a bakery, and neither can there be in the short term.

What’s more, the nearest sub-station is some distance away on a private road (so needs planning permission, writing to all the residents, etc.).  We would have to pay  tens of thousands of pounds for our part in a  massive Little Chalfont infrastructure upgrade, which would include  a huge trench dug from our shop to the site for a direct feed and it would take at least 6 months to get through the process.

So  we have to think laterally and work out another way forward because it’s just not an option for little old us to resource such a thing!!

(We do wonder what plans are being made by our Utility Companies for the housing development  allowed on the Donkey Field behind  Chenies Parade and two planning applications for shops/flats between Chenies Parade  & the car showroom. Everyone wants to build in our community but there is no power infrastructure to facilitate it!)  OK, rant over…

It’s all a nasty shock to say the least, because many of you will remember a bakery further down the parade before so the power must have been there on the grid a few years ago.

Which brings us to creative thinking.  So now we are looking at the types of ovens; the fuel they use; how much can be used simultaneously; and especially reviewing gas powered commercial baking oven options which are popular in U.S., Italy and Germany if not Britain.  There are other business model options too, of course.

So we certainly don’t see it as a show stopper at all – yet!!  And we’ll keep you all posted, it’s lovely that so many of you ask about the bakery progress & that you really do care about having  a real bakery in the community.  Thank you.

In the meantime, the builders started work on the interior of the shop, we have sourced gorgeous contemporary wood tables & benches & shelving for the shop and cafe area, organised the shop signage and applications from potential bakers & staff are coming in – so lots & lots of positive shop momentum.

And we are thrilled with the feedback on all the Rex Bakery products and at least we can be totally confident about & committed to the production & quality of our home bakes in the meantime.  chocolate buns, rex bakery And if you are new to Rex Bakery, WELCOME & please sign up for email alerts in the top right hand corner.

Have a great week! xx

 

It’s taking longer than you’d think

It’s taking longer than you’d think

Read more

A British Bun (or two) can’t hurt

A British Bun (or two) can’t hurt

This week buns are back, yay!! The eponymous Elizabeth David, who was born 100 years ago this last Boxing Day, writes in “English Bread and Yeast Cookery” how “all these ‘small, soft, plump, sweet, fermented cakes’ are English institutions”

The British Bun institution

We pretty much sold out of bread and all sausage rolls at the pop up point this Saturday – shame, there wasn’t even a small Multiseed loaf  left for the Rex Baker’s children’s lunch boxes for back to school 🙁

So that taught us that it is OK to offer our Friends of Rex Bakery a limited bread  list in January. And certainly the Rex Baker gained valuable daytimes otherwise spent in bake preparations, for critical business & shop fitting planning.   However, overnight during baking he couldn’t resist preparing some extra dough & baking up some of his favourite buns – so we had a fuller range to offer at the pop up point afterall and we have decided that the same will be true throughout January.

The Bun really is a long standing British Baking institution which has been usurped more recently, as yummy butter-rich overseas invaders like the Croissant has taken its place as a breakfast or mid-morning snack.  Who else remembers a bun at elevenses as a British child in the last century, before the advent of the brunch & continental viennoiserie?

A bun should be slightly sweet,  not too rich, light and most importantly it’s delicious eaten fresh.  In keeping with the lighter New Year bake list, we have a great opportunity to explore the British Bun.

chocolate bun1) Chocolate Buns have been a favourite of Rex Bakery since our Village Day launch.     Our chocolate buns,  inspired originally by an Italian bread, are sweetened just by honey, top glazed with sugar syrup & flavoured by Callebaut Belgium Chocolate  Cocoa Powder and Chocolate Drops, giving chocoholics that chocolate hit but without the fat levels of a chocolate bar or cake.  There is no egg or butter in this bun so it’s light unlike most chocolate products.

2) Rex Bath Buns are also light unlike the  original 250 year old,  Sally Lunn buns of Bath, because ours are not dripping in butter.  We do enrich the slightly sweet dough with egg and flavour with Rex-made citrus peel, lemon zest, anise (a very old fashioned baking spice) and a few raisins.   If you go back to the Victorian  era, apparently nearly 1 million  London “Bath Buns” were baked for the 5 1/2 months of The Great Exhibition of 1851 – although with such a quantity some were criticised as irregular, cloying, prone to staling.  It seems that those set the tone for  the commercial London Bath Bun mass-produced since then.  So you can see that originally they were popular but perhaps it’s time for a new direction for the Bath Bun. We feel ours taste great, meet all our January criteria (light, fresh, tasty, only slightly sweet) and hopefully are our little contribution in reviving the great British Bun tradition.

So now you know all about the goodness, care & tradition that can be in one humble British bun – reassuring for those New Year healthy diets!

Have a great week xx

 

New Year, New diet?

 

“People are so worried about what they eat between Christmas and the New Year, but they really should be worried about what they eat between the New Year and Christmas”  Source: Unknown

The good news for all Friends of Rex Bakery is that our Hand-Made artisan baked goods are lovingly crafted with only the best ingredients, organic wherever possible and nothing nasty added so plenty gained.  This means you can make your New Year diet Rex-based, as it will offer you the best that Nature & your local Artisan baker can provide.  Besides, what daily bread could be better for you than loaves slowly & carefully developed by the Rex Baker?

That said, many of you talk of cutting back this January and so are we.  We do plan to scale down our bake list to breads & sausage rolls only until our shop opens.

 New Year, New push to open the shop

Although the Rex Baker loves creating new baked delights, and is going to really miss making some of the Rex favourites such as Raspberry Benedict Bars, Almond Croissants, Pain au Raisin…. it’s an important step for the shop opening plans. Rex Artisan Bakery This reduced bake list will enable the Rex Baker to focus on getting the business ready to launch, instead of being consumed in the bakery for days prior to the weekly bake preparing & hand-making the whole Rex pop-up range.

We ask you to continue to confirm your Saturday orders to rexbakery@btinternet.com by Thursday evening at 9pm, and emails reminders will continue to come out to all Friends signed up to receive them.  This helps the Rex Baker still to plan right quantities and to hand-prepare the Sourdough starter, the pastry, the mixes and so on.  All good things take time…

The collection point will be outside the shop at 4 Chenies Parade on Saturday mornings through January, from 9 – 12, but if those times don’t work and you need to collect from our Little Chalfont home do let us know.  Good news for all those that miss that Thursday deadline – we still want to carry some extra loaves at the Pop up Point!!

We hope that this plan will mean the shop can open as early as possible in  2014 – so definitely Happy New Year from Rex Artisan Bakery to all of you 🙂

 

13 Hand-Made Tales to end ’13

Find the 2014 January Bake list here…. 

