Local Artisan Bread & Patisserie

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Is Rex Bakery up for sale?

Is Rex Bakery up for sale?
Have you heard the rumours doing the rounds in Little Chalfont, that Rex Bakery is up for sale?
Well one or two of you have spotted that 4 Chenies Parade, the home of Rex Bakery  is indeed on the market
 rex for sale
but don’t worry  – we are NOT on the move!!
When we started this business around 4 years ago , we were concerned that we might struggle to establish ourselves because of  the exorbitant levels of rent demanded by professional investors, who by the way dominate your high street and mostly have no feeling or interest in the area.  It is one of the reasons many independent businesses  struggle to establish themselves ( and chain businesses do not !)

On top of rent, another small business killer is council tax ( which provides us with ZERO services , it does not cover rubbish collection or anything else, it is just a straight tax for operating in a shop)  which means a small business has to pay costs of £3 – 4,000 pm before even worrying about staff costs , ingredient costs, power cost and the plethora of new indirect taxes (sick pay, pension, census surveys etc), perpetually being pushed out to all employers, regardless of size.  The Rex Baker met Cheryl Gillam MP in #4 Chenies Parade shortly before the election to put some of these business owner frustrations to her and we’ve blogged more about these challenges here

 

So to balance this out, we took the decision 4 years ago to buy a shop, which is 4 Chenies Parade, even though we didn’t particularly want to be professional investors in a retail shop.
So, some 4 years later, with the business now established, we are looking to sell the shop , with Rex Bakery  as sitting tenants for a very long period. It’s a good deal for an investor, they get a property with an established business who can pay the rent which is their main concern ( to hit their return target) , and we get our money back, which we will use to grow the business .
Rex Bakery is very healthy and we want to take the company to the next level, without any compromise whatsoever on quality or taking money from a third party such as a bank , so we need to re-arrange the deck chairs so to speak, so we can move forward.
Rex Bakery will be in Little Chalfont for many many years to come.  It’s our home, both personally and business wise, and whilst it appears Chiltern District Council is considering turning our community into Big Chalfont, potentially quadrupling the population and changing the whole nature of the high street, we intend being a feature offering our own personal idea of bakery heaven. We want to deliver World Class Bread and Cakes made by hand with the best ingredients, so please do not worry, our shop at No. 4 Chenies Parade is not going anywhere.
 glenn outside bakery
We expect change will happen eventually, in both local government agendas as well as the building plans  in fact “Change is the only constant” is a mantra of the Rex Baker’s life.
Who would dream to go from City to setting up  a Bakery otherwise?!
We hope this clarifies and reassures anyone who heard the gossip. We love your ongoing support, THANK YOU ❤️

“What’s in a name? Helpful ways for you to recognise real Sourdough”

“What’s in a name?  Helpful ways for you to recognise real Sourdough”

 

Did you know that there is no legal definition for “Sourdough”?  That means that practically any old loaf can be called a sourdough.   Unfortunately there’s so many bogus claims in the food industrpotato sourdoughy, it can be difficult for the public to work out what’s truly authentic.  To help, the Real Bread Campaign has been calling on Defra for Sourdough to be formally defined & the name restricted to real Sourdough.

While we wait, here’s some “pseudough” examples to recognise & even avoid:

  • Supermarket plastic wrapped “sourdough” can even be a loaf with added “sourdough flavour”. Artificially recreating the taste doesn’t make real Sourdough!!
  • Sourdough with long life ingredients that’s frozen & delivered part baked to be browned off, often just refers to the rustic look of the bread in appearance.
  • “Artisan bread brands” that aren’t what they seem. Some are owned by private equity firms, and one famous name sourdough specialist is even financed by Warburton’s, the big bagged sliced bread brand.    This can mean a long corporate supply chain between production & delivery to outlets like markets – we’ve bought a 2 day old sourdough this way, too dry to enjoy
  • Even many traditional bakers choose to add commercial yeast, citric acid or “improver” (even called “organic improver” sometimes!) to their Sourdough recipe, or buy flour with artificial “improver” in it to speed up their bread development pace & size.  They don’t have to declare this in the labelling, even though 71% of the British public think they should. We know this is common practice because
    1. A well known local craft bakery approached us asking us to loan them some “improver” as their stocks were running low. We don’t use it so couldn’t help J
    2. If you use anything artificial like that, you can’t use the phrase “Real Bread”. We challenged that the local chain bakery brand was using flour with improver & as this was confirmed in correspondence, by the Advertising Standards Authority, so that they’re no longer allowed to use that phrase.
    3. Last month EAT (the sandwich firm) was challenged via the Advertising Standards Authority for adding commercial yeast to its sourdough toastie mix. It turns out they can still call these sourdough, as there’s no legal definition…
    4. These breads often fail the press-back test that the Rex Baker described on the BBC – the construction is so poor that the crumb stays compressed & tacky if pushed hard. Real Bread will bounce back because the structure is so strong.

