We think you might like this show about pizza

Rach has been waxing lyrical about the new series of Chef’s Table: Pizza which came to Netflix last month. Take it away Rach!

Over recent years Netflix has done some pretty incredible food documentary shows. Chef’s Table is one of those series and if you haven’t watched any yet, you’re really missing out. Their new series on Pizza offers a great insight into the minds of those dedicated to making the very best pizza with the very best ingredients.

From Rome to Arizona, this series uncovers the stories behind the world’s best pizza chefs. Not only does the show focus on each chef’s rise to fame and recognition in the industry, but it also highlights the struggles with mental health issues, the long hours building a business and the ways in each chef they overcame them.

It’s truly inspiring to see how people so dedicated to their craft spread their messages and vision through their baking. Past series cover a broader range of famous chefs — a particular favourite being Pastry, which highlights some bakers who truly changed the game in their vision and creativity. We love it, and we’re sure you’ll love it too.

Over £250 raised for the B30 Food Bank

We’ve been taking donations online and at the counter for the B30 Food bank and during September and October you gave £257.62 in cash, plus loads of packaged food and toiletries that we didn’t get a chance to quantify.

We get regular thank you emails from the food bank but it’s all due to you, our customers, so, on behalf of the B30 Food Bank, thank you!

Here’s a list of what’s urgently needed.

Migrant Help got their bikes

Last year you raised over £1,000 for Migrant Help who support newly arrived refugees and migrants who’ve been placed in temporary accommodation. “We holistically support the individuals and families, either as they await permanent accommodation or as they settle into their new communities. We help them access the necessary healthcare, language lessons, education, employment opportunities and community support.”

This week we received an update of where some of the money has gone: bikes!

“With your support we were able to get the clients bikes, helmets and locks. Clients were gifted the bikes for their personal use and was also given riding lessons — bike ability level 1, 2 and level 3. As you can see the clients went on a lovely ride and are really happy they were given such a valuable resource.”

Valuable resource is right! These bikes will give them the freedom and autonomy to properly settle into our city.

Left Feet Forward

Left Feet Forward is an exhibition at Artefact about cooperatives. It brings together archival printed material of the cooperative history of South Birmingham, particularly the Ten Acres and Stirchley Cooperative Society, and places it among Chris Neophytou’s photographs of recent grass-roots cooperatives that have developed in the area, Gugan Gill’s film exploring this history and legacy, and a play by Susan Finlay taking a wry look at cooperative organisation and politics.

There will also be a number of events discussing the role of cooperatives and a chance for local residents to explore their local history.

We had our group photo taken for this last week (in the rain!) and are very excited to see how it comes together. The launch is this Friday at 7:30pm — see you there!

Rea Valley bees on tour

Most of the bees looked after by Rea Valley Apiary live, as the name implies, along the River Rea, which includes Stirchley so if you have a garden there’s a good chance there’s nectar from there in one of those jars. This produces a their polyfloral Local Honey — a mix of whatever flowers are in bloom when the bees are active — and its flavour is a reflection of our area.

But there are areas where one particular flower will dominate, and beekeepers will often take a colony to forage and produce a monofloral honey with a distinctive colour and flavour. Rea Valley took some of their bees out of the city for a change of scene and we’ve taken delivery of two of the subsequent monoflorals. Borage Honey from borage fields in Stratford and Heather Honey from moors in the Peak District. Enjoy!

Introducing Quinton Meadows honey

We’re always looking to stock new local spreads and condiments so we were delighted when a new honey supplier got in touch. Quinton Meadows Honey is run by George and Sue Jackson whose hives are based in Quinton, on the edge of Birmingham. Their bees collect nectar from the Quinton Meadows Nature Reserve, Woodgate Valley Park, the local allotments and urban gardens — all of which provides a mix of rural and urban blossom.

George likes to think of their honey as ‘one year in a jar’, as the honey is harvested just once in August, creating a unique amalgam of all the flora in the area.

