Local produce made locally by local people

Over the last couple of years we’ve been increasing the range and availability of locally produced foodstuffs that go well with a nice slice of bread. We’re proud to say this is now a significant part of Loaf’s business, and one we want to grow further once we move into the new building.

Supporting local producers is obviously a good thing, but it also ties into Loaf’s belief that we should know the origin of the food we eat. When Jacky delivers her jams we can ask her about them; we hear how the bees are getting on and how the weather is affecting the honey; we talk to Pip about how she’s developing her new sauces. And of course we only sell things we would use ourselves, so you know they’re of high quality.

The following are four core ranges which we think would make great gifts. Please consider buying local this year!

Six pots of honey

We stock honey from three local apiaries. Arden Forest is south of Redditch, Quinton Meadow is from the south-west edge of Birmingham, while Rea Valley is from hives along, well, it’s in the name, and you can’t get more local than that.

A row of Pip's hot sauce bottles.

Pip of Pip’s Hot Sauces continues to expand her range. The new Brewed collaboration with Attic is proving very popular and there’s not one of these bottles that doesn’t have its fans.

Six packs of Marshalls chocolate

One of the newest additions to our shop, Marshall & Co‘s chocolate is made in Bournville, but not by a multinational corporation. Unlike most chocolate producers, they work with the actual cocoa bean and take care to preserve all the flavour. And look out for their delicious chocolate tea, made with the “waste” bean husks.

And then of course there’s Jacky and her various jams and preserves. These have flown off the shelves all year and it’s been a real Loaf success story. We will be getting restocks right up to Christmas.

Jacky uses locally grown and foraged ingredients that are in season and cooks everything up in her Redditch kitchen. While there are some standards, we never know exactly what she’s going to deliver. What follows is a snapshot of what’s on the shelves this week.

Jacky's Jams - eight jars of varieties of jam
Jacky's Jams - eight jars of varieties of marmalade
Jacky's Jams - eight jars of varieties of chutney


Aprons, totes and tea towels, oh my!

We had our delivery from our screenprinters Do Make Say Ink of some lovely items designed by Molly. The headline is we finally, after talking about it for years, have a Loaf apron! Made from organic cotton with a pocket, they are the same quality we use in the bakery. £20 each.

A blue tote bag with the Loaf logo

We’ve also had delivery of the next batch of totes. Long-time customers will know we like to change up the colours so each run is effectively a limited edition. The large tote is a delightful coral on sky blue. £14 each.

A green tote bag with the Loaf logo

We’re also bringing back the small tote, by popular demand, in striking purple on dark green. £8 each.

A bread bag with the Loaf logo

Also, the bread bags are back in stock. These drawstring stuff bags can hold anything but we recommend using them to collect your bread and keep it fresh. £10 each.

A tea towel

Finally don’t forget our tea towels, featuring the same design as our t-shirts, all on display in the shop!

A new vegan cookie appears

We are slowly increasing our range of vegan sweets and cakes, and this month are pleased to announce the arrival of a new contender. Please welcome the peanut butter dark chocolate cookie!

At Loaf we believe vegan cakes shouldn’t be a lesser choice. We work hard to ensure they’re as good, if not better, than those made with dairy. Our goal is to have a vegan option on the sweets board each day so make sure you ask next time you’re in.

Baking surgery at Stirchley Market

Way back in 2010, before we had a shop on the high street, Loaf was a founding smallholder at Stirchley Community Market. The market had a pandemic hiatus but is returning on Saturday 3rd December from 10am-3pm, and we’ll be there!

We’ll have a selection of baked goods for sale and Neil, one of our baking tutors, will be on hand to answer any questions you have about your home bread-making. Whether you’ve done a class with us or not, we’ll be happy to help for no charge — though we will be taking donations for the food bank, hint hint!

As promoters of real bread we’re always happy to give help and advice, but a busy shop is not always the best place. So come along to our first ‘bread surgery’ where there’ll be plenty of time to get some tips.

If you’re not familiar with Stirchley Market, it’s a non-profit project completely run by volunteers and is one of the seeds of Stirchley’s current blossoming, with many independents finding their feet there. We’re delighted to see it back and hope you’ll go check it out.

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.

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…


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!

An affordable loaf for Stirchley

It will come as no surprise that we’re having to increase the price of our bread from this week. While most of the cost of a loaf of bread is our labour, other costs have increased significantly recently to the point where we need to pass some of them on.

Here are our new prices.

