Oh… Crumbs presents ‘I Heart New York’

After our storming pizza night back in January, we’re going all intimate for the next Oh Crumbs… pop up. We’re teaming up with chef Carl Finn and wine expert Matt Beck to present our homage to NYC – an evening of food, wine, cocktails, and music inspired by the big apple. Places are limited, and it’ll all be happening round my gaff in Cotteridge on a Wednesday in April – date tbc very soon.

Check out the menu for the evening below to whet your appetite. Booking info will follow when we have a date confirmed…


Oh… Crumbs presents “˜I Heart New York’

After our storming pizza night back in January, we’re going all intimate for the next Oh Crumbs… pop up. We’re teaming up with chef Carl Finn and wine expert Matt Beck to present our homage to NYC – an evening of food, wine, cocktails, and music inspired by the big apple. Places are limited, and it’ll all be happening round my gaff in Cotteridge on a Wednesday in April – date tbc very soon.

Check out the menu for the evening below to whet your appetite. Booking info will follow when we have a date confirmed…


A taste of Cotteridge in Brazil

I had a lovely visit from a fella called Rene last week, a former Birmingham University PhD student who now lives and works in his home city in Brazil. He’s a keen home baker and lives as part of an intentional community trying to reduce their impact on the planet and live more self sufficiently. He’s thinking of setting up a community bakery as part of this, and came to have a chat with me whilst he was over here doing some guest lecturing at the Uni. I packed him off with a copy of Knead to Know, a couple of sourdough recipes, and a jam jar of the starter culture for my Cotteridge Sourdough bread. He’s just got back to Brazil and sent me a great picture of his first Cotteridge sourdough loaf, Brazilian style. I love the fact that there’s a small taste of Cotteridge in Brazil now, and a simple mixture of flour and water can help the birth of a new community bakery thousands of miles away! Good luck Rene…

brazilian sourdough

Butchery: Nose to Tail Lamb

IMG_6779Last night saw another great collaboration with local artisan butcher Steve Rossiter, as Loaf ran it’s first lamb butchery workshop. We started off the evening with a grand tour of the locally reared organic Texel lamb that Steve had brought along, pointing out the familiar and the unfamiliar cuts. Steve then got to work on one side of the lamb, showing us the traditional butchers cuts. Under his expert guidance, he then passed over his knives and saws to the students, who got to work on the other side of the lamb, taking off first the leg, then the breast, chump, loin, rack, shoulder, and finally the neck – all done very skillfully!

We then had a break to eat our starter – chump chops with cannelini beans and salsa verde, washed down with a nice Cote du Rhone. It was back to the butchery soon though as Steve demonstrated how to bone out all of the joints we’d created, giving us lots of tips on knife skills. He then demonstrated stuffing and rolling on the breast of lamb joint (stuffed with a nice dry spiced chickpea stuffing), and taught us all how to tie proper butchers knots. The students then picked the joint they’d like to take home, and stuffed and rolled it themselves. IMG_6801Finally we sat down to a beautiful slow cooked neck of lamb curry with basmati rice and cucumber raita. All in all it was a fantastic evening, and I learnt just as much as the students. Steve is an incredibly talented butcher who shares his huge knowledge and passion with gladness and patience. It makes me realise just how important it is to cherish the artisans we have around us, in any area, but especially in food.

Our next Butchery: Nose to Tail Lamb is on the 10th November, 6.30-9.30pm, and there’s still spaces – book now by emailing cookeryschool@loafonline.co.uk

Cotteridge pop-up pizza club round-up

pizza signSaturday night saw Loaf do it’s first ever (and perhaps the first ever?*) pop-up pizza takeaway. After the disastrous start to Saturday morning, the day turned fairly rapidly into one of the craziest and most fun of my loaf life. On the way back from the Jewellery Quarter towing our trailer of rubble, Jane and I tossed around ideas of how to use up all our ingredients ranging from making loaves of bread to sell the next day, to making quiches for sale at some local shops, to what we finally settled on doing – a pop-up pizza night. Over a calming cup of tea, we devised a flyer, wrote a blog post, and got the word out on Twitter about the pizza marathon, then headed out to pound the pavement and deliver some flyers to our  neighbours. Twitter went absolutely crazy during the day, in a large part due to Jenny Drew’s hardcore retweeting and social networking on our behalf (thanks Jenny!). We were the most talked about thing in Birmingham for most of Saturday and the top trend in the UK for about 15 minutes – google analytics showed visitors to this website tripled on Saturday, so thanks to everyone who helped get the word out there.