When we opened Rex, our best selling breads were our white tin breads & baguettes (that’s still true with the Rex children btw J) but today, Sourdoughs are bringing Friends to Rex from far & wide.

 

Preparing new wholesale – SOOOH PWETTY!!!!

A photo posted by Rex Artisan Bakery (@rexbakery) on

What is Real Sourdough?:

  • Made with Sourdough starter or natural leaven. In Rex, this is a non-commercial mix that we made ourselves from Misbourne honey originally, and nurture every day.    This is mixed with our organic flour, salt & water to make Rex Sourdough breads.
  • Allow time to ferment the dough & rise naturally. The sourdough starter works naturally, over time, to ferment all our organic flour wheats & grains and is thought to denature the gluten they contain during this process.  A side benefit is that over time, the leaven causes the bread dough to naturally rise.   In Rex, we allow at least 24 hours for all breads & a full 3 days for Sourdoughs to mature.

Why should you seek out authentic Sourdough?

Well first, most of our loyal Friends will tell you that Sourdough is delicious.  It shouldn’t taste sour, but it should be more complex & interesting than tinned bread loaves.  If it’s not real sourdough… you’ve been seduced by the marketing, not the real taste.

Next, some of you tell us that carbohydrates bloat you.  We always recommend to try a slice of Rex Sourdough because our organic flour, natural leaven & time to ferment means the bread is highly tolerable & easy to digest.  Many people think they’re wheat or gluten-intolerant – when in fact they are intolerant of poorly fermented wheat & gluten.  They can enjoy Rex Sourdough with comfort.

So if you have tried something that you thought was sourdough, and tasted & looked ok to you – can you be sure that it took 3 days to make naturally with an organic leaven?  If not, you may face the digestion & bloating difficulties of fast bread.  Anyways, why pay artisan skills prices for yet another fast food bread?

3 seed levain, seeded sourdough, three seed

So even though the law doesn’t yet define & protect Real “sourdough”, we do in Rex!!  Every single one of our breads complies with all Read Bread Campaign criteria for Real Bread … and you can trust our pure approach & provenance.  If you have any questions, we love to answer them….

See you in Rex over Easter we hope!!

 

 

Time flies when you’re having fun!

How can Christmas be just NEXT WEEK???!!!! It’s been nothing less than manic in Rex the last few months.    A lot of triumphs, and as always a few struggles.  So what are we celebrating during this festive time?

    1. We’re on the telly!
      Lots of lovely Rex customers know that we were involved in a few bouts of filming this summer, including most excitingly a serial looking at famous people’s locale and the foods they grew up with.  Rex Bakery was asked to be part of Russell Grant’s feature.  He grew up in Harefield, so the producers thought it would be a good idea to compare Chorleywood Bread process which was invented nearby, with the Real Bread that the Rex Baker specialises in.  There was a generous 4 minute segment dedicated to Rex & baking, which sits on on our Vimeo account just now.  It was a GREAT chance to show what the quality of artisan baking means for texture & ease of eating.  We know very many customers, existing & new, watched it – the power of TV is incredible

Rex Bakery ‘My Life on a Plate’ from Rex Bakery on Vimeo.

 

2. Here Cafe in Berkhamsted

We have been supplying this lovely cafe in 1 of our favourite nearby market towns for sometime now.  As they have the space & morning capacity to offer bread, and we share many of the same principles & ethos, we have decided to start retailing from their shelves.  It’s very exciting to start to try build your business & reputation all over again, provides many learnings.  For instance, meeting lots of lovely Berko-ites who’ve just tasted the “Best sausage roll in the world” for the 1st time.  Or are relieved to find organic, local artisan bread – made that morning!  We have told residents that we’re Bucks Best Artisan Bakery – but not sure anyone in Herts cares that much!  So it will take some time to establish ourselves, and of course we 1st have to get through..

 

3. Christmas!

This year in Rex we managed to get our beautiful & subtle (ok, we’re biased) lighted curtain sheets up in the window in the 1st week of December.  We’ve just started new Rex shortbread Mince Pies.  And of course stollen bites & Stollens are selling out as fast as we can produce them.  Many of you have asked about Christmas opening times & Christmas ordering.