13 Hand-Made Tales to end 2013

In starting Rex Artisan Bakery, we’ve realised what a quagmire Food Labelling is.  This is not obvious to most people, nor what Rex means by Hand-Made the old-fashioned way by a local artisan baker.  So to celebrate the end of 2013, this lists 13 food preparation facts – legal & Rex – that you might not have known

1) Hand-Made by law
The Food Standards Agency says a product “must be significantly made by hand” to qualify as Hand-made.  So far, so good, right?  But it’s apparently also OK to produce “hand-made” “within an industrial setting” so there’s every chance much of the process is mechanised – “hand assembled” would often paint a fairer picture.

2) Hand-made Rex pastrypuff pastry, Rex artisan bakery, croissant dough
At Rex, hand-made croissants & sausage rolls don’t just mean hand-assembled with bought-in pastry as many people assume  (perish the thought!!) but literally that our pastry is hand-made by Rex, from scratch.  There are 24+ pastry layers made & turned by hand, with only the best ingredients, so good that maybe one day even Rex-made Puff Pastry will be available for sale….

3) Hand-made Rex mixed peel
The Rex Baker peels lemons, oranges & grapefruit himself and boils them 5 times separately then stews them in a glucose sugar syrup over several days to create his own mixed peel for Buns, Stollen, Mincemeat etc.  It’s not that he is being religious about producing hand-made… it’s just that he strongly believes this tastes better, like most hand-made items.

4) Hand-made Rex Multiseed with Honey
Most granary loaves in modern and in-store bakeries are made with “granary mix” – a blend of different flours, wheat grains for a nutty flavour, and indeterminate additives.  The Rex Bakery Multiseed loaf is instead hand-made from scratch.  20% of the loaf consists of oats, sunflower seeds & super-food linseeds which are soaked overnight in hot water & honey, which naturally enhances the moistness of the loaf & creates a very fine flavour.  This is then combined with a 70:30 organic white: wholemeal dough mix.

5) Hand-made Marzipan, and Almond Cream
Most patisseries and bakeries would buy theirs in and use them almost interchangeably.  But the Rex Baker separately hand-makes his marzipan (for the Stollen) with a lot of egg yolk, glucose, & golden syrup whereas his Almond Paste (for the Almond Croissants) is more butter & flour based.  He does this because he believes they are quite different & to be sure of the taste

6) Slow hand-reared Sourdough
Sourdoughs require a very special 3-day process including the constant nurturing of the Sourdough culture.  To get the right taste, this needs feeding & the right level of warmth and regular checking all by the loving Rex Baker himself.

7) Slow hand-made Breads
All Rex breads take at least 24 hours to properly ferment the flour. This is called a ‘Sponge’ and is the same process used back in the old days where a local baker would keep back some of his dough each day to put into the next day’s dough. He knew it gave him better flavour, as do only artisan bakers.

8) Time to mix Ciabattas
Nearly as much water is mixed into Ciabatta & Focaccia dough as ciabatta organic Very Strong white flour with ~14% protein, and it takes longer to mix than any other bread – as much as 30 minutes just to combine and obtain the big holey texture.  It’s so tricky that hardly any in-store bakeries seem to make on the premises, most will buy in from factories

9) Baguettes Fully Made not just Part-Baked
In France there is currently a backlash against the supermarket-style baguette which are delivered part-baked on an industrial scale with their tell-tale braille-like dots on the underbelly.  The hallmark of a good baker is considered to be the quality of their baguettes – which in turn depends on hand crafted care, time, temperature.

10) A strong hand in experimentation
The Rex Baker spends a LOT of time thinking about new products – reading, experimenting, testing, baking, refining – to provide new personally developed artisan ideas.  Recent examples which haven’t yet formally hit the bake list include an Apricot, white chocolate & marzipan Brioche, Poppyseed Stollen, Walnut & Linseed Loaf, Pork Pies, Malt Loaf…

11) Home-made by law?
The good news is that the Food Standards Agency insists that “home-made” should mean made not just assembled; by oneself; in the home or catering premises; simply, using traditional methods.  The bad news is that it’s deemed OK to use partly-prepared supplies that are available to anybody domestically in products that are described as home-made – eg “pre-prepared raw pastry“!!  If that wasn’t Rex-made it wouldn’t count as home-made in Rex Bakery, that’s for sure…

12) “Freshly baked” by law?
Terms like “freshly baked”, “baked in store”, “oven fresh”, “baked from scratch” and “artisan-like” can be really misleading – they can be used to describe what’s recently been baked somewhere – but was absolutely not freshly made by hand from raw materials, and not even necessarily on-site.  Sometimes big mixes like “soft roll mix No.2” are delivered to be diluted & baked in a store, sometimes part-baked pre-frozen products arrive to be baked-off in-store & sometimes they are baked elsewhere and just delivered for sale.   Rex Bakery will have its bakery kitchen on full view to the public so there will be no hiding, and baking will take place through the night on-site.

13) Nothing else added
The Rex Baker selects the very best ingredients he can source, organic where possible and nothing else added, so plenty gained.  He eschews the chemical preservatives & stabilisers you might find in many breads so that does mean that Rex baked goods last just as long as is natural – we believe this is right for taste, health, for knowing exactly what you & your family are eating.  This is different from the European Court of Justice.  Did you know they ruled that the description “naturally pure” was even OK for a strawberry jam with not just added pectin but also some lead, cadmium & 2 pesticides?!

For all these reasons it’s hard to trust food when you don’t know who is producing it for you.  Friends of Rex Bakery can trust & taste the love & personal care put into all Rex baked items.  So now you know 13 hand-crafted facts, don’t forget to put your Saturday orders in by Thursday at 9pm each week to rexbakery@btinternet.com

Find the 2014 January Bake list here…. 

xx

All the trimmings this Christmas – Rex Bread Sauce!

So we are moving into the final, exciting throes of preparations for Christmas!  Don’t you just love this time of year?  It can be a bit of a whirlwind of activity but somehow it all comes together & the really important things that matter – love, health, humanity, good food shared! – come to the forefront.  Rex Artisan Bakery has a very humble contribution to make to your successful season – our bake list to grace your dinner tables.

 Rex Bread Sauce

They say that Turkey needs its trimmings on Christmas Day, and one of the key sauces is of course a good Bread Sauce, a British historic culinary institution.  In turn, they say that a good Bread Sauce is contingent upon good bread, in fact BloomerArtisan organic bloomer has just been recommended by one top chef. Well at Rex we believe any of our white or Rex sourdough breads make beautiful Bread Sauce if you have the right recipe, and the Rex family firm favourite recipe is from top chef Mark Hicks, from when he was at the Ivy.  We want to share it with you to help you nail Christmas Day.  Delicious & super-easy made in advance & kept chilled in the fridge so you don’t even need to worry on Christmas morning about it.

