The Otley Cycle Race is on 28 June. It’s one of my favourite Otley events and I’ve loved watching it as it has grown and grown. Particularly since the Tour de France came to Yorkshire, it has really taken off.
If the weather’s good, loads of people come out and it’s a real community event. There are hog roasts (we’re open for sandwiches, cakes, hot snacks and coffee and drinks too). It’s great to see the TV stations with their cameras here. Everyone has a great time.
It has been wonderful to see how Tom Pidcock, son of Gyles has grown up from competing in the junior races to competing in World and European under 18 competitions. Tom’s now 18 and I think he’s going to be the next big thing coming out of Otley. It just shows what community and encouragement (and great parenting) can do.
So we hope that you can make it over to see this fantastic event and if you do, make sure you call in for a coffee and something delicious to eat!
What I think about when I’m baking … Walking!
As I’ve mentioned here many times before, being involved in our wonderful community is really important to me and everyone at Bondgate Bakery. At all times, community is a precious touchstone for us all.
That’s why we’re delighted to be sponsoring this year’s Otley Walking Festival – a festival that invites people to experience the beauty of our magnificent corner of the world. There are a number of great walks planned – a Psychogeographic sound walk, several walks that take in one or even two of our local pubs and a walk that culminates with drinks on the Terrace at Farnley Hall. There’s also a walk to the historic Kirkstall Forge, an allotment walk, a churches walk, a walk that includes a ride on a steam train and even a ‘Walkulele’ with members of the famous Otley Ukulele Orchestra!
With 45 walks in total, all run by experienced, knowledgeable local guides, 2017’s Otley Walking Festival looks to be an absolutely fantastic event. So grab your walking boots and we hope to see you there! Sally
Learn more here: www.otleywalkingfestival.co.uk
Recently, early one morning, before we had opened the shop, at about 7am (we’d already been up baking for a few hours and doing the early delivery rounds), I looked out of the door and I saw a mother with her child. We started talking and she told me that the two of them had just been up the Chevin to watch the sunrise and wondered if we had any croissants that she and her daughter could have for their breakfast. Of course we did – freshly baked! Somehow to me, this meeting said a lot to me about what Otley is all about.
As many of you know, being a part of the Otley community means a lot to me. And so when I was appointed to be an Otley Ambassador in March of this year as part of the newly launched Otley Honorary Ambassadors Programme, I was absolutely delighted and proud. I’m serving for my community alongside fifteen others including champion cyclist and 2017 Women’s Tour de Yorkshire winner Lizzie Deignan, BBC 1 One Show scientist Dr Marty Jopson, Olympic swimmer Georgia Coates, Royal Armouries Curator Rob Woosnam-Savage and Paralympic swimmer Danielle Bailey.
It’s important to me to be invited to take on this role. I’m always going on about how great Otley is and now I have even more of a reason to do so!
Otley has really developed during the last decade. There’s a real buzz about our traditional market town and I can see that people appreciate both the old and the new. This is a real market town. It’s down to earth and unpretentious and that’s what the people who come here want. They’re looking for a community that offers integrity and a grass roots sensibility.
The property market is buoyant and lots of families are moving into Otley. And why not? It’s a great place to bring up a family, with excellent schools and facilities, not to mention the wonderful countryside we’re surrounded with that provides instant weekend activities. And for those working in Leeds the commute is quite manageable.
Otley is a really attractive place for businesses: as well as thriving existing businesses, there are many people moving here and setting up businesses. Which is good for business! We’re thriving and that’s great. From my perspective as someone running a successful bakery that supplies both retail through our Otley shop and wholesale throughout Leeds, I’m delighted to see the town centre bustling with life. The farmers’ market is always busy, as are the supermarkets and independent businesses – shops, cafes, restaurants – in town.
Otley has loads of interesting groups, clubs and societies that people can get involved in, there are wonderful organisations such as the Otley Ukulele Orchestra (whose leader Jen Birch is also an Ambassador), we have a town poet (Matthew Hedley Stoppard, also an Ambassador) and we also have wonderful support groups for those who need them. To me this is what community is all about – people helping and supporting each other and enjoying the world around them – like the mother and daughter who enjoyed that beautiful sunrise on the Chevin and then came back down into town to enjoy the rest of their day.