White Sourdough – Large£3.50£3.75
White Sourdough – Small£2.20£2.50
Wholemeal Sourdough£3.50£4.00
Spelt Sourdough£3.50£4.00
Sourdough Tin£3.50£3.75
Sourdough Special£2.50£3.00
Rye – Large£3.50£3.75
Rye – Small£2.20£2.50
Rye Specialno change£3.00
White Tin£2.20£2.50
Multigrain Tin – Large£2.20£2.50
Multigrain Tin – Small£1.10£1.20
Stirchley Loaf – Largeno change£2.00
Stirchley Loaf – Smallno change£1.00
Honey Oat£2.00£2.50
Sourdough Focaccia£2.00£2.50
Baguetteno change£2.00
Sourdough Baguette£2.00£2.50
Fruit Loafno change£3.50
Bloomerno change£2.20
Ciabattano change£2.00

Naturally we thought a lot about what to increase and by how much. What follows is a glimpse into that process.

One of the key issues in the world of Real Bread is how to keep it affordable. We believe that good bread is worth paying a fair price for and that factory bread is only cheap because the true costs are hidden. But it is also vitally important that real bread is within reach of as many people as possible.

Last month Molly and Rach went to London for the Real Bread For All conference, looking at how small, local bakeries like Loaf can make Real Bread affordable and accessible for people on lower incomes. On the other hand bakeries have be economically sustainable and ensure that neither people or their products are undervalued.

There were no easy answers but they came back buzzing with ideas, one of which we’re planning to roll out over the next few months. And it was a good reminder that we’re already doing something to keep bread affordable…

Our Stirchley Loaf is an unassuming loaf of bread but it’s very important to us. It’s a simple, yeasted loaf made with a blend of white, wholemeal and rye flour with grated potato added for softness. Because there’s no tin involved we can mix, shape and bake it with the minimum of work and keep the cost down as much as possible. It’s not a lesser bread, but it is much more accessible.

We made the decision a while back that we will always charge £1 for a small and £2 for a large Stirchley, and that the ingredients will not change in quantity or quality. No shrinkflation here. As costs increase the Stirchley will be subsidised to keep it at this price as long as possible.

Meanwhile the majority of our other breads are going up. Some price variations are based on ingredients and there are a couple of overdue corrections, but it’s fairly equitable across the board. This mostly reflects our electricity bill which is more than doubling this year, and given that’s what powers the oven there’s not much we can do about it! (Other than continue to fight for systemic global socioeconomic change, of course.)

Thank you for continuing to buy our bread and keep us trading. As our prices are forced to increase we will continue to work to make Real Bread as affordable and accessible as we can, with your support.

Say hello to Ian, our new trainee baker

Ian became a permanent member of the Loaf team last month so we asked him to write a bit about his experience.

For the last nine-and-a-half years, I’ve been working as a software engineer in the visual effects industry. This journey has taken me from London to Vancouver and now to a remote working arrangement in Birmingham. While in Canada, I started baking bread at home as a creative pursuit to improve my mental health.

Three months ago (with lots of encouragement from my partner), I approached Loaf to see if they would be interested in taking me on as a trainee, part-time. Since then, I have been fortunate enough to train with their experienced team of bakers – getting to grips with bakery schedules and larger-scale baking processes and techniques.

The bake shifts remind me of a long day on the ski slopes – fun, exhausting and the first après beer is pure bliss. There was a chance this journey could take the joy out of baking, but it has been just the opposite. I’m excited to bake for a wider audience and hope to continue to spread the love for real bread.

It’s also been a real breath of fresh air to be part of the Loaf co-operative. Having an equal voice in the bakery and company decisions, self-responsibility, and a focus on serving the local community is what gets me out of bed for those 5am starts!

When I’m not baking, I love to run, play board games, build LEGO and discover local craft beer.

My favourite loaf is a tie between the seeded spelt sourdough and the white tin.

You can look back on Ian’s baking journey and follow his progress at @ianbakesbread.

In praise of the Sourdough Tin

For the last few months we’ve been making tinned sourdough loaves on Saturdays. People are often surprised that they’re sourdoughs as we’ve gotten used to a certain look for the sourdough loaf – round with an arching crest bursting from a blistering crust. These tins look kinda basic by comparison, like you might find in a supermarket.

So what’s good about them? Well, they fit better in the toaster! Not to mention there’s something deeply satisfying about a square sandwich.

It’s also an important part of the Real Bread Campaign to make it clear that “real bread” can look ‘normal’, and that’s OK. We naturally get excited by the aesthetic opportunities available to the artisan baker, the ability to produce something unique that delights the eye as much as the taste buds. But there’s an honest beauty to be found in the tinned loaf: the simple shapes and smooth crust; the form following function. We should embrace and celebrate it.

Our version of the sourdough tin has hidden depths, mixing two very different grains to produce a pretty unique loaf. This is a white wheat loaf made with a rye sourdough starter which gives it some special advantages.

Firstly, we are able to proof the dough at an ambient temperature, meaning it doesn’t take up precious space in the fridges.

