Julian Carter, Hambleton Bakery, Rutland
Tell us a bit about the business.
I head up a team of seven bakers and two cake-makers. We’re a sister company to Hambleton Hall hotel and have three shops: one at the main bakery in Exon, as well as in Oakham and Stamford. We’re supporters of the Real Bread Campaign, so are strong believers in using local ingredients, long ferments and not using additives in our breads. A lot of our flour comes from small local millers, such as Whissendine Windmill. We make a wide range of traditional artisan breads in our wood-burning oven such as sourdough, honey and nut bread and the Hambleton Local loaf, made by fermenting local beer. We’ve also just launched a range of traditional cakes. Altogether we produce around 40 products.
What’s a typical day like?
Every day is different. The past few weeks, I’ve been getting the cake business up and running, working from 12pm to 8pm making products such as egg custards, Bakewell tarts, summer puddings and treacle tarts. We’ve launched the range to keep things fresh in the shops, but also to make better use of the bakery. Bread baking begins at anywhere between 12am and 3am and goes through the night in preparation for morning deliveries, so it made sense to develop new products that could be made during the day.
What’s your background?
I come from a long line of bakers. My family bought the licence for making Bath Oliver biscuits in Bristol back in 1820 and my father ran a bakery in Liverpool for many years, but the business closed down in the 1980s when supermarkets started introducing bread at 20p a loaf and cheap mass-produced cakes became popular. I had worked in the bakery as I was growing up, but decided to change direction and joined the RAF, retraining as a chef. I worked there for 12 years, ending up as part of the team that cooked for the Prime Minister John Major at Chequers and 10 Downing Street. We also got to cook for visiting politicians like Bill Clinton, Jacques Chirac and Boris Yeltsin. We then moved to Rutland, where I got a job as sous-chef at Hambleton Hall hotel’s restaurant. I ended up making all the bread and pastries. One thing led to another and we opened a bakery.
How do you find baking with a wood-burning oven?
I was terrified to use it, but wood-fired ovens are actually pretty easy to bake with. We burn three-foot ash and beech logs, sourced from the local estates. Fuel only costs about £14 a day. Each morning you have to stoke up the oven, but the temperature never really drops by much, because we are baking seven days a week. The oven has a rotating platform, which makes loading easy, and it’s excellent for breads like sourdoughs and bloomers. For really crusty products, like rolls, we still use a Tom Chandley steam oven.