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!

BAB Lab 2022 – bio art at Loaf

Laurie Ramsell is an artist who works with biological material. Until recently he was a Stirchley resident and became a good friend of Loaf. So when he approached us to be part of his new project we were intrigued and quickly agreed.

BAB Lab 2022 is a series of bio art workshops and talks taking place in Birmingham this August. They will focus on living materials: yeast, flora, clay, fungi, and the human body. The yeast workshop takes place at Loaf and will be our the first time teaching breadmaking as an artistic pursuit!

Laurie is also bringing in practitioners to talk about creative brewing and, most excitingly, using yeast to develop photographic images by selectively exposing them to UV light. You can see some examples of ‘yeastograms’ here.

We’ll have more to share about this nearer the time, but it’s dead exciting. Maybe we’ll be adding yeast art to our courses on offer in the future!

More about BAB Lab.

Taking bread to Baskerville

Baskerville School in Harborne is a day and residential secondary school for students on the autism spectrum. It’s a great school with wonderful staff working with some amazing kids.

They got in touch with us earlier in the year about taking a student on work experience for a week or so. One of their goals is preparing their students for life after school, so getting experience of the wild and weird world of work is key.

Unfortunately we haven’t been able to take placements due to the pandemic. We plan to start again soon, but in the meanwhile were keen to get involved in whatever way we could.

We’ve been thinking a lot about how to make our cookery school more accessible, bringing our knowledge to more than just those who can afford it. We’ve also been thinking about how we can share what we know about the business of bread, from sourcing the grain to running a bakery. We’re always happy to pass on advice ad hoc but something more sustainable and long-term is the goal.

Since we opened we’ve had groups from Stirchley Primary School visit the bakery to make a big mess with dough – sorry, to learn how bread is made – and we’re looking forward to starting that again next year. We’re now thinking that this piece of “community engagement” could become part of our actual business, working with teachers to bring our classes into schools on a professional basis. We know we can do it – we just need a toe in the door.

So while we couldn’t take placements from Baskerville, we could bring the bakery to them for a morning. So last Thursday Martha took a sack of flour to Baskerville’s kitchen classroom for a four-hour workshop.

Martha started the session by talking about how bread is made from flour, yeast, salt, water and time. She also discussed how we manage making hundreds of loaves in a bakery by working as a team, from mixing the dough to selling to the customers.

They then had a go at mixing their own dough, savoury and sweet. A pizza was made from scratch along with bread rolls and cinnamon buns. One of the students was determined to master baguettes with amazing results.

And then, of course, they ate everything as a group – the best part of any cookery class!

Next Thursday the group will be visiting us for an hour to see what a busy bakery is like and what other jobs go on behind the scenes. And who knows, maybe one day you’ll be eating bread made by Baskerville alumni.

This is certainly something we intend to do again, both at Baskerville and at other schools in Birmingham. If you’re a teacher interested in Loaf visiting you, or know how we can best contact schools, please do get in touch.

While we got a warm glow and the sense of a job well done, this was incredibly valuable for the students. There’s only so much the Baskerville staff can do in the school environment. Short work placements, often for a week or so, help students develop an understanding of their potential place in a world that doesn’t always make sense to them.

Taking an autistic student placement can be a bit daunting for a business, especially if you have no experience with the neurodiverse, but Baskerville is a very supportive school and they’ll be with you all the way. And trust us, these are great kids.

Julie Heidarinia is the works skills coach at Baskerville who looks after placements and you can contact her here.

Return of the Cookery School

It feels really good to be bringing back our classes. Loaf started as a cookery school with a bakery attached. So shutting down that part of the business really felt like losing our soul. 

But it had to be done. Beyond the basic issues of running anything in the pandemic, our classes are a social occasion. You learn to make the food together and sit around a table to enjoy it together. The learning comes as much from the informal conversations as the course notes. We could have delivered the content distanced in masks or remotely but it would have been a pale shadow. So no half measures. Put it in hibernation ‘til it’s safe to do it properly again. 