The tension was building here at Loaf HQ ready for the 6pm start – the fire was lit in my earth oven, friends were drafted in to man phones and door, ingredients and rolling pins were laid out, and aprons were donned. We had a few pre-orders via twitter and other means, and the phone went crazy for the first hour of service, meaning people had to wait a little longer than the advertised ten minutes, so thanks everyone for your patience. pizza 3The pizza’s were great on the whole with great feedback on twitter and text, although in the hurry a few may have come out overly ash-laden on the bottom (sorry if you got one of those!). By the end of the night I had met lots of amazing people, neighbours I never knew I had, and cooked about 70 pizza’s. I think we just about clinched victory out of the jaws of defeat!

A couple of special shout-outs to finish this post then. A massive sorry to everyone at the 24 Carrots Market for letting you down – I hope to return at a later date and do something extra special. A huge thank you to everyone who came and bought a pizza or seven (you know who you are). And finally massive thanks to my helpers on the night – the cool, calm, and collected Mike ‘Hello Loaf Pizza’s!’ Skinner, the charming host Martin ‘Martino Evano’ Evans, and my beautiful wife Jane, the fastest pizza maker in Cotteridge – I couldn’t have done it without you!

Finally, shall we do it again, whaddayarecon?

Cheers, Tom.

* I expect the first pizza’s were sold pop-up style in Naples all those years ago, so it’s nothing new really!

Dell Road Pizza Night Tonight!

Loaf were due to appear at today’s 24 Carrots farmers market in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter, serving hot sourdough pizza’s from the mobile wood-fired oven. All was going well, up at 5am to hand-knead 20kg of dough, an hour of cheese grating last night, lots of kindling chopped and ready, oven looking fine. Having borrowed a van from local organic butcher Steve Rossiter, we hooked up the trailer and headed to the JQ at 8am. I drove really carefully, but sadly when we arrived at the market we were greeted by this sorry scene:

mobile pizza oven

After a few moments of confusion, Jane and I had a cup of tea and came up with an idea to turn disaster into adventure…

So for one night only, Loaf will be hosting the first ever* pop-up pizza takeaway restaurant!

Here’s the deal:

Local artisan baker Tom Baker is firing up his wood-fired oven for one night only (Saturday 16th Oct) to offer amazing hot sourdough pizza’s to takeaway tonight.

only £5 for a 9” pizza

(collection only)

Choose from organic Gloucestershire ham and mushroom, or red onion, black olive and basil.

Call Tom on 07811 178272  between 6pm & 10pm with your order & collect 10 minutes later from 7 Dell Road, Cotteridge!

* It might not be the first-ever, but we’ve certainly never heard of one. We’re making history people… 🙂

Sourdough loaves for sale today

sourodugh breadI had lots of dough leftover after yesterdays wash-out food festival at Winterbourne Gardens, so I called up my mate Carl who has an enormous wood-fired oven in Stirchley. He fired it up mid-afternoon, and we popped round in the evening to bake the remaining dough, and turn it into these whopping 1kg loaves of sourdough bread. Wander down Dell road in Cotteridge today and you can pick one up for £3, or email tom@loafonline.co.uk to reserve one. Now what to do with all the leftover cheese and ham…

BBC WM visit Loaf

BBC WMLast night we had the pleasure of hosting a live broadcast by BBC WM during their Drive Time show with Paul Franks. Franksy sent roving reporter Jennie Jones down to Loaf HQ (i.e. Tom’s gaf), to see what Tom’s getting up to, to bake some Ciabatta’s, and pop open some elderflower champagne. Tom featured on the show at 6.15pm and again at 6.45 pm – you can listen again in the next 6 days if you visit the Paul Franks Show on the BBC iPlayer – skip to 2:16 and then 2:44.

CoCoMAD Preview – 3rd July 2010

cocomadThis Saturday, one of Birmingham’s best community events is taking place right on our doorstep in the small but perfectly formed Cotteridge Park, about 200 yds from Loaf HQ! It’s a fun, family friendly, free festival of music and arts, that attracts around 5000 people annually, and is now in its 13th year! You can find a full programme on the Friends of Cotteridge Park website, but highlights include Misty’s Big Adventure on the main stage, green wood working and bushcraft in the Community Orchard, and a 6m climbing wall.

pizza ovenFestival food is also a highlight this year with local deli and cafe Leverton and Halls bringing lovely organic burgers and other delights, friend-of-Loaf Sajida providing gorgeous authentic curries, and us debuting our brand new mobile wood-fired pizza oven, and selling Cotteridge Park elderflower cordial too. We’re keeping it simple for the debut with two pizza’s on the menu, both made with a sourdough pizza base and our secret tomato sauce – organic Gloucestershire ham and mushroom with West Country mature cheddar, or red onion, black olive and basil. Come and watch your pizza being made and cooked in front of your eyes, hopefully all in 2 minutes flat.