Our opening hours over Christmas:

Thurs 24th Dec 7-2.30.
Fri 25th, Sat 26th, Sun 27th Dec CLOSED.
Mon 28th 9-2.
Tues & Wed 7 – 5
Thurs 31st 7-1.30.
Fri 1st Jan CLOSED
Sat 2nd 8-4

It’s aStollen 6305 300 pix great idea to order your Christmas & New Year bread & baked items in advance.  We will bake a large range for 23 & 24 December, but if you would like to be assured of your order please

  1. pop into Rex and ask for an order form.  Hard copies available in the next day or so
  2. click here for our Google doc order form link.  You can copy the sheet, complete & bring back into Rex for payment

 

We are asking that all orders are pre-paid this year – it got very complicated last year & inevitably there were 1 or 2 that didn’t get picked up and others who were let down.  We hope we simplified it!  All the best sellers are available but please contact us at hello@rexbakery.com if there was something specific you were hoping for that isn’t there, and we will do our best to help

 

4) Dr Challoners Girls School Christmas Fayre

The Rex Baker donated his time to run Master classes in bread baking & biscuit making/ decorating.  The Fayre raised >£14k which is fantastic as they are under-resourced versus many local schools and the classes were over-subscribed so a successful earner in their own right!  And the Rex stall sold a LOT of sausage rolls, thank you Girls & your Families 🙂

5) Lots & lots of lovely TripAdvisor reviews

Following our last email inviting feedback, we were overwhelmed by the lovely comments & star ratings from so many of you.  This is highly appreciated. We never forget you have a choice – and now SO MUCH choice in Little Chalfont!  However, if you had anything you wanted to share with us, please don’t hesitate to contact us on hello@rexbakery.com.  We do take feedback on board very seriously, we are still so small that it’s really helpful to us:)

And what’s been more challenging?

Well 1 challenge was that having run the numbers, and reviewed all the cost inflation we’ve tried to absorb in the past 3 years since Glenn first popped up – we realised we were overdue in putting through a price increase on some of our lines. We haven’t updated all of our products, we’ve been very careful to benchmark with everything else in multiple locations and really thought long & hard about this.  Probably for too long! If Rex is to stay for the long term, we need to make a fair return 🙂   Any of us owners or staff are happy to talk to you directly if you wanted to understand any more about this decision.

Otherwise, happy Christmas ordering & see you before Christmas Eve 2.30!!!

 

 

 

 

 

Happy Birthday Rex! 3 big steps in the last year

At Little Chalfont Village Day 2104, we couldn’t help but reflect on “this time last year

Whilst Rex Artisan Bakery has been open at No. 4 Chenies Parade for 2 months, we actually launched at 2013 Little Chalfont Village Day about 1 year ago!

village day, rex bakery pop up

1. Village Day 2013 launch

Having trained, apprenticed & practised for ages beforehand, the Rex Baker worked tirelessly for days with hardly any sleep, in preparation for the “public launch” of Rex.  There were some disasters for sure :

  • Power.  The surge in our home working bakery usage caused an outage during the bake, and we had to emergency contact our expert electrician & good friend Matt to save the day (or in fact night…)
  • Equipment. Our stone trays to get the right level of heat & browning couldn’t cope & cracked!
  • Late start.  with >100 loaves & dizzying array of buns, tarts, viennoiserie to prepare & transfer, the Rex Baker had barely set up the marquee & table by 12 Noon, the start.  We squeezed filled trays into a 2 seater car as well as the family estate car to make the 1/2 mile trip, but managed to leave price tags, cash float, bags at home… and we had customers from the get go!
  • Weather. The heavens opened & there was so much rain that Villagers got drenched unless they hid under our marquee – which of course itself was beginning to leak.

So especially once the rain came pouring down on the morning of this year’s Village Day, we were spirited back to a year ago!

We virtually sold out that day a year ago, and although it was so so hard, we had done it!!

2. Rex bakery weekly pop-up

The amazing response from the Village encouraged us to start a weekly Rex  pop-up from then on, baking to order with the encouragement of the wonderful community and always providing a few extras for sale.  We started this regular blog, a “Friends of Rex Bakery” email list (please join us here) and a Facebook page.  All of this provided us with great insight as to what everyone wanted from Rex, and a way to try lots & lots of new products.  Some of these have become Rex signature products as a result of incredibly useful feedback.  We wouldn’t have got so far in the past year without:

  • Little Chalfont Primary School.  As school parents ourselves, the support of parents & staff across all the classes has been a huge help.  We like to donate gift boxes & freebies for the School fundraising events in Thanks 🙂
  • Sausage roll perfection. Rex sausage rolls were inspired by the Rex Baker’s own mum’s recipe and have always been super-popular with our Friends.  Today we sometimes feel like a sausage roll factory, making literally hundreds of them!  In the early days we did spend an inordinate amount of time getting them just right
  • Pam from Eat Inn.  Right from the beginning Pam kindly supported us popping up outside her old cafe, which was perfect for starting to raise our profile in the village and a handy place for folks to stop & collect their orders.  That was great during the summer & early autumn months.
  • Sourdough rotation.  To accompany regular Rex Sourdough, we began to experiment with, introduce & rotate new specialty sourdoughs ever since Sourdough September.  Now our sourdoughs outsell our tinned breads, and people are travelling from far & wide to buy hand-made delicious sourdough like our Raisin & Rosemary loaf.
  • Rex Bakery orders, Rex bagsMerc Estate car Delivery. Each Saturday the Rex Baker’s wife would load up the ginormous family car boot with trays piled high to deliver some orders to local Friends’ homes followed by setting up the pop-up.  This worked brilliantly on Christmas Eve to deliver piles of festive Stollens, like playing Mrs Santa!
  • Westwood Park Football Club.  The Rex Baker was an U7 coach before 3am Saturday bakes took over, and the support of the footballers & parents from our fantastic local club has been really important.  We regularly popped up in the car park through autumn & winter to deliver orders & sell vast quantities of iced pain au raisin to hungry players!
  • Malt loaf etc experimentation.  It took the Rex Baker 10 versions before he had perfected a hand-made, organic & preservative-free version of a Soreen Malt Loaf.  There was also variation with other base products to get to Eccles Cakes, Lemon Fudge Streusel Bar etc.  It was fantastic to see response to these at the weekly Pop-up!

So the many months’ real experience gained prior to opening  at No. 4 Chenies Parade were very important for laying the foundations to Rex Bakery today.

3. Reality of the shop

It took a while to find precisely the right location & size for shop AND bakery in Little Chalfont.
Rex Bakery, window from shop into bakeryIt then took a while to convince the previous owners to sell to us as rents were exorbitant.
And an age to process a very complex commercial transaction.
Finally it took really forever to fit out the buildings, power, equipment, decor, find staff…..  Again we couldn’t have got there without a tremendous amount of help from everyone who helped us practically & emotionally in that time, you know who you all are 🙂

At last we opened our doors on the last Saturday in March and have been growing our profile ever since, with new Friends coming because they heard about:

  • the new bakery in Little Chalfont and wanted to give us a try
  • delicious hand-made bread from friends, neighbours, colleagues word-of-mouth and wanted to try it for themselves
  • sourdoughs & rye breads & ciabattas – hard to source hand-made locally
  • our Monmouth coffee, probably the oldest artisan coffee house & thought of as “the best artisan coffee in London”

Given the “Available” sign 1st went up on Village Day 2013 at No. 4 Chenies Parade, it took 40 weeks until opening, the same gestation as a baby!!  And what a journey we have been on.

Rex birthday cakeTo mark it (oh, and the Rex Baker’s actual birthday ironically) our lovely friend of Rex Bakery Tara Botwright made this fabulous cake!   If you need celebration cakes for your birthday we strongly recommend her amazing tasting & looking cakes so do get in contact with her here or by calling  Tara on 07568 312165

 

New diet news – How to have your bread & eat it too

New diet news – How to have your bread & eat it too

A lot of lovely customers ask us about gluten-free.  Or avoiding wheat/ eating spelt as an alternative.  Or using low GI flours.  Some even say they have to avoid bread because they’re watching their weight.

“There’s an urban myth that if you want to lose weight, you shouldn’t eat bread”

Source: 2008: Professor Terry Graham, at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada, a human health & nutritional sciences researcher who has now published clinical findings into the effects of different breads on blood sugar & insulin levels.

It’s both no surprise to us & a relief to establish that there IS growing scientific evidence that not all breads are the same – it’s what ingredients the baker uses  AND the way he uses them that determines whether you are eating healthy Bread.

round raisin & rosemaryClinical studies have proven that what’s most beneficial is….. tra la la la….Sourdough. 

“The subjects, who were overweight and ranged between 50 and 60 years of age, showed the most positive body responses after eating sourdough white bread..

“With the sourdough, the subjects’ blood sugar levels were lower for a similar rise in blood insulin,” said Graham

The measurement of the impact of food on your blood sugar is called the Glycemic Index – GI.  This obviously means that Sourdoughs are naturally “Low GI”.  We would never use low GI flours or “sour flavours” which are commercially available, as we don’t like the scary implications of altered flours, but hey presto!  We have the natural GI diet solution for you, in our Sourdoughs.

The clinical findings are so convincing for more serious conditions that the American Diabetes Association positively recommends real bread like Sourdough to help prevent  those with Type II from blood glucose spiking.   Who would have thought just your daily bread could have such a dramatic impact on your body’s gut reaction (literally)?  Clearly not all breads are made equal.