Sue gave us a sample jar to try and we loved it, so we’re delighted to add it to the shelves.


George with his hives

Heritage grains in the mix

For the last month we’ve been trialling a heritage flour in all our brown loaves — that’s the wholemeal sourdough, the multigrain tins and the Stirchley loaf. The grain comes from Mill Farm, which you’ll remember we visited last year, and is stoneground by our regular supplier Matthews, keeping the chain short and simple.

Our normal wholemeal flour is blended from a variety of farms and while it’s always great quality, it does mean it’s impossible to trace to an origin. This has become important to us as we’ve become interested in sustainable farming practices that work with soil ecosystems to produce quality food without draining the land of nutrients.

Jonathan, the owner of Mill Farm, has seen first hand the effects of extractive farming, and has radically transformed his approach. We’re keen to support this while maintaining the quality of bread you expect from Loaf, and we’re delighted to say it’s working.

The new flour has a slightly stronger branny taste, but to our delight it doesn’t behave that differently in the bakery. This means we haven’t had to change our processes while the quality is also the same, if not slightly better.

We’re not selling it by the kilo yet as we want to ensure we can maintain a supply, but our long-term goal is to have a range of sustainably grown heritage grains and flours available in the shop.

Ian’s Bakergram

Before he started at Loaf, Ian was documenting his baking on his Instagram feed and learning from the bakers there. Here’s his top seven recommended follows should you be looking for inspiration.

@maurizio

The man who got me into sourdough baking. Maurizio made the leap from a software engineer to a professional home baker. His website/blog is packed with recipes, guides, tips and tricks. A few of my favourite articles:

@danthebaker

Top quality baker from Columbus, Ohio. His relaxed, long-form shaping videos are a pleasure to watch, and the clips of his incredibly active sourdough starter are wild.

@darciebakes

Baker and pastry chef in Edinburgh based at The Palmerston restaurant. Everything she produces looks like a delicious work of art. I like those yum yums.

@matthewjamesduffy

A chef and baking professor from Toronto, Canada. Bread, pizza, focaccia, panettone — he is all over it. I’m a big fan of this 50% whole wheat sourdough recipe .

@the.pizza.pilot

An airline pilot that started slinging pizzas during the pandemic. Based in Newbury, the Neapolitan-style pizzas he cooks up in this Gozney pizza oven look unreal.

@eds_bred

British-born couple running a vegan bakery in Whistler, Canada. Forever making me jealous of the skiing/baking lifestyle. Love his shaping videos and their passion to source ingredients locally.

@baker_benjy

Professional baker at MOR Bakery in Chipping Campden. Lots of insight into his shifts at the bakery and pictures of beautiful pastry lamination. He also finds time to bake for his neighbours, which is awesome.

Do you have a favourite baker online? Let us know!

Grain in small batches

If someone mentions growing wheat, you probably think of wide expanses of fields and combine harvesters. But wheat and other cereals can be grown on a much smaller scale in a surprisingly wide range of places. The Sheffield Wheat Experiment is an intriguing project that exploits this, with hundreds of people growing relatively small amounts of wheat in their gardens, allotments or even pots. You could think of it as a distributed urban farm, using surplus land and manageable amounts of people’s time to connect them with the source of their food.

This ticks all of Loaf’s boxes and we’re going to keep a close eye on their progress with the aim of doing something similar here one day. A Stirchley Loaf made from Stirchley grain is an idea too delicious to ignore.

The Sheffield project is still quite large scale, involving many people to produce a significant amount of grain. What if you just want to grow for your own use?

Some of you with allotments may know of Charles Dowding who has become the guru of the no-dig method of growing food. Over the last year he grew 31 clumps of rye on his smallholding and in this video he takes us through the steps to turn the rye into flour for his bread. This is perfectly doable on an allotment or back garden.

Finally, here’s a photo Pete took while on a walk exploring Coventry’s ring road of some barley growing by the busy traffic. It really can grow anywhere — though you might not want to mill these grains!

