Tom Herbert is a fifth-generation baker and director of Hobbs House Bakery, a multi-award-winning craft bakery based in south Gloucestershire
It started with a bubble. A dough, just flour and water, put in a bucket and pushed to one side. This innocent mix is more than the sum of its parts and on how that bubble gets there, a lot has been said. What I do know, for certain, is that it happened. And when those first bubbles appeared, I nurtured them and they have become our most precious ingredient.
Ten years later, we read in Matthew Fort’s column "Wild White loaf, the staple of my breakfast table", a loaf risen with these magical bubbles. We then get a call - this same loaf has won best baked product at the Soil Association’s Annual Organic Food Awards... Woooohoooo!
These pearls are magnificent, but knowing how to create edible alchemy from three ingredients, without sharing with anyone how great the bread tastes and how well it keeps, would be to keep our light under a bushel. As a craft bakery in a growing market we need to continually be on the look-out for new ways of tempting people back and ultimately selling more. For us, winning a national award with our provincial product has spurred us into action. We’ve enlisted the help of a local marketing company, which tells us to be brave and go where we’ve never gone before.
So for us it’s about making great bread with ingredients that can be counted on one hand, being better but, more importantly, being different, it’s telling the story. So we combine five generations of experience with the best creative and contemporary professional nous we can muster and in mixing these few strong ingredients together we will endeavour to create something beautiful, equal to that of our Wild White and, in doing so, offer our customers a choice that can be trusted in the face of coming challenges, whether that be for fat-busting diets or eating well with thinning wallets.
Now would be a great time to dust off the LJ Hanneman books and get your customers familiar with your regional baked specialities, if they aren’t already part of your USP. Nigel Slater has been extolling the virtues of this nubile facet of our cultural heritage with aplomb and he has been joined by the ’Hairy Biker’ Bakers. Save money and let this be our advert.
There may not be time to study the minutiae of the bubbles, I’ll leave that to the team at Cern with their particle-smasher: if we all disappear into a black hole on 10 September, it probably won’t be my latest, a Spelt Sourdough - although that should rock the world.
I’m looking forward to celebrating with the second-finest thing with bubbles in it.!