It’s thought that handmade Sourdough really is the healthiest bread because of the verrrr-yyyy lonnn-gggg slow ferment, positively altering the flour’s starches into digestible sugars.  Certainly the time & love & labour that goes into a Sourdough is what makes it our most premium priced bread (though let’s face it, still costing you about the price of a coffee).  Rex Bakery sourdough takes at least 3 days to make,  relies on a homemade sourdough starter originally derived from local  honey and that’s constantly fed & nurtured by the Rex Baker; and the very best organic flour with absolutely no additives.  The Rex Baker has even been known to take his Sourdough starter on holiday with him to nurture it, and goes in to the bakery late at night & on “closed days” to work the Sourdoughs.   No corner-cutting mixes here!   All our loaves take at least a day or 2 but Sourdough takes the very longest to develop.

artisan bread, sourdough, banneton, doughThat’s why it’s thought there’s no more fermenting, bubbling, expanding having to go on in your own tummy, because it all happened naturally in the days beforehand.  The digestive effect of slowly made real Sourdough is so benign that the researchers found it doesn’t even impact your blood sugar.  This world of difference in what bread you eat has been likened to eating a raw hard green tomato versus a vine-ripened & sun-ready tomato.

No wonder factory-fast breads are associated with bloating & weight gain, forcing some people to believe the culprit is any wheat or any bread.

Maybe even more importantly than being the healthiest option….  We like eating Sourdoughs! We plan the signature Rex sourdoughs to just. taste. delicious.!!!  We regularly rotate them but here’s our typical menu:

Daily: “regular” Rex sourdough
Saturday: Oat, Groat & Sesame; Raisin & Rosemary; Poppy & Pumpkin Seed; Pain au Levain
Weekday rotation: 3 Grain Levain, Potato, Walnut; Oat & Apple

We also make Rye, and Spelt breads.    These are the obvious alternatives to Wheat if you know you cannot digest that but could consume gluten – or just love Rye or spelt loaves as so many customers do!
Did anybody try them all yet?  We often have tasters, please ask if you would like to try something new to you.

None of our breads can be Gluten-free for the approximately 1% of the population who are confirmed Coeliacs/ gluten-intolerants because we cannot guarantee no gluten particles in the bakery atmosphere, unfortunately.  So sorry 🙁

Rex sourdough, sourdough breadWe love that Little Chalfont has taken so to Sourdoughs, we normally sell out of these fabulous loaves before the organic Sandwich tin loaves & get incredible feedback from all you Sourdough-heads out there:

Rex Sourdough – This was most excellent
Loved … the Sour Dough
“Hiii guys that potato sourdough was sooo good the best so far for me”

So if you are watching your weight, diabetic, worried about bread-bloating or trying a low GI diet – the good news is that Sourdoughs are clinically proven to be better for you.  Oh, and seriously yummy 🙂

Have a great week!

How to avoid the Great British Fake-off!

How to avoid the Great British Fake-off!

We had our best & biggest week since we opened – Thank You!

Why?

We think:

  1. Many Rex Friends come back regularly, for more.  Hooray!!
  2.  It’s back to work/ school after the Easter holidays, so lots more traffic
  3. Others are spreading the word and every day new people visit thanks to a recommendation
  4. But we also think that the refit of Tesco might have brought in some extra people this week, looking for their lunch!

Rex Artisan bakery, rex bakery, rex sausage rolls, sausage rollsWe love that our shop is near Tesco – let’s face it nearly all of us in Little Chalfont do shop there & that means a lot of footfall in our parade, all the time.  Many newbies to Rex seemed excited with what they found & we hope they become new Friends after their visit.  But without a doubt a few baulked at the prices of say a Rex Croissant or a Sausage Roll compared to their usual supermarket experience, that they were looking for something more Value.

For them, that seems to mean value in price, not value in product.

Rex Artisan Bakery is passionate about the product.  The Rex Baker started the business because he couldn’t find the best in food that he wanted to buy & eat – and envisioned that if he made the very best – the best ingredients, the best methods, for the best taste – then others like him would want to buy it too.   But he didn’t want some kind of exclusive fine dining club – it needed to be what everyone has access to & could afford daily and baking fits the bill perfectly.  Besides, he’s always loved good bread 🙂

Indeed our Sausage Rolls are a great torture test versus anything else on the market.  Ours have a hand-made puff pastry with the highest regarded Shipton Mill organic white flour which of course contains absolutely no corner-cutting our butteradditives.  We purely use the very best French patisserie butter because it has a very low water content which makes the best pastry – and then we work it, by hand & with the greatest care & attention, until it’s ready to roll.  The highest quality & delicious tasting sausagemeat was chosen as the best in the region after an exhaustive selection process.  It forms the basis for our secret recipe including added onion & herbs to recreate a food memory from the Rex Baker’s childhood, inspired by  the sausage rolls the Rex Baker’s own mum used to make.