Here is the recipe:

  • 1 large onion, peeled & halved
  • 100g unsalted butter
  • 6 cloves, 1 bay leaf, salt, ground pepper, 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg,  Optional tiny pinch of ground clove or allspice.
  • 1 ltr milk .
  • 200g fresh white breadcrumbs – we remove crusts from any white Rex loaf & turn 200g to breadcrumbs in the magimix.

Very finely chop 1/2 the onion & fry it in 1/2 the butter until soft.  Stud the other 1/2 onion with the cloves, including anchoring the bay leaf with 1 of them.  Put the milk, nutmeg & studded onion into a pan with the cooked onion & bring it to the boil. Season & simmer for 30 mins.  Remove from the heat & leave for 30 mins to infuse. Remove & discard the studded onion.   Add the breadcrumbs & return the mix to a low heat, simmering for 15 mins with an occasional stir.  Pour 1/3 the bread sauce from the pan to the blender to process, then return to the pan & whisk in the remaining 50g butter.  Cover with cling film in a bowl & store in fridge until ready to use.  Can be served chilled or warm (Rex likes it room temperature..)

We really hope you give this a go & enjoy a special extra treat for your Christmas Day spread 🙂

All Rex wants for Christmas is…

All Rex wants for Christmas is…

…your support as it is keeping us going right now!!

Phew!  We kind of made it through a manic Small Business Saturday 7th December – our busiest & biggest bake so far!!  We want to sincerely thank all Rex friends, both existing and new, who put up with a rather chaotic order collection point & stall today.

A manic morning for Small Business Saturday

Right from the 1st blog entry, nearly 6 months ago now, we said that we would share with you the trials & tribulations as well as the triumphs of setting up a new Artisan Bakery business.

Well following a very hard day’s night, which started for the Rex Baker before many of you went to bed and was still going when his family got up the next morning, the volume of orders & baking planned to feed a hungry Little Chalfont community meant honestly we faced a few teething problems for the pop up point this week.  These included:

  1. sticky willie, sticky willy, iced bun, long iced bun, iced fingerMistakes in bag packing.  Baking was backed up so that some of the week’s most popular items (Sparkling Sticky Willies (left), Sausage Rolls, Multiseed etc) were not ready for packing into bags early enough.  We could only part-pick initially and inevitably, when we came to complete the bags, there was some confusion & a couple of inconvenient mistakes made for our dear Rex friends 🙁
    Once alerted, we re-audited all the bags at the pop-up point to double check remaining orders for collection were 100% accurate
    It’s a long time since we made bag packing mistakes, we have the picking & packing off to a tee normally now and are absolutely committed to Click & Collect option once the shop opens.  That’s because the Rex Baker can’t stand waiting in queues and would like that option himself if he was his own shopper!
  2. Limited slicing. Some of the loaves that required slicing for orders were baked up to 2 hours later than usual due to the volumes of all products being finished off, and so were still too warm when it came to slicing them for some orders. This caused the bread slicing machine to have a melt-down and we were unfortunately unable to supply all slicing requests 🙁
  3. Delayed pop-up point start time.  We had planned to pack up all the baked spares and take them with all orders down to the pop up point and be there, with a cleaned area & stall set-up from 8.30ish.  But given the ovens couldn’t cope with all the demand, at that time we were still baking!  We updated the blog & emailed all the order list to delay the timings, but it was actually even later again before we were there & ready to start passing out orders to waiting Rex friends and to serve those passing by.  What a kind, forgiving group our Rex friends are, thank you!!
  4. Salty balls!  The Rex Baker prepared a few special extras for the pop-up point customers including some chelsea buns/ currant whirls which he tops off with caster sugar – except that in the last minute melee they got mistakenly topped with sea salt  instead.  Very fortunately none of these were in pre-orders, and we only sold a few before a kind customer alerted us… but we don’t know who some of the other new Rex customers were that also bought them, so please, if that’s you & you’re reading this, do let us know here who you are as we are really really sorry & we promise to make amends to you!!

So a day that was not without its challenges, and showed us that the most important bakery developments are going to be… the new bigger ovens & more bakers to work with Rex !!

cute little girl eating bread, cute little girl eating a bunThat said, it was an absolute joy to see how warmly welcomed Rex Artisan Bakery is going to be in that location in the village; to meet & offer samples to so many wonderful customers, older & younger (left); for the Rex Baker to produce that much totally hand-made great tasting bread & buns (best ever ciabattas…) & to virtually sell out soon after Noon.

Thank you to all & now on to the Seasonal list!

Order, order!

 

Order, order!  Why should I order?

orders for Rex BakeyMost Friends of Rex Bakery do order, but we know that it’s difficult for many of you to make the Thursday night deadline a regular fixture, especially at this busy time of year.  We really hope to make Click & Collect work, as we do believe it will be a big help to you in a busy shop. It also does help the Rex the baker a lot, to plan the right quantities.  Most importantly there are big advantages to you:

1) You secure your favourite products.  A lot of  lines sell out at the pop up point, even when we make tons! Unfortunately it’s unpredictable and we don’t produce an unlimited supply from fresh  because we like to avoid crazy unsold wastage.  Whilst we love to donate a few leftovers, there is a limit to how much we can freeze for donation to Restore Hope 🙂

2) Quicker process.  When we see our Rex Bakery friends waiting to collect their orders, we try to get to them fastest.  We are planning a special Click & Collect point in the shop, because a queue is anathema to Rex the Baker himself!!

3) You can have your bread sliced to freeze. We do slice to order when requested, and provide these in plastic wrap bags ready for best lasting quality in freezing.  That could be very important on Friday 13th December to keep you going through til Christmas Eve when the Rex Bakery will next pop up.

4) You can always add to the order.  Actually most friends do  add to their regular order when they collect, so please don’t think you are restricted to what you selected on the bake list

5) The biggest & most beautiful go into the order bags 🙂  Whilst we never sell anything under par, everything is Rex-made from scratch so there can be slight variability.  We do want to provide our loyal Friends of Rex Bakery with the choice pick of the bake when we fulfill the orders.

6) You can customise your order to suit you.  Want an epi for a special dinner party in place of a regular baguette?  No Epi; baguetteproblem.  Wanted the Benedict bars pre-cut into halves?  Absolutely.  Needed the order ready 1st thing?  Of course.  Hoping for a special product not on this week’s bake list (like Spelt or Rye)? We will try to help.

 

7) we involve you.  We ask for loyal Friends’ feedback & adjust our products accordingly; from time to time we offer you new products to try for free; we share your opinions in our materials; we take your new product ideas really seriously

For all these reasons and more, calling your orders! Do email rexbakery@btinternet.com

How long is a piece of string? 6 issues

 

We loved the support & likes on our Facebook page when we confirmed that we now own what was Greystokes’ shop in Little Chalfont Parade 🙂  When we handed over orders on Saturday, many of you lovely  Friends were congratulating us & asking when the shop would open as Rex Artisan Bakery.  We know it will be in the new year, but calling exactly when is unfortunately like how long is a piece of a string – we’ll explain a little of what we’ve been through so far & what’s to come.

