I Love Teaching Bread Making!

chalkboardBread is one of my favourite things in the world. I get a bit obsessive about it sometimes and do rash things like build an earth oven in my back garden or quit my job to set up a community bakery. I also love teaching, which is what I’ve done for the NHS for the last 4 years as a community nutritionist. Starting Loaf Cookery School has been an amazing chance for me to bring these things together, and courses like last Saturday’s Bread: Back to Basics have utterly convinced me that I’m doing the right thing. Not only were they an excellent group of people eager to provide fresh wholesome bread for their households, but one of them secretly left me a little message on the chalkboard that made me smile from ear to ear when my wife discovered it halfway through the evening (see picture). The group went home with armfuls of bread: wood-fired white loaves and sourdough baton’s, wholemeal seeded batch rolls, ciabatta, fougasse, brioche dough, and a belly-full of pizza.  A thoroughly enjoyable day all round I’d say!

Spicy Pork and Cranberry Burgers – Recipe

pork burger1I was left alone at home tonight, so thought I’d indulge in some easy comfort food for dinner. There was minced pork belly lurking in the bottom of the fridge that I was planning on making into homemade chorizo (there’s always next week), and the remains of a bag of cranberries, so I thought I’d whip up a burger or two to have between some crusty sourdough bread. I got the pork belly from Rossiters butchers in Bournville, and I believe it originated on Galileo Organic Farm in Warwickshire. Ask your butcher to put the belly through the coarse setting on the mincer. This recipe makes four tasty burgers:


400g coarsely minced organic pork belly
Small handful or cranberries
1 large clove of garlic
1 level tsp hot smoked paprika
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 dessert spoon Dijon mustard
1 tsp maldon sea salt
Good pinch black pepper
1 small dried red chilli
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley


pork burger 2Chop the garlic finely, and the cranberries roughly (and weep as they fly round the kitchen). In a pestle and mortar, bash together the fennel, salt,  pepper, and chilli, until thoroughly crushed. Add these to a mixing bowl together with the pork, mustard, paprika, and parsley. Get stuck in with your hands and combine all the ingredients thoroughly. Now add a tiny dash of rapeseed oil to a frying pan on a low-medium heat. With two hands, mould the mixture into four round burgers about 2cm thick, and place them into the hot pan. Fry for 5 mins on each side, basting it frequently with the liquid that is released from the burgers as they cook. Serve between two thick slices of rustic bread, and enjoy, perhaps with a little fresh goats cheese, and a full-bodied red wine. Eating alone is for Kings!

In search of a local loaf – Charlecote Mill

As a baker, or even just as a passionate foodie, it’s important to me to get up close and personal with the ingredients that I’m putting into my food and into my mouth. I was delighted therefore to have the opportunity to have a private tour around Charlecote Mill in Warwickshire the other day after a cheeky off-the-cuff phone call to John Beddington, the master miller. I don’t use John’s flour, yet, but nonetheless it is wonderful to see a craftsman at work, turning inedible raw wheat grains into beautiful soft wholemeal flour.

Charelcote Mill signIn a way John’s story is a sad one, and it speaks of this country’s increasing love affair with bad bread over the last few decades. John has been milling at Charlecote for 26 years now, and has leased the building for more than 30. In the first few years John supplied six local bakeries, including the (sadly no longer) Raddlebarn bakery in Selly Oak, Birmingham, but now John only supplies one bakery, and it’s not even that local, down in Oxford. However John is still managing to run his business, and has found an unexpected market for his flour. John principally mills three types of flour at Charlecote. The standard wholemeal flour is made from local Warwickshire wheat and milled to the right grade for chapatti flour, which John sells direct to the Indian and Pakistani community in Coventry, delivering door to door. Charlecote MillHe also sells maize flour to the same community. Being Soil Association certified, John produces an organic wholemeal flour too, which is milled from two local wheats from Warwickshire and Worcestershire, as well as a bit of organic wheat from Kazakhstan, to improve the mix.

