In my world: the craft baker

16 May, 2008
Page 24 
== Tom Herbert - Hobbs House Bakery ==
Herbert is a fifth-generation baker and director of Hobbs House Bakery, a multi award-winning craft bakery, based in south GloucestershireEmbracing my new vocation a contributor to British Baker, I fixed in my mind that the only appropriate way to pass a week in the Easter holidays was to pack up my grandfather's 1981 Bedford auto sleeper for a busman's tour of the sights and bakeries of beautiful Dorset, and track down some real bakers.We packed 'the Old Lady' like a Dorset apple cake - full - and set off. We found she was much like a great pudding - warm, comforting, calorific - and cornering at anything above 38mph was reminiscent of cutting a soft custard slice with a blunt knife (wobbly).We made our way from Naisworth, with a pantry full of home produce, in our quest for the infamous Dorset knobs, through Bath (no time for Bath buns in this wagon), over the Salisbury plains, past the fenced-in Stonehenge, and we nestled down in the New Forest among the trees and muntjac deer.On our first day, we cycled to Beaulieu, a very well kept little town in the forest, to see what the farmers' market had to offer. It was here I met Graham Cotton, a true craft baker, dressed for the part and enjoying selling his carefully nurtured selection of products. I was immediately impressed with the list of farms showing where the wheat had been grown, and details of the museum mill, from where all the flour had been milled. Graham was very generous with his time, explaining the virtues of dietary bread for which he has found a loyal customer base. He very kindly gave me a pre-sliced 'Wellbeing Formula Bread' (wrapped in pairs for easy freezing). This loaf is the result of working with a local college professor of nutrition, and impressively seems to tick many of the dietary requirements customers have to contend with: reduced salt, no added sugar or fat, high in fibre and packed full of beneficial seeds, all ground down to release the goodness.Next time the sun came out, we cycled to Corfe Castle, steam trains, ramparts, lots of people with cameras and Dragon Bakery, nestled amongst it all. The very traditional bakery, with Nigel Dragon baking to the side of Joan Dragon holding the fort, yielded a surprising array of Germanic breads. Nigel said his skills were learnt on an 18-month German work placement funded by an NA scholarship, a trip that, 30 years later, was still rewarding his customers. A visit at the end of our trip, to Town Mill Bakery in Lyme (Devon) was the icing on the cake. This sumptuous new bakery, on its first rise, is a joy to behold, headed up by Aidan "undisputed king of sponge" Chapman, previously of Celtic Bakery. His philosophy is built simply on flour and water and, with its open-plan bakery/eating area, delights its customers with a tangible atmosphere of honesty and passion.The 'Old Lady' was even slower going up-country and homeward, but the hills were alive and there is great bread returning to its rightful place at the centre of every table. How are you contributing to the revival of better bread?tom@hobbshousebakery.co.uk



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