Of course we are still in a global pandemic. It is a confusing time in the UK. It seems like half the country has returned to normality while the other half is still terrified of touching door handles. In the absence of coherent government guidance we’re playing it safe and sticking with our lockdown procedures for the rest of the year. But we’ve also had time to think clearly about our building and how safe it is. 

As a commercial kitchen environment we are blessed with industrial-level ventilation. The oven sits in the centre of the building with a large extractor which pulls air through all the rooms and out the roof. Similarly the cookery school has three big extractors over the hobs. We’re confident that the air is exchanged frequently even with the doors closed. 

Similarly, while surface transmission is not as big a danger as originally thought, the nature of our business means we clean and sterilise everything we use as we go.

Combined with vaccinations and people wearing masks responsibly, we feel our cookery school is certainly safer than most places, both for us and for you. 

Of course many will disagree, and that’s fine. It’s a confusing time. No one is right. But this is what we’ve decided to do. 

What’s new?

We’ve gone through all the courses this summer and made some changes. Most are small improvements and iterations, but three are worth noting here. 

Firstly, we’re sorry to say Steve Rossiter will no longer be teaching. He needs to focus on bringing his butchery business out of the pandemic and doesn’t have the time or capacity. As such our Pork Butchery and Charcuterie class is now Sausage and Charcuterie as Lap-fai Lee extends his half into an all-day sausage-making masterclass. If you enjoyed our German sausage takeaway last December, you’ll know how good he is. And now you can be too! 

Secondly, the Japan course now just focuses on Sushi and has been renamed accordingly. Rather than survey a whole country in one evening, you’ll now master a range of sushi culminating in a delicious meal. 

Finally, Heritage Grains was a brand new class that we barely had a chance to run before the pandemic. Over the last year we’ve learned a lot more and are on the cusp of working directly with small wheat farmers and mills. We want this course to reflect that so we’re taking a few months to refine it. 

Gift vouchers

All vouchers that expired during the pandemic have been extended until the end of 2022. If you can’t find your voucher code, or don’t think you received one for a cancelled class, or if the website won’t accept it, please email us and we’ll make things right. 

A new waiting list system

Our classes can get very popular and sell out quickly, which is a nice problem to have. We are working on long-term plans to increase capacity without reducing quality, but in the meanwhile we’ve overhauled our waiting list system.

If a course is sold out or you can’t make the dates, please fill out this form. We’ll then email you when we have new dates or if there are cancellations.

This is not a marketing list. We will keep your details for up to six months and then delete them.  

Cookery school re-opening plan

Closing down our cookery school last April was like amputating half of Loaf, and not just financially. Teaching bread making and cookery skills is a fundamental part of what we do here so to lose that was a really big deal.

Because of its importance we’ve been reluctant to bring it back piecemeal. We’re proud of how we run the school and realised that teaching in a Covid-safe way would not allow us to reach the standards we demand of ourselves.

Now, with vaccination levels increasing and restrictions lifted we’re ready to plan for re-opening.

Here are the headlines.

The full cookery school, with all classes, will be running from January 2022.

These classes will be on sale from late October 2021.

All vouchers that expired, or were purchased, during the pandemic will be extended and remain valid through to 2023.

To prepare for the re-opening we will be running a number of smaller-capacity bread classes in the autumn. These will be initially offered directly to those who have graciously and patiently held on to their tickets from last spring, and then opened up to others should there be spaces. We won’t be taking reservations – please watch the weekly newsletter for announcements.

You probably have questions as to why we’re doing it this way. Maybe we can answer them here…

Why not fully re-open sooner?

Having shut down the school so completely it’s going to take a while to get things back online, from deep-cleaning to equipment maintenance. We also need to transition our brains from bakery mode back into teaching mode.

While we want to think positively, we are still in a pandemic. The situation could change and we could find ourselves in another lockdown this autumn. If so, we don’t want to invest time and effort only to cancel everything.

Until the school is running smoothly again our only income is the bakery. As government furlough support is phased out we need to maintain our cashflow, which slows down other activities.

Why January?

The run-up to Christmas is an important season in the bakery and we usually reduce classes to concentrate on the shop. After a tough year it’s more important that ever we focus on this period.

Why only bread courses this autumn?