Compare the care in Rex with the dubious packaged thing you could buy cut-price elsewhere – questionable quality, taste & texture of “sausagemeat” filling in a possibly hydrogenated fat “pastry” – mass-made by machines not a baker.  That feels more designed for profit than to delight the taste buds & the body.  Thinking of the contrast, we maybe don’t charge enough for our Sausage Rolls!!

Yet you will see some huge claims out there, some of which we’ve blogged out before.  Amongst the most misleading is the commonly used “Freshly baked” description.  It sounds so nice, yet this smoke & mirrors approach to pretending it’s real bread has been dubbed the Great British Fake-off.  In reality, a huge consignment of products mass-produced on a factory line somewhere far off & frozen some time ago are shipped in for reheating & “tanning” in an in-store oven.  Or a scary chemical cocktail mix (“just add water”) requiring really no skill or attention is used to balloon into various items to bake & sell as “freshly made in-store”.  And whilst what’s on sale might seem on 1st take to be higher value products because they look & smell just-cooked, these “bake offs” probably have the same questionable approach to pastry & sausagemeat at heart.  That’s not offering the best possible product value so wouldn’t come anywhere near to the Rex Bakery standard.

rex bread displayWe are so confident about our products that we offer lots of tasters as any regular Friends will know! Plus that’s why we have our open layout, so you can see upclose for yourself how good everything is.  The baskets are not for self-service, we want to help you make your selection ourselves – we can tell you about everything & keep it all hygienic that way.  The old adage “If you touch me, please buy me” is definitely true for our displays 🙂

Ultimately our standards are for you, our Friends, to judge.  Only you can decide where to shop & what to buy, and we will just keep applying our hand-made, best quality torture test – that’s a great discipline for us!  We hope our best-product approach is enhancing our local community in many ways  and that because of that we continue to have Friends’  wonderful support for their baked needs– whatever supermarket they also shop at! xx

Half a dozen of the other after nearly one month

Half a dozen of the other after nearly one month

 

On the one hand we are so happy that there’s been super-positives since we opened – here we  blogged about Six of them.  On the other hand, it’s been Half a Dozen of the other for Rex Bakery with some real “challenges”.  Let’s be honest with you and share 6 of those:

1. Hours.  Everyone says that owning your own business is punishing & Always On – but this has been something quite unexpected.  The Rex Baker was working 18-20 hours days that started at 1am to begin with!   Err.. that’s unsustainable.    Figuring out the rhythm of the business and the ebb’s & flow’s (we joke that there’s not a lot of ebb’s…) has taken a while, and then Easter holidays are another factor to try to fathom, but we just got through it all.  Little Chalfont Parade is a

pulled pork sandwiches

Rex sandwiches

surprisingly busy location thanks to through traffic – people driving through to work who stop to pick up a sandwich early in the day; and after school customers – and can be very busy indeed at lunchtimes so we are rapidly scaling up production & staff to meet these various demand peaks.  So whilst we are now open 7-5 Tues-Fri and 8-4 normal Saturdays, we are assessing whether these are the right times & how to adjust as we go.

 

2. Production planning.  This is so difficult to call!  Our model, like traditional bakeries of your & your parents’ youth, is to hand make & produce everything early on the day of sale.    Even though you as good Friends of Rex can freeze pretty much anything you buy from us, we aren’t going to freeze our bread & buns to sell to you on another day. That wouldn’t be offering you something world-class right here in our own local community!!  That means we have had a few instances of selling out of popular lines, especially breads on Saturday already.  We’ve had others times when we’ve had leftovers.  Apart from feeding the perennially hungry Rex Baker’s family & giving away to the staff, we have struck up a great relationship with a local organic duck farmer and have a duck egg exchange going.  That means remarkably well fed ducks in return for wonderful duck eggs!  And at Saturday teatimes we have dropped buns at the nearby Paradigm common room for the OAPs to enjoy.  Apple, Bran & Sultana Muffin , anybody?

 

apple, bran & sultana muffins

apple, bran & sultana muffins

3. IT.    We are all – and we count you as good Friends of Rex Bakery – waiting in anticipation for the professional till to come on-stream.   It is some way away still  but at that point we will have fast calculation & printing of your order for clipping to your bag together with an alert through to the data centre on ingredient usage, sales trends to help with staffing & producing planning and of course the ability to take card payments.  Right now we are causing a queue to the cash machine outside our shop!!  Cash will always be most welcome but we are looking forward to being open for card payments too.   Further, we still don’t have our click & collect website up & running and we know you loyal Friends of Rex must be missing securing your orders – you can blame the Rex Baker’s wife, so sorry 🙁   Her lame excuse?  A very full time “day” job with a lot of travel and not enough hours in the day…. thank goodness that social media & digital properties can be updated pretty much at any time on the fly!!     We are very sorry & please feel free to email us if you need to make sure there is a Saturday order waiting for you meantime.