Charlecote Mill itself is a charming building, and one that John clearly loves dearly. It is an isolated building, standing on the meandering river Avon between the villages of Hampton Lucy and Charlecote. In it’s current construction it’s been there since 1806, but John believes there was a mill on the spot for several centuries before that. It is driven by two water wheels, which through an impressive network of bone-crunchingly powerful cogs power two stone mills on the first floor of the building, which are making the current batch of wholemeal flour as we visit. Charelcote millstones2Up in the attic of the building John shows us a large grain store, and the pulley system that allows mill operation to be a one man job. Sacks of flour are strewn everywhere on the ground floor, and the chute from the mill upstairs churns out soft wholemeal flour in a steady stream, like it has for hundreds of years. It’s a romantic scene. John sells me a couple of bags of flour, and we bid farewell, for now.

Without my sourdough starter and having been in a poorly equipped holiday cottage kitchen, I haven’t yet used the flour. However i’m envisioning a part wholemeal sourdough loaf, made with a good percentage of white leaven. I’m hoping this will create a light but wholesome loaf, full of flavour, and a sense of history. I’ll be reporting back on my search for a more local loaf in the coming weeks, stay tuned…

Charlecote Mill Flour

Sauteed Savoy Cabbage with Hazelnuts and Cranberries – Recipe

sauteed savoy ingredientsIf you’re anything like me, there is almost always a stray cabbage loitering about at the back of the fridge, looking thoroughly rejected as all the other veg get hoisted away day after day to be made into sumptuous treats and simple suppers. Well over the years of being committed to a veg box scheme, I like to think I’ve become a dab hand at using it up and making cabbage interesting- my main rule is that I almost never boil it! My latest recipe is to simply sautee it in butter with cranberries, garlic, thyme, and chilli, and add a splosh of nice oil to dress it as you serve it with filled pasta – delicious!

Ingredients (serves 2)

Whole hazelnuts – 2 tbsp
Unsalted butter – about 30g, cubed
1/2 savoy cabbage – the outer half (about 8-10 leaves, keep the heart for roasting!).1 bay leaf
1 star anise
1 clove garlic – finely chopped
1/2 dried red chilli – finely chopped
Few sprigs of thyme – stripped and finely chopped
Small handful of cranberries
Salt and pepper to taste
Walnut oil (or good rapeseed or olive oil)


First lightly crush the hazelnuts in a pestle and mortar, aiming to half or quarter them. Pour these into a medium-hot, dry, non-stick pan to toast for a couple of minutes, tossing frequently. When lightly toasted, set them aside in a bowl. Now put the pan back on the heat, and add the unsalted butter, and after a minute the bay leaf, star anise, and savoy cabbage that you have washed and finely shredded. Sautee for a minute, before adding the garlic, thyme and chilli.

sauteed savoy
Sauteed Savoy served with spaghetti - nowhere near as good as with filled pasta!

Stir, turn the heat down a fraction to medium-low and if you’re pan has a lid, put it on (if not, improvise). After a couple of minutes add a tablespoon of water and replace the lid quickly. After a further couple of minutes, remove the lid, and add the cranberries. When the cranberries burst open, turn off the heat. Serve with filled pasta, a good dousing of walnut oil, grated parmesan, and the toasted hazelnut pieces.

Bread Club!

The first rule of bread club is…

Next week Loaf launches it’s ‘bread club’, where we’ll be baking bread every Friday for up to 20 monthly subscribers. Subscribers pay up front for a months worth of bread, and then pick up their delicious loaf from Cotteridge on a Friday evening – simple! There are still some places left for subscribers so if you have any friends who live or work in the Cotteridge area, please tell them about Loaf Community Bakery’s bread club. If you want to subscribe or enquire, just email bread@loafonline.co.uk.