Why is the shop taking so long??!

We’ve been up & running <6 months, since Village Day mid-June.  From then we started the weekend pop-up bakery and immediately started looking for permanent premises, trying to balance location with size (a lot of baking space is required). Err, and of course cost….  There aren’t the breaks you maybe would imagine for a new business start-up (unless you’re a charity shop or in just about any part of the UK bar Bucks), in fact it’s quite the reverse – it’s all scarily Rex artisan bakeryexpensive to us.   Here’s 3 reasons it’s taken us many months to buy what we think is the right shop:

  1. Commercial property complexity
    Our solicitor (also called Rex!  from ibb) called the buy his “most difficult in 30 years of this type of work”…  We found 5 parties to consider in the contract – the owner, the current leaseholder, the management company for the parade, the flat owner & of course the Rex Baker.  No wonder it took >4 months after the price was agreed – and inevitably the Rex Baker ended up having to take on the liability for most issues.
  2. Planning
    Whilst the shop of course comes with a trading licence, so that we can bake & sell as soon as we start, there are other restrictions which a planning consultant is helping us navigate.  The shop will have seating for 15+ to enjoy coffee, soup at lunchtime, warm pies & the like and in time this will require a retrospective licence.  We also want to change the shop front glazing.  We’re in good company in the parade in seeking out permissions – locals will recall that Tesco’s opening was delayed for their air conditioning licence and Costa was turned down initially.
  3. Finance
    There are upfront one-off costs to buy all the ovens, retarders, refrigeration etc as well as actually refurbishing & styling the shop – it’s as expensive as creating several high end new kitchens all at once!
    We budgeted for that but at the last minute we had to ensure we weren’t charged 20% of the shop purchase price for VAT – whilst VAT is refundable, it’s a long slow process & would have wiped our shop refurbishment pot.

And 3 more that we still have to navigate before opening…

  1. Services
    Wall moving, soundproofing, heat exchange, electrics, plumbing (including a new disabled customer loo), plastering, glazing, signage, shelving, security, flooring, decorating…  all on a shoestring/ mates’ rates (pretty please guys)/ DIY.
  2. Fixtures & fittings
    There is a leadtime to acquiring & steam-adjusting & fitting all the ovens & equipment that the Rex Baker needs. Most is identified but the order timing is sensitive because at the same time the pop up bakery units need to be moved from the Rex Baker’s home & installed in the shop – at which point Rex Bakery itself will be on hold whilst the change takes place, and we won’t be able to fulfill your orders for a while.
    In addition there is a wealth of new items to make it all a reality – from tills to coffee cups to shelves to lighting – all Rex artisan bakery bagare yet to be sourced & acquired. Fortunately we’ve learnt quite a lot about bags & the like in the meantime…
  3. Staff
    The Rex Baker can’t do it all himself.  He needs additional bakers, barista & soup-makers & sales staff to make Rex Artisan Bakery a success.  That means advertising, interviewing, hiring… and again timing is critical to make sure the right group of animated, committed baking passionistas will be trained & ready to join the Rex team just in time for the bakery launch.

So we are promise to work our socks off for this but please forgive us for not having a hard & fast date yet, we’re new to it all so aren’t quite sure how long it all takes 🙂  Any advice, please post in the comments, we love to hear from you!

 

 

 

Why we’re giving thanks, even before Thanksgiving week

It will be Thanksgiving in America on the 4th Thursday of November, but here at Rex Bakery we’re already feeling very thankful – for 3 reasons which we’ll explain.  

Why we are thankful this week

1. we had our biggest week since Village Day!   Being a sociable lot, many of you hosted weekend house parties sausage rolls, puff pastry, artisan baking(where was our invitation??) so there were lots of big orders plus we had a super-busy time at the Westwood Park Pop up Point where we sold out of sausage rolls, chocolate buns and olive ciabatta despite baking tray loads’ extra this week, see the picture left and also click on video below of Rex preparing the pain au raisin.  Thank you to all Friends of Rex Bakery, this was great timing for you to reassure us that we really are serving a local need, because….

2. Yay, we can finally confirm that this week we are buying a shop in the parade in Little Chalfont, right near Tesco!  We know it’s the busiest part of the village, which we believe deserves an Artisan Bakery and so we hope to become a heart of the community in the new year.  Lots & lots to do to get ready, and it’s more than a little nerve-racking when its all so new to us plus super-complex & costly to navigate all the legalities, unfortunately.  We might moan about that in a blog to come.  But at least we will save the village from an empty shop eyesore or yet another charity shop, which was the most probable alternative outcome!  And it will be amazing to get going “for real”, so we will keep you posted on our progress as we will continue to really appreciate all your support in the months & years ahead.pain au raisin, cutting dough, artisan bakery, baking

3. we are delighted that we raised £15.75 for Children in Need by donating 1/2 of the special price of jam-spot Scandinavian School Buns last week.  Hope you all enjoyed them, thank you so much for your support for this important cause!!
We keep & deep freeze all Pop up Point leftovers each week and shortly will be arranging a trip to our friends at Restore Hope in Latimer to donate a bevy of Organic baguettes, Walnut & Linseed loaves and the like to needy local families.  So nice to do, makes us feel warm & fuzzy & most definitely thankful that fab organisations like that exist to help our community.

In Thanksgiving Americans traditionally enjoy Turkey followed by Pumpkin Pie.  Rex Bakery won’t be joining in, but what we do know is that as soon as Thanksgiving is done, the States rushes towards Christmas!  So we too are now thinking about  festive specials & Rex Bakery pop up timings close to the Holidays.

Have a great week everyone xx

Please try me, I’m new around here!

Please try me, I’m new around here!

It’s interesting how new & quite different-sounding products go down so well from the “taster’s tray” at Westwood Park.    All credit in particular to the local children, who are so up for trialling & offering feedback on the samples – they are so confident, sometimes they don’t even ask what they are trying as they tuck into Apple & Oats Sourdough, Scandinavian School Buns etc!  

Brave in trying the new

At Rex Artisan Bakery we do like to present you with the best we can make, but importantly  from a wide range of bakery inspirations.  This definitely means lovingly recreating the Best of British, even the less well known – for example, a lot of customers point out & query our Rex organic bloomers, and just telling them that name isn’t so helpful.  A bloomer is bloomer, organic white bloomer, rex bloomer, bloomer bread an oblong, rounded loaf of white bread, finished with a series of diagonal slashes on top – perhaps named after ladies’ bloomers given the shape!