The bread courses are taught by Loaf staff. Not having to hire external tutors means we can avoid a significant loss when running them safely in smaller groups.

Will you be offering any new classes?

Our current plan is to offer the same classes as pre-pandemic, as listed on the website, though we will be refreshing them from top to bottom. So if you bought a voucher expecting a specific class, you should be able to do it by next spring. We do have big plans for the cookery school in 2023 so watch this space!

2022 is a bit too long a wait. Can I get a refund on my voucher?

Of course. Please email us your details and we’ll sort it out right away.

Massive caveat!

A lot can happen in the next six months. We are being cautiously optimistic but if we need to change any of the above, we’ll communicate it via the newsletter and on this website.

Cookery School Dates

All our course until the end of the year are on our website using the handy Cookery School button.

We will be adding more dates for the new year next month….just in time for Shhhhhh Christmas presents. Speaking of which we also do Gift Vouchers for such an occasion!

Bread Courses

Our flagship Back to Basics class with Martha and Gordon is running fortnightly and Simply Sourdough, reworked from scratch by sourdough experts Rachel and Phil, gets regular from November.

But it’s not all loaves. Neil’s Viennoiserie class and Lap’s Macarons satisfy the sweet tooth while Phil will get you making fresh pasta by hand.

East Asian Cookery

Long-time Loaf collaborator Lap-Fai Lee demystifies Asian cuisine with delicious recipes you can do at home. These evening classes are enlightening, fun and delicious!

Indian Cuisine

Haseen from Pop up Dosa runs two evening classes at Loaf showing you how to make delicious Thaali and Dosa, and then eating it!

Masterclasses

Our Masterclasses bring you back in touch with your food understanding where it comes from and how to prepare it. Seafood with Lap-Fai Lee will take the fear out of fishmongers, while Butchery, in collaboration with Rossiters of Bournville, will work through almost every part of the a pig.

Peels are back in stock again!

A peel is a wooden board with a handle used to quickly and safely take bread out of the oven. It’s effectively a large spatula, as demonstrated by Neil in this video:

Our new supplier of peels is Dale Hipkiss, a local artist and woodworker, who hand-makes them in his studio in Stirchley. You may know Dale from Artefact, where he works, and as part of the duo Hipkiss and Graney

The peels have been tested and approved by our bakers and are now on sale for £18 each. If you’re struggling to get your sourdough off the stone, come in and buy one!

August in the Cookery School

Hello,

We’re well into the summer holidays now and August is just around the corner. August is always a time when Loaf slows down in the bakery, we have less courses and we take some time to reflect on how the year is going.

You may have seen our last post; we’re taking a week off at the end of August. We will be closed Tuesday 28th August until Friday 31st Aug, opening up as normal on Saturday 1st September and for the Thaali course on Tuesday 28th August.  We’re hoping to spend the time having a bit of a rest and all being well, giving the place a lick of paint – do you have any local recommendations for painters and decorators?

We have a handful of courses taking place and all of the following have availability – it would be wonderful if you’d like to join us on the and learn skills for life.

We’ll be making Som Tam Thai (spicy papaya salad), Nam Pla Ra (fermented fish relish with fresh vegetables), Pla Tort (deep fried grouper with Nam Jim sauce), Massaman beef curry and Yum Makeua Yao (smoky aubergine salad with egg).

Learn the art of dough lamination and creating classic sweet treats such as brioche, chelsea buns, cinnamon buns, and hot cross buns. You’ll also be turning your laminated dough into four classic viennoiserie – croissants, pain au chocolat, pain aux raisin, and danish pastries.

Learn how to make alkali noodles from scratch and use them in two classic Asian noodle dishes; Chinese dandanmian and Japanese ramen. Dandanmian is a Sichuanese street-food staple, quick and easy to prepare. Tonkotsu ramen is the slow simmered pork bone broth originating in the south of Japan and is now beloved globally. We’ll make all the usual accompaniments, the braised pork belly, marinated egg and black garlic oil.