 

4. Money change.  We must be an unpopular business with our shop neighbours for sure, because to begin with we totally underestimated the usage of notes & how scarce pound coins and other change is.  That meant we were hounding the Post Office & other shops for change all day long – not appreciating that every transaction (like pretty much everything else you care to think of when running a business…) is fully chargeable & subject to exhausting levels of bank scrutiny to ensure this isn’t some money laundering scam.   It required some sweet-talking buns to maintain good relationships!!  And a lot of hassling the bank to speed up their “service” to us.

 5. “Stuff & stock” – we have had to emergency secure so many items we learnt about in the opening days.  Storage of just baked loaves, sandwich prep table, announcement blackboards, suddenly & without warning running out of pain au chocolat logs of chocolate; sugar; coffee beans due to such unexpected demand!!   We are going through our brown paperRex signature paper bag

bags at an insanely fast rate & have yet another urgent replenishment order on the way.   And of course they all need their signature little Rex yellow triangles stapled on…  We needed Spray guns for our smell-free food-safe commercial disinfectants, specific cleaning cloths for different jobs, more serving knives, an industrial mop, to buy our own recycling bin service as the rates/ council secures honestly a big fat nothing for businesses – and the list goes on…

6. Utilities.  Oh yes, still that subject.  We’ve had heat alarms going off in the middle of the night (err, it’s a bakery – no surprises there then), ovens smoking through spillage, sounds travelling, lack of power points…   Above all, the new “double glazing cold callers” have revealed themselves.  What nobody tells you is that when you open a business, expect 40+ calls a day from folks trying to sell you an energy deal. And “No Thank You, I’m sorted” doesn’t seem to wash….

We think everything may take months before it’s really running smoothly.
So please keep with us!  At least the bread, the pastries, the concept & the decor are hitting the spot with so many of you!

We really want to thank all you Loyal friends of Rex Bakery for your ongoing patience & support during these opening weeks – you are FANTASTIC!!! xx

rex bread display

 

 

Now it’s real for Rex Artisan Bakery – and it’s Six of one….

We have just had our 3rd working Saturday & 2 full weeks of Rex Artisan Bakery shop open to the public.  Whoop whoop!

Everybody asks us how it’s going so we thought we should share some of the up’s (& then in another blog, the down’s) of the 1st few weeks.

On the one hand, there’s been lots & lots of Up’s –

1. Rex sausage rollWe are a bakery 1st & foremost 🙂 It’s a huge relief that baking at scale is attracting the same (if not stronger!) lovely feedback on taste, texture & real-ness of the baked items on offer.    That’s where it begins & ends really, we designed our food to be world-class.  Sausage rolls are a good example – always a sell out favourite at the pop up, it’s quite mind boggling how many we are producing & selling within days of opening.  Just today a lovely customer returned after munching his morning buy during a dog walk to say “That’s the best sausage roll I have ever tasted in all my life.  I just had to come back & buy 2 more to let my wife taste one”  (hoping for his sake that the 2nd was saved back at home for him….)

2Business is also pretty critical 🙂  Thank goodness for see the giant & steady footfall into the shop.  Weekdays are bigger than we ever imagined possible and late morning on Saturday is so busy that 5 of us serve you flat out & yet there was still a queue out the door.  So yes, this is more than a viable business proposition, we have exceeded plan already & we only just got started!!

 

Rex coffee cup3. Coffee.  We love the taste of Monmouth coffee which we selected for the shop, and with experienced baristas to serve you who have received further expert barista training, and delicious full-bodied healthy local Guernsey cow milk – we know that what’s on offer is quite simply the best British coffee you can buy locally.  Several lovely Friends of Rex are going out of their way to buy their coffee-to-go from us as a result, and many others are enjoying a sit-down in the cafe.  That said, we have had people walking in to try a taster sample carrying – shock horror – a well known high street burgundy-branded coffee cup from further down the parade!!!  We’re sure those folks will think to convert in good time…  especially if they want to enjoy any more of Rex samples haha.

4. New products.  We have extended our range of Sourdoughs significantly since opening – in particular Oat, Groat & Sesame Sourdough, Hazlenut & Apricot and Pumpkin seed & poppyseed.  All of them sell out fast, it’s fantastic to witness the support for Sourdoughs in Little Chalfont.  These past 2 weeks have also seen the launch of some delicious new sweet delights including, to rave reviews, Luminettes (a croissant dough shaped like a pair of glasses filled with home-made luminettescreme patissiere and pieces of Belgian Callebaut chocolate); Vanilla Shortbread and of course the eponymous Hot Cross buns – with & without added apple!!