Bloomers are thought to originate from London in 1939 during wartime rationing, restricting civilians to  1 slice per diagonal slash (today we medium slice them vertically of course…) Decades later they were a favourite in the Rex Baker’s childhood local Kentish bakery and ours is made slowly from organic white dough, just a different shape to the traditional organic white tin but tastes & cuts for sandwiches etc exactly the same (& a lot better than a pair of bloomers :))

Rex is also inspired by the best of savoury & sweet bakery finds from further flung places- across Europe, America, Africa and even this week we heard about an exciting & popular Persian flatbread that we would like to recreate.  This geographical inspiration mix is evident from the sourdoughs, the viennoiserie, the ciabatta & focaccia & Benedict Bars featuring regularly in the bake list.  Customers often make great suggestions for what they would like to see, feel free to do so in the comments!

And of course the Rex  Baker is inspired by bakers, chefs & writers like Dan Leppard, Jeffrey Hamelman, Michel Roux senior, Peter Gordon & Ottolenghi – trying hundreds of their recipes to develop his own.    This is how he is perfecting Rex favourites like Raisin & Rosemary, Apricot with Fennel, Potato Sourdough and now Oats with Apple.    If you are still not convinced to try some of these loaves because they do sound so untraditional, please know that there always samples you can come & try at Westwood Park.  If there is something from the Bake List that you are nervous about & would like to try before you buy, just let us know & we’ll make sure we have some saved for you.  Likewise if you buy & don’t like after trying – just let us know, we are only aiming to please!

By the way, if you are wondering, the Rex Baker did also try Paul Hollywood but found he’s had to use his baking knowledge to make the recipes work 🙂  Anybody else find them challenging?

Spots of Jam for Children in Need

children in need, spots children in need, spotty children in need

 

In this week of Children in Need, the Rex Bakery will celebrate the the on-theme jammy Spot on top of our new Scandinavian School Buns.  For each one added to your order, we plan to donate 1/2 the special price this week of £1.50 to Children in Need, which takes place on Friday 15th November.  Go on, give them a try!!

Who else ♥ at 2am??

Many people remark at the Rex Baker’s choice of new venture – to choose 2am (yes, 2 in the morning) – starts you have to love what are doing.  After a hard day’s night, an array of baked Rex items are available for Saturday mornings

Passion & purpose at 2am

The Rex Baker used to work in the City.  But he always loved food – fine dining as part of his professional life, getting inspired in Continental European family holiday destinations by the food ingredients and the way food matters there, learning great chef techniques & recreating a flow of stunning dishes at home.

And at some point, high Finance became less attractive for the well, finance, and more of a drag as the sector contracted, the commute took its toll & finally it dawned on the Rex Baker that the rather self-absorbed intangible business of making money out of betting on financial outcomes, was not his purpose in life.

They say it takes most of us a lifetime to figure out our purpose in life.  Steve Jobs from Apple famously said “we’re here to put a dent in the universe.  Otherwise why even be here?”     The Rex Baker realised that good food and bread dough, artisan baker at work, shaping dough, cutting doughdrink matter, that he wants very simple, very well made food all the time & that rather than wonder why there was no artisan bakery locally, how fulfilling to retrain & provide one himself.

To him, baking is totally fascinating – the combination of rigid, almost scientific technique married with artisan creativity & constant experimentation.  What’s more, he finds he loves the physical, tangible nature of baking – both the manual challenge of working hard and creating a product he can see, touch, smell, taste & be proud of.  There’s no going back to a desk job now, it’s all quite simple – yes, it involves early starts & is all-consuming, but  it’s work  that satisfies the Rex Baker and feels like a worthwhile exercise because he is not compromising in any way.

 

 

 

Rex sourdough, artisan sour dough, artisan loaf, Rex artisan bakery

Above all, it’s the best that he can make it , every single week – that’s what matters to him.  And hopefully to you too – we hear wonderful feedback from our Rex Bakery friends & for success of the business it’s of course critical that you agree!  What do you think?  Let us know in the comments.

 

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
Water
Fresh Yeast
Salt
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.

Ingredients:

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

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
Water
Fresh Yeast
Salt
Pure Croxton Manor unsalted French butter
Organic Rolled Oats
Organic Linseed
Organic Sunflower seed
Honey

 “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?

A little of what you fancy does you good

I always hold in having it if you fancy it
If you fancy it that’s understood
And suppose it makes you fat? I don’t worry over that
‘Cos a little of what you fancy does you good.
(Source:  Marie Lloyd, Victorian England fnar fnar chorus song)

We are more than a little excited that this bake list welcomes a brand new biscuit bar that has nothing at all to do with sourdough September!  Now. you know that Rex Bakery loves sourdough very dearly indeed, and it’s not an either/ or for us – but sometimes you just have to follow your healthy daily bread by indulging in something that’s sweet, rich, delectable and not even trying to be good for anything but your taste buds.  

Every week our viennoiserie & pastries sell very well indeed with our Rex Bakery Friends.  Maybe that’s because they consist of the highest quality ingredients – Croxton Manor unsalted butter (as used in top Michelin 3-starred restaurants in Bray & across the South East), organic white flour, Callebaut Belgian chocolate.  Or maybe it’s because the Rex Baker chocolate bunslikes to at least  nod to 1 of your 5 a day (citrus, berries, rye, organic dried fruit) in most of the Rex sweet baked items.  Or we actually hope you buy just because you like the taste 🙂  We want you to know there’s a lot of love & care taken over what you finally eat, especially compared to some supermarket-bought highly processed, deep fried, low nutritional-value sweet alternatives with hydrogenated fats & additives & very high levels of sugar & salt.

That said, people sometimes ask the Rex Baker’s family how come we don’t resemble the Happy Families’ Baker’s Wife & Children given all the baked items we trough every day.    The truth is that the Rex Artisan breads, consumed in truly vast quantities, appear to have little or no impact on our waistlines & weight.  The theory is that given the long pre-fermenting & proving process that Rex doughs go through, there is no more fermenting & bloating for the bread yeast to do by the time it reaches our tummies.    That there’s nothing bad for your bodies in the natural goodness of the organic grains & seeds.  All of which totally contradicts the fear that anything that tastes good, has to be bad for you.

streusel, fudge, lemonThat brings us to the idea of everything in moderation.  If we are eating well (we humbly offer that Rex Artisan breads are a great start) & expending enough energy, then why can’t we all enjoy a little Rex treat from time to time?  If not indulged by an occasional Rex Lemon & Fudge Streusel bar, how are we ever meant to resist the craving for an over-sized bar of rubbishy chocolate??  It’s all relative, which is why this week we are celebrating the notion that a little of what you fancy from Rex does you good.  Do tell us what you think, which baked item do you crave each week?

 

 

 

 

Health is happiness

It’s the last week of Sourdough September!   Health, bread & happiness are linked themes this week.