Dough art of Santina Amato

Since hosting Bio Arts Birmingham this summer we’ve been coming across more artists who work with the living materials we make bread from. This week Rachel brought Santina Amato to everyone’s attention and we had to share her amazing work.

Her dough-based work begins with a durational performance where she filmed herself kneading her own weight in dough, culminating in her lying exhausted holding the dough as it rises and envelopes her. Click through for the videos.

This then led to her ongoing series, Portraits Of Women With Their Weight In Dough, where she works with women to make the dough which they then pose with over two hours. The resulting images are both absurd and profound, and the duration of time really emphasises how alive their globulous companion is.

If you come across any artists doing interesting work with dough, please let us know!

New Loaf merchandise

At our birthday party on Sunday we unveiled the start of our new merchandise line. Having long been envious of Eat Vietnam’s stylish garbs over the road we decided we wanted in on this game.

Building on Kerry’s impeccable branding with Molly’s gorgeous illustrations, our first t-shirt is a pastries special, featuring the core range of croissant, pain-au-chocolate and pain-au-raisin. Printed in white on a black organic cotton tee, on the back of course so it’s not obscured by your apron. Available in small, medium, large and x-large for £15.

Alongside this we’re introducing a larger, sturdier tote bag, for those who like to buy their bread in bulk. The first batch is a bold fluorescent red on a metal-grey bag and they sell for £12.

They’re available in store from Wednesday. Big thanks to Brid at Do Make Say Ink for getting them printed in record time.

Thanks for coming to our birthday party!

We had a lovely time on Sunday at Attic so a big thanks to those of you who were able to make it. It was great to catch up with friends old and new, plotting the future while looking back at an eventful decade on Stirchley high street.

Big thanks go to Attic for hosting, Anis’s for the delicious samosas and pakoras, Holodeck for printing the cards shown above (let us know at the shop if you’d like one), and all of you for getting us to this point. Here’s to many more decades!

In putting together a slideshow of photos and scanned documents from the filing cabinet we were amazed at what’s in there and want to spend more time properly archiving it ready for our move to the new building in 2024. If you’re a local historian-type and are interested in helping, get in touch.

Ten years on the high street

On September 8th 2012, Tom Baker realised his dream of opening a community bakery on Stirchley High Street. Three years after starting Loaf in his kitchen, and with investment from customers who received their interest in bread, the doors of 1421 Pershore Road were opened to the public.

We’re marking this with a few special things over the month, starting with…

Free birthday cake!

Molly is making a special birthday cake that will be given away to the first 30 customers through the door on Thursday 8th.

Treasure hunt!

Rachel’s been hiding bread vouchers around Stirchley and releasing clues on our Instagram Stories. The hunt ends on Sunday and vouchers can be redeemed for a delicious loaf.

New totes and tees!

Molly’s been hard at work on new designs and the first batch will be on sale very soon. Look out for them at the…

Party!

We’re taking over the rear of Attic Brew this Sunday afternoon for a big shindig. Founders Tom and Jane Baker will be there along with other Loaf alumni, and you’re all welcome!

The fun starts at 3pm with kids welcome until 6pm. We’ll then carry on until closing. Attic is on Mary Vale Road by the canal bridge on the Stirchley side.

We’re putting together a slideshow of photos from the last decade and would love to include any you might have of bread and buns you bought, a course you went on, a pop-up takeaway — anything that brings a smile!

Come to our birthday party!

September marks 10 years since Loaf opened on Stirchley High Street and we’re having a big party to mark the occasion. If you’ve played a part in making Loaf what it is today, whether that’s as a customer, supplier, original investor or supportive friend, we’d love to see you.

On Sunday 11th September we’re taking over the rear of Attic Brew Co on Mary Vale Road, near the railway station bridge, from 3pm until closing. Kids are welcome until 6pm.

We will be putting together a slideshow of photos and memories from the last decade, along with our plans for the decades to come. If you have any nice pics, we’d love to share them. Please upload them here or send by email.

Hope to see you all there!