Thaali is a meal made up of a selection of vegetarian dishes served on a platter. In Kerala it is known as Sadhya (banquet), traditionally served on a banana leaf, often in large quantities; for weddings and other special festivals and celebrations. Typical dishes include rice, daal, saambar, vegetable stir fries, papad, curd (yoghurt), and chutney or pickle.

The photo is Lap teaching on our Bao course, photo by Jack Spicer Adams.

Photos from Chinese Bao & Dumplings course

Last month we had our brilliant photographer Jack Spicer Adams in on our Chinese Bao & Dumpling course by Lap-fai Lee.

Here are some of the photos – mouthwatering!

The next class is on Weds 5th September and there’s only a couple of places left so don’t wait if you’re keen to learn how to make Chinese Bao & Dumplings.

Course highlight – Simply Sourdough (THIS WEEKEND!)

It’s Monday – so we are CLOSED. Although we are all in for a team meeting this afternoon!

This week we have three courses in the cookery school;

How to Make Dosa
Tue 17th, 6.30-9.30pp £65pp (one place available)

Bread Back to Basics
Thurs 19th, 9.30am-4pm £120pp (FULL)

Simply Sourdough
Fri 20th – Sat 21st, £120pp (6 places)

It’s a good time of year to book on to Sourdough – the bonus is we’ll teach you how to look after your starter in this (glorious) weather 🌞 we run this course once a month only, and it’s a two-session class – you’ll come in on a Friday evening to refresh the rye sourdough starter, and mix and knead the wheat sourdough loaves. You’ll return on Saturday morning to shape your wheat and rye loaves, and enjoy a hearty brunch with sourdough English muffins or sourdough pancakes. There’s plenty of time to discuss techniques, equipment and baking to suit your lifestyle. There is of course, lots of bread to take home too!

More information on the Simply Sourdough course page on our website. 

Places available on our cookery courses this month

Hi everyone, here’s the availability on courses we’re running in June!

Everything else is sold out this month! But if you’d like to join our waiting list you can sign up here:

Subscribe to our courses waiting list

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Cuffufle Preserves

If you’ve been to our shop, on one of our courses, or to Stirchley Community Market, you’ll have come across Cuffufle Preserves. We can’t get enough of her tasty preserves and the excitement of each seasonal variation that she brings us. At the moment we stock her wild garlic oils which are in high demand!
 
Rachel is a friend of Loaf and resident of Kings Heath. We stock some of her range which includes homemade jams, cordials, vinegars, oils and mustards. She uses all organic ingredients – and local, where possible. Ethics and sustainability are embedded in Rachel’s philosophy, and she focuses on quality not quantity.
 
We especially love her apple and roasted garlic chutney with cheddar and our Saturday maslin loaf.
 
If you’d like to learn how to make preserves you can join Rachel on Tuesday 12th June or Tuesday 10th July where she will be sharing her skills.
 
Book via our cookery school page.

Seafood Masterclass Photos

Thanks everyone who came down to Lap’s #MEGAFISH Seafood Masterclass at the weekend.

On Saturday we cooked all this from scratch;
Prawns a la plancha
Grilled mackerel
Roasted sea bream
Crab linguine
Crab pate and bonus crab shots!
Sole goujons
Oysters freshly shucked
Thai fish soup
Charred squid salad
Steamed turbot
Grilled lobster

The next date for this course is Saturday 16th June and there are places available if you’d like to join us. Book via our website.

Photos from attendees:

 

Course highlight – Japan

We have places available on our brilliant Japan course taught by expert Lap-fai Lee on Wednesday 25th April (three weeks tomorrow).

If you’d like to know how to cure fish for sashimi, prepare sushi rolls, make dashi, and properly cook rice then this is the course for you. Lap says: “Cooking Japanese food need not be daunting at all. Japanese home cooking is really straightforward and above all satisfying to eat.”

Like all Loaf courses it’s very hands-on and throughout the evening we’ll be tasting the fruits of our labour: sashimi, sushi rolls, nasu degaku, tonkatsu, and miso soup.

Please note, this course is not suitable for Vegetarians or Vegans. The ingredients are gluten free. Please email us if you need to know more about the allergens in this course.

Book via our website! https://loaf.coop/cookery-sch…/flavour-geography-japan