Last week we featured a wheat-free Walnut Spelt sourdough.  Spelt is a wheat-free relative of wheat and its tasty flour is popular in German bakeries.  Some friends of Rex Bakery asked whether spelt is better for your weight & you, than wheat in  bread.  Luckily, the Rex Baker has been good friends with top UK dietician Dr Sarah Schenker,  for nearly 30 years (they must have both been in nappies when they 1st met…).  Dr Sarah Schenker, dietician, nutritionistDr Sarah is co-author of the best selling The Fast Diet and so who better to ask for an expert opinion?  Here’s what she has to say:

“Wheat per se is no more fattening than other non-gluten containing grains like spelt or rice. However, there are two good reasons why avoiding gluten may help with weight loss. It is now widely recognised by the medical world that many people can suffer from gluten sensitivity in the absence of coeliac disease. Non-coeliac gluten sensitivity is a relatively newly recognised condition which is still being researched and results from studies show that although sufferers do not have coeliac disease, their symptoms appear to be related to gluten and improve after following a gluten free diet.

One of the most common symptoms of gluten sensitivity is bloating where the stomach swells and causes uncomfortable abdominal pain. While this is not the same as weight gain, those experiencing frequent bloating can feel lethargic and lacking in energy. This makes exercise difficult and may lead to an unhealthy eating pattern with sufferers often relying on sugary drinks and foods in an attempt to ‘give them more energy’.

Other symptoms of gluten sensitivity include exhaustion, headaches, diarrhoea, constipation or limb numbness.

The second reason that following a gluten free diet may aid weight loss, is because you will find that you need to think more carefully about what you can eat. Wheat is ubiquitous in our diets and readily available in the form of biscuits, cakes and other snacks. Avoiding these foods and choosing alternative grains such as spelt or wholegrain rice for meals can lead to a healthier pattern of eating.”

They say that Health leads to Happiness, and out-of-the-oven artisan bread is not only naturally healthy but makes the Rex Baker very, very happy too.   But for even better health we are often advised to cut down on salt – adults should consume <6g a day, and the normal Rex baguette recipe calls for 4g.  Whilst few of us would eat a whole baguette a day all on our own (!),  it’s interesting to try a variation.  Our many baguette customers may have noticed a No-salt variation this week.  Andbaguettes, low salt bread, organic white flour the result?  Hmm.  At Rex, we think that the idea of cutting back on salt should be …. taken with a pinch of salt!  We will happily offer a No-Salt bread from time to time when we open our shop, our family eats very few processed foods like crisps but Rex Artisan Bakery clearly prefers the tasty normal recipe baguette afterall.

What do you think?  If anybody had a baguette last week & didn’t enjoy the No-Salt variation, let us know, we will gladly replace you with a “traditional” Rex baguette free of charge next week 🙂

6 ways to eat Rex sourdough

Many people tried regular Rex Sourdough for the 1st time at the pop up points last Saturday because we had buttered samples and a few extra loaves available to buy.   Lots of you seemed to like it & we sold out, so we were very pleased 🙂
However we are often asked How else it should be eaten, so wanted to share our Rex Bakery family favourite tips for enjoying the regular Rex Sourdough

  1. Accompany meals – a bRex sourdough, sourdough breadasket of chunks of fresh Rex Sourdough really enhances any meal but especially salads, cold meats & cheeses, soups, stews, pasta….  just like the French might cut up & serve a baguette in fact.  It would be wrong to always think of Rex Sourdough as a vehicle – in the Rex Baker’s family, the basket of bread is devoured even before the plates hit the table!
  2. Sliced layer sandwiches – just treat as a tastier version of a healthy loaf.  The Rex Baker learnt to sandwich his meals (memorably spaghetti bolognese and roast dinner!!) to address permanent hunger during his army boarding school days and it is certainly his favourite bread for regular layered sandwiches.  The Rex sourdough outside crust is quite crunchy & the inside crumb should have large, holey, explosive texture so it might suit you to order Rex Sourdough sliced if you want it to be easily available to you for all those kids’ lunch box sandwiches this term..
  3. Open savoury sandwich – hand cutting a lovely thick slice of Rex sourdough & topping it with any favourite filler.  This Saturday that was organic double gloucester open Rex sourdough sandwichcheese with last of the season’s baby plum tomatoes & salad – perfect.
  4. Toast – for us, nothing beats a slice of Rex Sourdough toasted & dripping in unsalted butter as it turns colder.  Well maybe slathered in Marmite too but we get that won’t appeal to everyone.  Toast is our favourite to feed the children as a snack when they are predictably starving right after school and the slightly denser weight & stronger taste of Rex Sourdough is delicious toasted.
  5. Dipped in vinaigrette – the childrens’ favourite is dipping Rex Sourdough into organic olive oil lightly whipped with balsamic vinegar.  A meal in itself & we always have to make up more vinaigrette & cut more bread to satisfy demand!
  6. Slice with jams & curds – This is a favourite occasional “sweet treat” in the Rex Baker’s son’s lunch box.  After extensive trial tasting of samples with lemon curd, orange curd & strawberry jam – his winning topper is declared to be blackcurrant jam.

Perhaps you have your own favourite way to eat Rex Sourdough to share with us?  PlRex sourdough bread, jams, jam, curds, lemon curd, orange curd, strawberry jamease tell us in the comments box!  Otherwise we hope you find something to tempt you from this list, as we think you might really enjoy Rex Sourdough too 🙂

3 days to a better loaf – see the Sourdough Steps

Many Rex friends tried sourdough breads in their orders this week – we hope you liked what you tasted!  

We wanted to explain more about how complex Sourdough bread is to produce.   It is very unlikely to produce a sourdough culture which has the same rising power of a commercial yeast culture. So to create a loaf which is light enough for customers to want to eat, two things are very important.

  1. Firstly a sourdough culture really needs nurturing.  The Rex Baker now has 5 kids, the three human ones you may have come across in Little Chalfont  plus his two sourdoughs. Every day they need feeding and refreshing. If he was to neglect them, it could end up with a very sour winey smelling mixture with little vigour.
  2. The dough must be left for a very long period to get it to rise. The very welcome side effect of all that waiting, is a really special texture and taste to the bread, as the sourdough yeast culture has had loads of time to feed on the flour changing the very nature of it into to other compounds and also making it more digestible.