Revolution Rye (front) and Cotteridge Sourdough
Revolution Rye (front) and Cotteridge Sourdough

We’re also going to be supplying one or two other places wholesale, where you can sample our bread. Capeling & Co, the excellent new cheese shop on York Road in Kings Heath are stocking Revolution Rye on a Saturday, last week they sold out super fast, so get down there early if you want some. Friday and Saturday customers of Farm Fresh Organics veg box scheme can also now order Revolution Rye.

Kings Norton Farmers Market

There was a bit of a scare this week, when on Wednesday afternoon I heard the terrible news that Birmingham City Council’s Highways department had decided not to renew Kings Norton Farmers Market with their road closure license, and therefore the market was faced with either finding a new venue or closing altogether. A flurry of tweets, blogs, letters and emails were written to local councillors and MP’s, and on Wednesday evening came the brilliant news that there had been a ‘communication error’ in the Highways department, and the market would get it’s license renewed after all. Phew, nothing to panic about after all then, but the debacle certainly did show how passionately people feel about their market, and how desperate we are to keep it. It’s my most local farmers market, so I try to get down there when I can and support some of the great local producers that do the market – the likes of Lightwoods Cheese, Harvest of Arden preserves, and Augernik Fruit Farm.

It’s market day tomorrow Saturday 9th January,  so it’s a great chance to battle through the ice and snow and show your support to the market! According to Duncan’s farmers market blog there’s a slightly reduced line up tomorrow, but there’s still plenty to choos from, and hot food on offer to warm the cockles. See you there tomorrow!

Sample loaves available this Friday!

rye breadIf you’re thinking about subscribing to Loaf Community Bakery’s ‘bread club’, where you get a weekly loaf of bread in return for a monthly subscription of £11, then this Friday, 8th January, you have the opportunity to buy a sample loaf before the scheme gets in full flow on the 22nd of January. These loaves must be pre-ordered by 11am Thursday morning, and will be ready for collection from Cotteridge between 4 and 7.30pm on Friday. The two loaves available to order are:

Revolution Rye (pictured above) – A 100% rye sourdough bread. This loaf is baked with a 2-year old rye sourdough starter, and UK-grown organic light rye flour, topped with pumpkin and sunflower seeds. It has an amazing depth of flavour and surprising moisture. Like a good cheese or wine it gets better with age, and is at it’s best 2 or 3 days after baking. It will be in good condition for 5-7 days. Approx 800g, £2.75.

Cotteridge Sourdough – Flour, water, salt, wild yeasts. Nothing else. A loaf born and raised in Cotteridge using a 4-year old wheat sourdough starter, and UK-grown organic white flour. This is a great everyday bread that has a subtle sourness, light airy crumb, and a hint of smokiness from the wood-fired oven it is baked in. It keeps well for 5 days, and freezes well too. Approx 800g, £2.75.

If you’d like to preorder one (or two) of these loaves for collection on Friday between 4 and 7.30, please email tom using bread@loafonline.co.uk before 11am on Thursday 7th January, and I will send you the address details.

Lemon Curd – Recipe

lemon curdAt my recent festive breads course, I had a load of lemons leftover from grating off the zest for the ‘flowerpot panettone’. I asked around for ideas of how to use them, and one clever student piped up with the idea of lemon curd. Seeing as i needed some last minute christmas prezzies for family etc, it was the perfect solution. My hens provided the eggs so all I had to buy was butter and sugar – therefore very cheap presents! I know it’s too late for you to make presents, but it’s still worth giving this a shot, especially if you’ve never done any preserving before, as it’s a pretty easy method. The recpe was inspired by Pam Corbin’s River Cottage handbook on preserving, which is well worth investing in. This recipes makes 3-4 1lb jam jars.


Juice of 4-5 lemons (about 275ml)
Finely grated zest of 2 lemons
450g granulated sugar
125g unsalted butter
5 large beaten eggs


Add the lemon juice, zest, butter, and sugar to a stainless steel or glass bowl over a pan of boiling water. Heat slowly, stirring until the butter melts, then immediately add the eggs through a sieve (if you have a jam thermometer make sure the mixture is no hotter than 60C when you do this). Stir over a gentle heat for 10 minutes until the mixture is thick and glossy (at about 83C), and coats the back of a wooden spoon. Don’t let it get hot enough to boil. Pour this into warm, sterilized jam jars, and seal immediately. It will set as it cools. Tie a ribbon round it – Voila!