5. A community service.  We have had some lovely comments about how much Little Chalfont had been waiting for an artisan bakery, how we are enhancing the parade, making people’s daily lives happier.  And most excitingly, one customer told us that he had now abandoned driving to his previous weekly shop in Chorleywood in favour of walking round the corner to all the shops in the Parade for everything that he needed – he hadn’t been able to do that previously because he had missed the real bread.

6. Decor.  As Loyal Friends of Rex many of you have followed our blog, and so know the thought & time (& argh, money!!)  that went into creating the space in No. 4 Chenies Parade.  It’s so gratifying to hear that many of you love the use of oak & reclaimed wood, the colours, the tiles, the lights, even the funky scaffolding for the shelving!   And that seeing through to the real working bakery & all our ovens & equipment is an added bonus, just as planned 🙂

So the six of one story gives us tremendous confidence, hooray!

But we have to be honest, on the other hand there have been challenges as well – our till system & card payments still aren’t live, working out the rhythm of the village & product demand etc etc.  We’ll tell you about the “half a dozen of the other” very soon when we have solutions!!

Rex artisan bakery frontage, front of shop
Meanwhile, we really want to thank all you Loyal friends of Rex Bakery for your ongoing patience & support – you are FANTASTIC!!!  Please keep with us xx

 

 

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.

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

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

Nowadays, many people believe that they are what they eat

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

artisan bread, rex bakery, rex bread, multiseed crust

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

 

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

 

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

 

How 1 easy step gave power back to the people

How 1 easy step gave power back to the people

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

1 easy step to (affordable) power

Outfitting the bakery is now coming along at apace.

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

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

1)      Power-gate

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

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

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

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

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

2) Inside

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

 

3) Outside

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

 

4) Staff

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

 

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

Have a great week again!

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

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

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

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

The secret of Rex Artisan Bakery product development

The Rex Baker is inspired by food memories.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ingredients check:

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

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

 

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

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

Aren’t we an international bunch in Little Chalfont?

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

 

How to treat your family AND boost their 5-a-day intake in 1 savoury bite

How to treat your family AND boost their 5-a-day intake in 1 savoury bite

Aren’t we asked to fit at least 5 portions of fruit & vegetables into our diets, every single day?  The truth is, it can be quite a battle on occasion in the Rex Baker’s family.  But never fear, there’s a new way to enhance sandwiches without anything visibly “green” that the kids might resist.

 

  • oats apple sourdough, sourdough, organic white sourdough

Towards your family’s 5-a-day intake in 1 savoury bite

It’s actually thrilling when you’ve successfully sneaked extra health into you & your family’s diet, without them knowing & with them actually loving what they are eating!  All Rex sweet products carry at least a little fruit or extra fibre and of course we hand-make everything in Rex Artisan Bakery with the best ingredients we can source, organic where possible and nothing else added, so plenty gained.

But this week we are recommending one of our breads, Oat & Apple Sourdough for your families’ sandwiches & lunches.   Sourdoughs are very special loaves – they take days to make & have many digestive health benefits especially compared to industrial-made loaves.

Oat & Apple is one of our tastiest breads (according to the Rex Baker’s children) with an extremely light & long lasting moist bread-crumb thanks to the inclusion of up to 1/2 a grated Cox’s Orange Pippin* apple (that’s all the clean skin & flesh) into each organic white loaf.  Topped with extra oats, what we think is a beautiful rustic-looking crust 🙂 does bring some extra goodness with it too.

Whilst an apple a day famously keeps the doctor away, the best thing about Oat & Apple Sourdough is that it just seems like a delicious white loaf that doesn’t taste at all apple-y or indeed sour!!   Think of the inclusion of apple as a natural preservative that maintains great loaf moisture and injects extra tangy-fruit health benefits into every bite.

What’s special about Cox’s Orange Pippin in your sandwich?

  • Did you know that these apples were originally developed in Bucks, not Kent?  So are a local icon!
  • Great source of vitamins (especially vitamin C), minerals and antioxidants
  • Good source of extra dietary fibre especially pectin
  • Thought to positively stimulate bacteria in your digestive tract
  • It’s believed that an apple as part of your lunch fills you up faster, so that you are less tempted to overeat later.

Here’s what a couple of friends of Rex Bakery have to say:

“My boys enjoyed the new apple & oat sourdough loaf today”

 “This is sooooooooooo delicious!!!”

If you too would like to inject some extra 5-a-day health into your diet, why not add Oat & Apple Sourdough to your order this week?

* We choose the apple that’s in-season.  This was Cox’s Orange Pippin in February.

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?

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