Course Spotlight: Butchery

I’m really excited about some of our upcoming new courses, not least the Butchery workshop that we’re running in collaboration with master butcher Steve Rossiter on the 14th April. Steve is a bit of a local legend around these parts, founding Birmingham’s first organic registered butchers in Mary Vale Rd, Bournville. Steve has agreed to help me run an evening workshop where we explore beak-to-tail butchery of poultry birds, along with some tasty and impressive ways of cooking them.

butchery poultry logo

We’ll start the evening with a whole chicken (one between two). Steve will then teach us how to respectfully joint it, and show us what else we can do with the various joints. Then I’ll take over, and lead us in some fantastic chicken recipes that show off your new found butchery skills and taste amazing too! We’ll be making butterflied chicken breast stuffed with homemade chorizo, chicken Raz al Hanout with minted cous cous, and pan fried chicken livers with a wild green salad. Anything we don’t cook, you get to take home and show off your new skills with!

The first course is on Wednesday 14th April from 6.30pm-9.30pm, and is a snip at just £50, which includes all the ingredients and equipment, course notes, and a full stomach! There’s still a few places available, so email tom@loafonline.co.uk to book your place!

Fingers crossed, we’re going to be able to offer a lamb-in-a-day type butchery experience in the Summer too!

We’ve Started Growing!

After an inspirational visit to a relative’s garden in Hampshire at the weekend, the vegetable growing season has started with a vengeance here at Loaf HQ (a.k.a. my back garden). We’ve built some raised beds and moved the chickens:

raised beds

We’ve planted some seeds including four types of tomatoes, fennel, beetroot, turnips and lettuce:



We watered them with a specially adapted water bottle (in the absence of one of those funky mini watering cans):


We’ve popped them in propagators on a sunny windowsill, and now we just have to keep our fingers crossed and water them. These will be thinned out to individual pots in a few weeks probably. In the meantime we have some donated seedlings to care for :


In Search of a Local Loaf – Part 2

charlecoteSo about three weeks ago I went to visit the historic Charlecote Mill in Warwickshire, where I had a private tour from John Bedington the Miller. When I got back from holiday I was champing at the bit to try out the wholemeal flour I had taken home, so much so that the sourdough starter was whipped out of the fridge and refreshed before i’d even taken my coat off. I keep a white sourdough starter, and taking John’s advice, I wanted to include a decent percentage of strong white flour to create a light, wholesome loaf. So I made it with a high percentage of sourdough starter (40% of dough weight), but all the remaining flour was Charlecote Mill standard wholemeal flour. A 67% hydration dough and a long, cool, overnight bulk fermentation led to a light, wholesome loaf, full of flavour and a sense of history and place.

That was two weeks back, and since then i’ve managed to organise to get a 32kg sack of flour dropped off this week, so after a little more experimentation I’m hoping to add a local, wholemeal sourdough loaf to the standard loaves I produce for the community bakery every Friday.

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.

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.

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Week One at Loaf Cookery School

pasta courseWell last week saw Loaf’s first week of doing business. We started on Thursday evening with a ‘Handmade Pasta’ workshop. Five people came along (six is our maximum class size), and by the end of the evening had successfully mastered kneading, rolling, and shaping fresh egg pasta, and made three classy sauces to accompany their handiwork. Alongside a nice Chianti, we enjoyed seasonal vegetable tortellini with a butter and blue cheese sauce, paperdelle puttanesca, and taglietelli carbonara. Oh and we made some orechiette with the scraps and a quick gnocchi demo. Phew, it was a lot of fun and the talented students picked up the techniques extremely quickly, without even using a pasta machine!

Saturday saw the first full day ‘Bread:back to basics’ course, and it was a sell out. We had a fabulous day, and produced some great breads.

bread course

Despite the weather we were dashing in and out to the earth oven to bake our white and multigrain loaves, in which we had earlier made our own pizza’s for lunch and fougasse to show off! We covered a couple of different kneading techniques and made some stunning ciabatta’s too. We covered the principles of sourdough baking, and I’ll be seeing some of the students next year when I do a Friday eve/Saturday morning ‘simply sourdough’ course – should be great fun! We finished off making brioche dough, and each student left with a bit of dough to refrigerate overnight, and bake at home. Check out this review of the day on the No Love Sincerer blog, and see our upcoming courses here.
All in all a great first week, knackering stuff though!