It is because it is much harder work to get a decent loaf and takes so much time, that sourdough is a more premium product.  Here’s the Rex Bakery sourdough timeline:

  • Day 1: Build and feed existing sourdough culture to increase vigour and create correct flavour balance
  • Day 2:  Increase volume of sourdough culture so can be used to make many loaves.
  • Day 2 + 4 hrs: Mix sourdough bread dough & leave in bulk to start fermenting.
    artisan bread, sourdough, banneton, dough
  • Day 2 + 7 hrs:   Divide sourdough bread dough into loaf weights (generally Rex Bakery weighs sourdough to 500g to be at least 400g after baking) and place into floured bannetons.  Leave covered at room temperature
  • Day 2 + 8hrs: Place all of the dough filled bannetons into a special type of refrigerator, called a RETARDER, set at 5c, for overnight slow rise.
  • Day 3: Remove dough filled bannetons from retarder and leave covered at room temperature for up to 5 hours, until the loaves have risen sufficiently for baking.
  • Day 3 + 5 hrs: Bake loaves for around 30 minutes at 220c.

baking, bread in oven, sourdough, artisan bread, loaves

So the whole process does take 3 busy days – so we appreciate your early email orders to get the quantity right for each weekend bake.   Have a great week! xx

 

Rex Bakery celebrates “Sourdough September”

The REAL BREAD CAMPAIGN’ has launched ’ Sourdough September’ sourdough september; real bread campaignand to celebrate we will be making additional Sourdough loaves every week beyond our usual Rex Sourdough ( 90% white flour, 10% Rye Flour).

In the spirit of ‘Sourdough September’, let’s explore Sourdough and also explain why it is more expensive to buy 🙂

First, let’s debunk a myth:  bread called Sourdough does not mean the bread is sour! It can be, but usually it is not.  The term has been made fashionable in America to highlight bread made without Commercial Yeast.  In France it is described as ‘Levain’. ‘Pain au Levain’ in France is simply a ‘Sourdough Loaf’ in America.

Sourdough still uses a yeast culture to rise the bread dough, but one which is home-harvested and grown, rather than a commercial yeast variety out of a packet or block.

Yeast, a single celled fungus, exists everywhere in the world around us and just requires capturing and encouraging, to grow. There are thousands of yeast strains which react in different ways.  Anyone who has ever tried to make homebrew beer or wine, will know that there are types which ferment at the top of a beer solution and others at the bottom of the solution; some which operate at ambient temperature and some at low temperatures.

The first sourdough culture used in the Rex Bakery, was captured from nature by mixing flour, water & some local honey together about 2 years ago. The next day the Rex Baker threw away half of his mixture & added more water & flour. He did the same the next day and before he knew it, had a bubbling fermenting culture.

artisan bread, sourdough, banneton, doughThis is how our ancestors made bread, going all the way back to Ancient Egypt before Commercial Yeast Companies existed.

The Rex Baker has no idea whether the yeast culture he now uses came from the honey, the flour or the air. In fact over two years,  he has refreshed the culture hundreds of times , so it is possible that the original yeast culture he captured  is no longer there anyway and perhaps another strain introduced through the flour he has added or from the air, has now taken over.   It isn’t really important, what matters is that it works. As it is a  natural levain it can be very tricky & unpredictable as the Rex Baker found this week!  More on the sourdough process in our next blog

Sourdough loaves are perfect eat as bread on their own, to accompany any meal and make delicious toast.  xx

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.

Stocking up for the summer? 7 ways to keep Rex baked items fresh

One of the questions we are often getting asked right now is How Long Does Rex Bread last??  The uncomfortable truth is that artisan bread is not designed to last for ages.   Today we’ve got used to liking Long-Lasting, even if the manufacturer achieves that artificially & we don’t know what the health consequences might be.   Instead the Rex Baker hand-picked the few highest quality ingredients to be brought together naturally & with love, organic where possible, and certainly no E-number preservatives added, so plenty gained.

So what are our 7 tips to help your Rex bakery choices stay naturally delicious?

  1. Group rex sourdough loavesSpeed: The Rex Baker only bakes your bread & patisserie early hours of Saturday morning so it is fully fresh & may even still be warm when you collect  – plan to eat it quickly!
  2. Variety: Bread should also stay this fresh for a day or so.  It’s still good to cut for sandwiches Day 2 but maybe expect it only for toast Day 3.  We think Rex sourdough makes amazing toast 🙂
  3. Recipe: Some Rex loaves have natural preservatives such as extra virgin olive oil, and honey, so that the bread will stay fresher for even longer – Multiseed, Celtic Brown, Raisin & Rosemary Sourdough, Potato & herb Foccacia to name but a few
  4. Temperature: When it’s so dry & hot, never leave your bread unwrapped in the open air or even in the fridge – it will just dry out even quicker if air temperature is much different from around 20 degrees centigrade.
  5. Rex bakery Raspberry Benedict BarStorage: To protect moisture inside the bread crumb, protect the cut side only with foil, or if you don’t mind a softer crust wrap the whole loaf in a plastic bag.  We also find our buns & bars could keep for ages in airtight tubs & tins (though they do always get gobbled up PDQ by the Rex Baker’s family…)
  6. Freeze: Quickly deep freeze wrapped bakery items such as sausage rolls, croissants and bread that you know you won’t eat rightaway.  Defrost for an hour or so covered with a clean tea towel & if you like, pop for a few minutes in a warm oven before serving.
  7. Sliced: Choose to have your bread sliced as that seems to prolong life – so we are introducing this option for all Saturday orders (which will come in a sealed plastic bag) to enable you to freeze & access sliced Rex bread throughout August.  Rex Bakery artisan bread sliced & bagged

Because Artisan bread is designed to be as naturally a delicious & healthy bake & eat as possible, what other natural storage tips do you have?  Please post us a comment with your advice!

 

Just giving

The Rex Baker believes that a real artisan baker will be right at the centre of its community. Indeed our neighbourhood support has been humbling, with so many lovely locals delighted by the Rex breads & buns and really generous with their comments & feedback.  Friends of Rex Bakery are making time to place  orders, visit the stall & Saturday Pick Up Points and are cheering us on in our plans.  This makes those hard days’ nights so worthwhile.

rex sourdough loaves

The Rex Baker is working on securing local shop premises, hoping to be a warm & welcoming baked-aroma presence that’s central to village life.

Community spirit means giving back as well.  Last month the Rex Baker wanted to help the local school PTA and the shop will support selected local causes once open.

Because all Rex bread is only sold  shortly after baking with nothing added so plenty gained, it’s delicious eaten fresh on the day. But any leftover loaves after sales are a chance for an artisan bakery to share its daily bread with needier parts of its community.   The Rex Baker has found out that Sikh gurdwaras will never turn away any hungry visitor whatever their denomination so we tried to make contact with our nearest one to offer up any Saturday loaves but haven’t heard back.  We also know there’s a Food Bank in the refuge along the valley, but that doesn’t seem to be open on a Saturday.  Does anybody have any ideas on where we can donate leftover bread & buns to benefit our community?

For the rest of us, real bread can’t be made to stay fresh for longer than is natural, but there are a few little  tips on how to naturally slow staling at home.

Rex croissants

There will be other ways to wave the local flag too – for example ingredients such as a Rex wild yeast made of local honey.  And we look forward to creating local jobs just as soon as we open that community shop – we can’t wait!