Loaf wins an award!

tom + sourdough
Photo by Jane Baker / greensnapperphotography.com

Well, I had the honour today of making the winners list for the inaugural MAD’s (McComb Awards for Dining) brummie food awards in the Birmingham Post. Amazingly, I shared a page with such brummie foodie greats as Glynn Purnell, Luke Tipping, and Richard Turner. Not only that, but I seemingly had a whole category named after me, winning the ‘best outdoor-cooked eggs and muffin’ category. You can see the whole article by clicking here or see below for the full text of the mention:

Tom Baker, Cotteridge

Food evangelist, founder member of Birmingham-based LOAF social enterprise and self-taught cook, Tom Baker combines a democratic, culinary zeal with down-to-earth rustic cooking. Yes, like his surname, he is a baker – and an outstanding one at that. One of my food highlights was sharing freshly cooked muffins with the man, topped with fried eggs, all cooked in his adobe-style wood-fired earth oven. Dining alfresco in Cotteridge has never been so good.

Well that just about tops off a fantastic 2009 for me and I hope I can retain the tile in 2010! Tom.

Loaf Community Bakery – pt 2

community bakery loafLoaf Community Bakery is our new bakery in Cotteridge, South Birmingham, specialising in sourdough and other artisan breads. Bread is baked at the home of Loaf director Tom Baker, in both a conventional and traditional wood-fired earth oven. The bakery sells bread through a “˜community supported bakery’ scheme, as well as selling some wholesale to specialist local delis. Bread is made with organic flour, grown and milled in the UK.

Thanks to everyone who responded to the two polls about the bakery – they’ve helped inform what day we’re going to bake, and the price. I’ve set the price by taking the mean of all the options voted for, and multiplying it by 4 for a months worth of bread.

Loaves are going to be baked on a Friday, and need to be collected that evening. Collection is from Cotteridge currently, although an alternative Saturday collection point will be arranged depending on the location of subscribers. A large white sourdough (Cotteridge Sourdough) and a large 100% rye sourdough (Revolution Rye) are available initially. Both breads keep well for 5 days and are suitable for freezing. Other specialities such as brioche and ciabatta will be available occasionally on a first-come first-served basis.

Invest in Loaf Community Bakery and subscribe now for just £11 a month!

We’ll be supplying a weekly loaf to subscribers from mid-January onwards, so get in touch soon if you want to subscribe as we can only take a limited number – email tom@loafonline.co.uk to register your interest.

Meanwhile, answer this poll:

[poll id=”9″]

Birmingham Friends of the Earth Christmas Fair

Next Saturday 19th Dec, Loaf will have it’s first stand at a fair – and it’s the Birmingham Friends of the Earth Christmas Fair at Moseley CDT/Moseley Exchange, from 10-4pm. Fortunately it’s the same day as the farmers market across the road, so do pop down to both and come and say hi! On offer will be  fresh sourdough bread (including revolution rye and cotteridge sourdough), fresh homemade stollen and ‘flowerpot’ pannetone, and the chance to buy Loaf gift vouchers for your loved ones, and sign up to subscribe to Loaf community bakery. If you’ve read this and come along, please come and introduce yourself too. Tom.

Gift Vouchers now available

presentJust a quick note to tell you about two ways you can purchase Loaf gift vouchers for your loved one’s this Christmas! Firstly, Loaf director Tom Baker (that’s me!) is a registered bread making teacher on the excellent School of Everything website, and is one of only a handful of teachers chosen to take part in their Christmas gift scheme. You can purchase a day on one of Loaf’s ‘Bread: back to basics’ by visiting the gift’s section. It’s also worth hunting around for other interesting teachers on their too – you could buy a knitting lesson, photography tuition, or even a twitter masterclass!