Secondly, the rye slows down the ferment while also giving the dough a boost, helping it rise in the tin and producing a lovely smooth, domed crust.

Finally, the whole process fits neatly within our existing baking schedule meaning we can make more bread for you!

And of course all these elements, from the mix of grain to the method of fermentation, produce a texture and taste unique to this loaf.

The sourdough tin is available to pre-order. We’re very proud of this loaf and hope you’ll give it a go!

New trainee bakers

If you peer through the shop into the bakery, you might notice a couple of new faces making your bread. Ben and Ian have joined us this year as part-time bakers and we’re in the process of training them in the Loaf way,

The cyclists among you will know Ben from the Birmingham Bike Foundry, our sibling worker co-op at the other end of Stirchley high street. Loaf and the BBF have quite seasonal trading patterns – we’re busy though the winter, especially Christmas, while their season is very much spring into summer.

Last summer, when we were quiet, Phil from Loaf did some shifts with them to help with their busy period, and to learn more about bike maintenance in the process. Ben is a keen baker in his spare time so he’s come the other way for a couple of shifts a week to learn new things and help us out.

Ian is also a keen amateur baker and came to our attention initially through his Instagram where he scientifically notes the specifics of his bakes, which always look amazing. He works as a visual effects programmer for the movies and was looking for a more practical creative outlet away from the screen, so is joining us part-time to see how baking on a larger scale suits him.

Loaf pre-orders and delivery for the Coronavirus era

In these unprecedented times, Loaf is having to reassess how we operate – just like everyone else. At the beginning of March we made the decision to shut down our cookery school, postponing all classes until we are on the other side of this, which could be anything up to a year. This is an important part of our business and to some extent it subsidises the bakery. Baking like we do is labour intensive and, compared to mass-produced bread, margins are low.

It goes without saying that keeping our team in work (we employ nine people) now and beyond COVID-19 is a major priority so we have had to do some number crunching of different scenarios to find the best options. We are also considering the safety of staff and their families, the safety of our customers and our duty to society as a whole. There is a lot to weigh up.

On the one hand we are very proud of the bread we provide and think a high quality staple food should remain available in a time like this. On the other hand, we attract queues of people and despite doing our best to encourage social distancing and putting in place all sorts of new measures in how we serve you, we have been feeling uncomfortable about the number of people stretching down the high street over the last weeks.

This is the plan we have come up with after much discussion of all the competing priorities.

We are encouraging you to place orders in advance so they can be delivered to your house or collected quickly from our door.

This is our new online shop.

We will be open Thursday 12-3pm, Friday 12-3pm and Saturday, 8.15-11am for collections and purchases. We’re doing bread, buns, brownies and blondies. No lunches at the moment.

Deliveries will also take place on Thursdays from 12-6pm , Fridays 12-6pm and Saturday morning, so please check the correct delivery day on your order.

We are delivering on foot/by bike so the area we can reach is limited. Please check this map to see if you are in our delivery area.

We are aiming to move towards collection and delivery only but for this week we will have a very limited amount of bread on sale in the shop.

If you have a regular order with us, please place it each week. We really value all our wonderful regular customers but we need your help to get this new system going to please don’t be offended that we are asking you to start afresh.

We won’t be selling flour for the moment – we need to ensure we have a solid supply – but when we can we will make it available. This is the perfect time for you to bake bread after all!

We have had many kind offers of help but feel that we can’t accept volunteers at this time, but if we can arrange to drop a couple of orders with you to distribute to your neighbours, we’ll try and make that work. If you live further afield, please arrange a collection instead.

We will be continually assessing what we do and making changes as necessary. We ask you to bear with us if we make mistakes, no doubt we will, this is all a bit rushed.

We have yet to find a way to offer bread to the most vulnerable in our community, so if you know a way we can safely do this, please point us in the right direction. Similarly, if you are a health worker and can see a way we might be able to help you out, please be in touch.

New face in the bakery (UCB Placement)

If you’ve been in to Loaf over the last few weeks you might have seen or met Kajol, who has been doing a work experience placement with us. Kajol is studing at UCB College of Food – which is where Loaf alumni, Anna Claringbull, studied before joining Loaf – Anna now works at Lune Croissanterie in Melbourne.

Kajol got stuck in with all aspects of the baking assisting mostly Neil – from shaping sourdough, refreshing the starter through to learning how to make croissants. It was really lovely having Kajol in the bakery with us – the experience taught us a lot too. Best of luck with what you do next Kajol!

New for 2018

We are trialling vegetarian sausage rolls all this week in the shop. The recipe is thanks to Loaf alumni Andy Butler. Andy left Loaf to set up his own business Bread and Butler in Limehouse, London. Go and check it out if you’re in London!

We also have daily fresh croissants.

Photo by Jack Spicer Adams.