 

 

If you love what you do, it really matters

The Rex Baker has uncompromising artisan standards.   But we’ve had a few challenges in maintaining these – anyone notice paper bags, sausage rolls, rolling baguettesbaguettes for starters?  There’s a lot that’s new to us as we launch our artisan bakery and the Rex Baker is clear that the very best  ingredients, excellence in crafting the breads & buns and a delicious, wholesome end product are not to be messed with – even if we have hiccups along the way to get there.

 

So in the past weeks he has binned a tray of apple & cinnamon whirls because they didn’t look the part (Shame!  Could have tasted Yummmm!), replaced customers’ baguettes because he thought the rise was insufficient resulting in too skinny a baguette and has been intensely reviewing all aspects of the humble Sausage Roll.

CSG show sausage rollsThe Rex Baker won “Best Sausage Roll” in the fiercely-fought Chalfont St Giles annual show last year – and they really are special if we say so ourselves.  But when hand crafting to sell at scale, every element is under scrutiny to deliver perfection.

Starting with the sausagemeat – we’ve got to know the best butchers in the whole Chilterns area over the years & have been exhaustively (& exhaustingly) comparing their offering.   We know this is important for taste & texture, but also quality standards – when your son won’t eat dozens of different sausages because “they’re just not nice” & you hear multiple food scares about the identity & completeness & even health of the animal meat – the latest here – you want to be sure you found the best available.  We think we found & now use the best 2 or 3 in fact, but post a comment if you have another favourite you think we should try!  We add chopped onion, garlic, herbs & a “family secret” ingredient to our sausagemeat and voila!

our butterThe Rex Baker then of course makes his puff pastry by hand, using only highest quality French unsalted butter, as used by the best patisseries.  It has an outstanding flavour and low water content to create just the right balance between pastry flake & melt-in-the mouth richness.  At least 4 hours are allowed for the pastry to rest after each of 4 fold & turns to make 24+ layers of puff pastry, so this is not fast food!

Finally the Rex Baker rolls out to a generous same size & places the same quantity of sausagemeat on each pastry square before rolling & egg washing & baking.  Last week he thinks he just rolled too thick – this meant the sausage rolls should have still tasted delicious but too much pastry to meat makes for a really super-sized sausage roll and not enough pastry to go round all those other hungry shoppers.  So this week is about perfecting the roll thickness & ratio to meat.. we will get there!

 

best sausage rollIn the meantime, we love our yellow Rex triangle cards but the flimsy brown paper bags have to go.  We will double bag from now on & find a new supplier, fast!!  If you love what you do, it all matters.  Do tell us if there’s anything at all not up to high standard, we love & rely on your feedback so that you will love Rex Bakery too

xx

How is Artisan bread different anyhow?

So what’s the difference between our Rex Artisan Bakery Bread, Supermarket in house bakery bread & the sliced white we all grew up with?

artisan bread

An Artisan Baker like Rex Bakery loves flavour which means making bread slowly.  We use the minimum number of ingredients possible, only organic flour and highest quality ingredients.

The best way to get superior flavour and texture in a loaf is to make it slowly, so the flour is properly fermented which also allows complex flavours to develop.  So even our humble artisan White Sandwich Loaf or Bloomer has been fermented for over 24 hours. It is called a ‘Sponge’ and is the same process used back in the old days where a local baker would keep back some of his dough each day to put into the next day’s dough. He knew it gave him better flavour, as do only artisan bakers.
 

bread dough

People forget that Bread is a fermented product , using many of the same ingredients as beer; Yeast , Water & Grain ( in beer Malted Barley is boiled and in bread Wheat is milled into a flour).  To properly ferment flour, to change is nature and create tasty bread, takes time.

Most bread today is not properly fermented some suspect this is behind the rise in allergies to wheat flour, gluten and a whole host of gastrointestinal diseases . It is fashionable to think  wheat itself is the culprit, but perhaps it is the way it is treated which is the problem, the lack of fermentation which causes bloating & discomfort in most of us and serious illness in some.

It all started after the second world war when Government demanded cheap food. The “Chorleywood Bread Process” was the solution for bread, invented in the now closed ‘British Baking Industries Research Associatjon’ laboratory  a few miles away in Chorleywood. 80% of bread in the UK is now made this way & factories across the world use this process.

Essentially it involves whipping the dough at very high speeds with lots of additives, to create a big voluminous mass which perhaps has more in common with a Meringue than traditional bread. It is made & baked very quickly in a couple of hours from start to finish so the wheat flour is not really fermented at all. The loaf structure is created by the whipping action, and not really by fermentation. It is big on volume, lasts a long time & is ‘cheap food’ in plastic bags.

Supermarket in-store bakeries use the Activated Dough Development (ADD) process using many of the same additives as the Chorleywood, but it is a half way house.  As an example, soft white rolls , include ‘soft white roll  No2 ’  mix which will have all sorts of dough improvers, preservatives & flavour enhancers.The supermarket doughs are fermented for longer than the factory bread but still rarely beyond a couple of hours .They  are focused on volume and keeping quality rather than taste or health.

WE think you can taste & feel the difference in our bread .  What do you think, we would love to hear your feedback?

After Village Day – announcing our 1st pop up collection point!

The Rex Baker nearly killed himself last Thursday / Friday /Saturday for Village Day but managed to get out well over 100kg of bread plus a whole range of Croissants, Danish, Brioche, Buns & Tarts.  He had about 4 hours sleep over the two nights and had a power outage at 11pm on Friday night which required a wonderful local Electrician friend to save the day (well, night…), plus the limestone the Rex Baker was baking on ( 4 of them) all decided to collapse about half way through!
rex at show new
Then despite a shaky start getting all the display out on show & a tropical rainstorm arriving in Little Chalfont Saturday afternoon, we had a fantastic time meeting so many wonderful friends & local community supporters and virtually sold out.
So now plans are afoot for this coming Saturday.  From 9-12, Rex Bakery pop up collection point will be found after the bakery has lovingly finished off orders overnight Friday.
All good things take time – 36+ hours mixing, proving, kneading, shaping & finally baking to be precise!  

All good things take time

med rex bubbling dough A full ovenmed rex rye
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Rex Bakery is new, local and artisan. We hand make baked goods the old-fashioned way which means slowly & with love, to develop flavour, texture and keeping quality.

We use the best ingredients we can source, organic where possible and nothing else added, so plenty gained. To start with we’re planning a Little Chalfont pop-up Saturday morning shop – that means, after a hard day’s night of baking we’ll have your favourite breads & buns ready for you to collect

And this is where we can take you behind the scenes. Somewhere to share our thoughts and to give you good people a chance to comment on what we’re doing. Somewhere to post our pictures, tell our stories, let you know the latest. Somewhere for our trials & tribulations & triumphs. So this is the start of the life of Rex Bakery – because all good things take time.

More photos on our FB page. Click R link below.

Full website with Click and Collect service coming soon!

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