What I think about while I’m baking
This month I’m thinking about sandwiches.
The US TV psychologist and life coach Phil McGraw said, ‘You don’t need a pack of horses to learn how to make a sandwich.’ It’s something I found on the internet while I was googling ‘sandwiches’ and it made me chuckle.
Of course, America, a country that has been so much in the news recently, is a great nation of sandwich eaters. In fact the American diplomat, Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr., said
“It has been well said that a hungry man is more interested in four sandwiches than four freedoms.”
Recent events have perhaps proved Mr Lodge wrong – in fact it’s amazing how everyone I meet, people who come into the bakery, people I meet on the street is talking about politics. Recent times have taught us not to take our freedoms for granted and perhaps we now know that we sometimes need to speak out to maintain and protect those freedoms.
In sandwiches, as in life, the ability to have choices is important, and sometimes we need to speak up for our right to make choices.
As the internet says, ‘Life is like a sandwich, the more you put in the better it gets.’
I have to agree. Our regular customers fall into two camps – those who buy our sandwiches and those who make their own. Of course we’re happy to oblige with our range of delicious fillings like our home made humous or our homemade carrot salad and our super soft bread buns.
For those who like to make their own, we also have what we think is a very inspiring selection of breads. For example, our seedy nutty loaves enhance pretty much any filling and our olive and tomato ciabattas offer a lovely mediterranean theme to your sarnie – perhaps fill with manchego, salad and olives? Our honey and sunflower loaf is extremely popular for sandwich making.
And I firmly believe that a good, healthy sandwich is better for you than some of the lunch options out there. Particularly made with Bondgate Bakery bread! Our bread is made the old fashioned way, with a long rise and no additives or preservatives. It’s nutritious, not bulky like many shop bought breads and certainly healthier than some of the healthy options you can buy – such as cereal bars (packed with sugar).
I’d like to take this opportunity to wish my customers all the best for 2017. May you have both sandwiches, freedom and choices in abundance.
At Bondgate Bakery we get on with our Christmas baking early – we like to get our Christmas cakes baked by the end of October. The reason? It allows all the ingredients to mature and consolidate, producing the lovely rich flavour of our Christmas cakes. Traditionally, Christmas treats such as Christmas Pudding would be made on Stir Up Sunday, the last Sunday before Advent. Each member of the family would take their turn stirring the pudding mix, making a wish for the year ahead as they did it.
We don’t make Christmas Puddings, however when you’re making the sheer numbers of Christmas cakes that we make here in Otley, there’s lots of opportunity when you’re stirring the mix to reflect on the year past and to make wishes for the year ahead. It has been an interesting year to say the least.
As an independent business what has hit home hardest is the price of nuts. It’s funny how world politics can affect something like a Christmas cake, but apparently it’s all down to exchange rates. All I know is that the price of nuts has gone through the roof. Dried fruit is really expensive too and flour has started to creep up.
A number of food producers have started putting their prices up so I know that it’s hitting everyone. If you’re making your own marzipan, as we do for our Stollen (we don’t use almond essence, which can be found in some of the cheaper Stollen) you’ll notice that almonds are more expensive.
However, now’s the time of year when we traditionally use fine ingredients and enjoy the best of food, to be shared with friends and family. It’s really important and a way of treasuring and thanking those we love.
At all times of the year I’m proud to see the wonderful ingredients we use in our baking. Free range eggs, locally sourced produce where possible, ethically sourced too. We call it baking with integrity. It’s about making everything the best we can so that our customers can enjoy the results.
Wishing all our customers a very merry Christmas and a peaceful 2017.
What I think about when I’m baking …
Toast. I absolutely love the stuff. Which makes my job as a baker probably the most wonderful career imaginable.
For me, the perfect piece of toast has to first of all be the right thickness – not too thick, not too thin. I’ve always thought that our in-house bread slicer is great for sandwiches, but at 11mm thickness, it has never been right for toast. (Unless you’re making cheese toasties, in which case 11mm is perfect) And this is why I’m quite excited about the new 13mm slicer that will hopefully be arriving any day soon.