Secondly, you can now purchase Loaf Cookery School gift vouchers direct from us. They are sold in multiples of £10, or if you want to buy a place on a specific course, a personalised voucher can be created especially for you’re loved one. Find out more on the new gift voucher page by clicking here.

An Urban Orchard for Kingstanding

prepare appleTwo inner city areas are to be transformed on Saturday 5th December when Erdington Artist in Residence Eleanor Hoad creates two unusual urban orchards. The orchards are unusual because winners of an Urban Orchard Competition have individually named each tree. Eleanor invited local people to enter the competition to dedicate a fruit tree to someone important to them. Nearly 100 people entered and these were narrowed down to 10 winning entries which range from the personal: Molly Wrights entry ‘my grandmother Violet Wright: I would like a part of her to be with me here in Erdington even though she is in Jamaica’ to the inspirational: Donna Gray’s entry ‘Charles Darwin: for the discovery of Evolution’.

The orchards will include cherry, apple and pear trees. The first trees will be planted at Kingstanding Leisure Centre between 11am and 12pm on Saturday 5th December as part of the BBC’s Breathing Places, Tree O’clock attempt to break the world record for the most trees planted in one hour.  Five more trees will then be planted in containers in the Central Square in Erdington from 1pm. The fruit trees will each have a plaque installed with the winning names. Some of the ten winners will be helping to plant their trees and all will receive a certificate.

The Urban Orchard is part of the ‘Prepare’ project run by Artist in Residence Eleanor Hoad and her volunteers. Eleanor has set up the scheme to make use of fruit growing in the city that would otherwise go to waste. Traveling by bike, spotting fruit trees overhanging walls and fences Eleanor has harvested hundreds of apples, pears and damsons from the Erdington and Kingstanding area. The second stage of the project is to plant more fruit trees and celebrate them.

Eleanor Hoad Artist in Residence said “The competition entries were so moving, they really showed how much value people place on trees as a way of remembering a loved one; through a tree a persons memory can live on. Planting fruit trees in the city is just one way we can rethink how unused patches of land can be utilised and used to produce food. Even the smallest patch can become an abundant source of fresh organic fruit and vegetables with a little thought”

For more information, contact Eleanor  at eleanorhoad@hotmail.com

Loaf Community Bakery

breadThe new year brings big news for loaf – we are launching Birmingham’s first community supported bakery. What the heck is a community supported bakery I hear you ask? The idea is simple, and it’s borrowed from the American community supported agriculture (CSA) model. Each month you ‘subscribe’ to a farm (or in this case, a bakery), giving a set amount of money upfront. Because of your monthly investment and commitment to the farm (bakery), the farmer (baker) has a guaranteed income and so can invest in equipment, tools, supplies, labour etc, in order to repay your investment with an agreed amount of produce every week. The farmer (baker) gets some security and a leg-up in surviving against the industrial food system, and you get wholesome produce, produced responsibly and sustainably, at a fair price.

Loaf Community Bakery will be launching in January 2010, and will provide bread to a limited number of monthly subscribers. Some of our bread may also be available at a local retail outlet for those who don’t want to commit to subscribing. However for the immediate future this will be a very limited scheme, we’ll take up to about 20 subscribers who’ll need to be able to collect their weekly loaf from Cotteridge, South Birmingham, although we will look at an additional pick-up point depending on demand. The bread will be mainly, but not exclusively sourdough, and mainly made with UK-grown organic wheat and rye flour. There’ll definitely be a white sourdough loaf and a 100% rye (which is almost impossible to find these days, especially fresh). Over the next few weeks, we’ll be asking you on here and on twitter how Loaf Community Bakery can best serve you – what day, time, price, variety etc. In the meantime if you have any thoughts or questions please leave them in the comments section below, or send an email to tom@loafonline.co.uk.

If you’ve read this far, why not answer this poll:

[poll id=”8″]

Still time to respond to our last poll too:

[poll id=”7″]