The third of Phil Gostling’s monthly posts about setting up and running a home-based Real Bread microbakery.
My microbakery is called One Mile Bakery Tadcaster because I make weekly deliveries to a growing number of subscribers who live within a mile of my house. It’s a wonderful way of meeting the great folk of Tadcaster. My aim is to develop a community of local people who value Real Bread and the artisan craft of making it – and it’s happening, which is great!
However, the calm and friendly manner that I (hopefully) display as I chat with my customers at their front doors about all things Real Bread, weather and local news belies the hard work and effort that began the night before. So is it really worth it?
As I prep the soup, I feel in full control and know exactly what and when I’m going to bake on my all night baking adventure. I also know, though, that it’s likely that hours will seemingly disappear and before I know it I’ll be under pressure, slightly stressed and just hoping that when I open the oven door the bakes have risen. I’m still playing with the timings and what works best for me, my customers but - above all - my family.
There are so many benefits of running my bakery from my kitchen at home but a major consideration is how the business works around my family. The notion of baking through the night to ensure the negative impact on my young family is minimised seems perfectly normal to me, but is it worth it?
With the soup done, next up are the sourdoughs! Mix, stretch and fold, cut and bench rest, shape and cold retard. Then come enriched sweet bakes, followed by classic bread mixes. One day drifts into the next and before I know it everything is ready, sweet bakes are boxed up, the soups are in compostable containers and deliveries are prepped and ready to go, but am I?
I clean down, clear the baking equipment away and load up my delivery bike, saddle still wet from the recent rain, and my family migrate back to reclaim our kitchen. As I peddle away, I do have a sense of guilt that I’ve left them behind. But then I look forward, forward with a sense of excitement and a pride in the bakes I’ve created for who I now see as my new family of fellow bread lovers. I’m always proud of my bakes because more than most I know the hard work, effort and passion that has gone into each one.
I arrive at the doorstep of my customers, often puffing a little bit (not as fit as I once was), looking forward to talking through the intricacies of the bake: The provenance of local ingredients, the aroma, the taste. They always seem so genuinely happy to see me and receive the bakes.
As I lock my bike and walk into our house I’m still on a high after my deliveries. After helping to put the kids to bed I feel somewhat complete. But then it all hits me and I slump. It reminds me of when I used to play rugby: Loads of prep, lots of effort and passion, the highs of performing and then the crash at the end of the match. I used to sit there assessing my bangs and bruises from the game, reflecting on my poor passes or successful tackles.
Now I reflect on my night’s baking in a similar fashion. Successes? Yes. Failures? Some, but then I pour myself a pint and remember how lucky I am to be playing in this wonderful game we called artisan baking. The all-nighter, 'ghost bake' was worth it!