13mm, now that’s the perfect thickness for toast in my book.
So once the thickness is right, the perfect piece of toast has to be crispy and chewy at the same time. While I think our light rye is a great toaster with just the right crisp / chewy balance, my personal all time favourite toasting loaf is our Bondgate Bakery sourdough. It has a wonderfully crispy crust that makes loads of noise when you bite into it and has a satisfyingly chewy texture, not to mention a fantastic punchy flavour. Delicious.
And, then of course there’s the question of what goes on top. I like different spreads with different breads, but most of all I really like Marmite on mine. Love the stuff, and I think it goes perfectly with all kinds of toast. Although certain breads absolutely ask for apricot jam.
A few weeks ago one of my customers brought me in some home made plum jam. I’m always too busy at the bakery to make jam so it was a much appreciated gift. Plum jam has such a big fruity flavour I think it goes perfectly with croissants, but like I say I’m more of a toast person and I’ve been enjoying it on white and oat toast. Perfect.
Bondgate Musings – what I think about when I’m baking …
In the last few months I’ve had a lot of customers ask me about the possibility of making breads from low gluten wheat flours. Those of you who know me will know that I’m always up for a challenge and have now made some lovely loaves using Dove Organic’s Emmer flour, which I like because the Emmer flour has a slightly sweeter flavour than spelt, which many people find quite strong tasting. Emmer flour still does contain some gluten, but less than in normal flour and because of this it doesn’t have the lift of a normal loaf and is low, like a rye loaf. It’s great toasted by the way, lovely and nutty and we’ll be making it regularly on Fridays and Saturdays if you’d like to try it.
It seems to me that a lot of people have been thinking about their gluten intake recently. That’s not necessarily a bad thing – particularly if you’re a coeliac or are gluten sensitive and have a recognised allergy to gluten, however, I’m not convinced that cutting gluten out of your diet provides real health benefits to everyone.
‘You would say that’ I hear you say, ‘you’re a baker’. Well, yes, I would. I’ve worked with gluten for thirty years and per se, I don’t think it’s such bad stuff. I’d go so far as to say I feel kind of sorry for it as in the last few years it has been the victim of a consolidated hate campaign.
It seems to me that gluten hatred – and gluten free diets – have become fashionable, even amongst people who do not have intolerance or sensitivities to gluten. And the issue with this is that gluten is found in so many things. So if you cut gluten out of your diet unnecessarily, it’s really hard work!
Perhaps that’s the real problem: the way that big food firms fill foodstuffs with extra gluten (as well as extra salt and sugar). We know that large commercial production breads have extra gluten added. And why? Because gluten is the glue that makes so many foods delicious. It’s what makes bread spongy, pizza dough stretchy and is used to thicken sauces and soups. It’s in soy sauce and salad dressings. But as far as I can see, unless you’re actually intolerant, gluten isn’t actually harmful.
People have claimed that cutting gluten out of their diet can cause weight loss, but I’m not convinced that it’s the healthiest option. For example, you may be cutting out bread and pasta, but you’re also cutting out all that wholegrain goodness that can be found in the sorts of breads we make at Bondgate Bakery.
The thing is that because gluten is found in so many products, gluten free eating can seriously limit your choice of foods, and with reduced choice, you’re more likely to binge on things that really aren’t very good for you at all. Like chocolate. Plus, food manufacturers often replace the gluten with other agents – such as fat and sugar – to bind their products together. Which means you’re swapping gluten for something far more harmful and possibly missing out on all the good stuff, like iron, vitamins and fibre.
I think another problem is self diagnosis. If you suspect you have a gluten intolerance, it’s far better to get medical help before cutting it out of your diet. In fact, there may be other things at play such as IBS. Figures show that only 1 % of the population has gluten intolerance and the American magazine Digestion recently published a study showing that 86% of people who believed they were gluten intolerant were in actual fact not intolerant at all.
So, by all means please come and try our delicious low gluten breads, but if you have no proven, diagnosed medical condition, think about coming back to healthy, nutritious artisan bread from Bondgate Bakery!