THERE’S bread, and then there’s Real Bread.
Our daily staff of life is having a serious moment in the sun, although this isn’t a new revolution, just one that has suddenly found a much wider tribe.
It would be convenient to say it’s a product of a year of lockdown — we were all there when we witnessed the delirium of success and the distress of failure as we watched sourdough starters bubble into life then die a in a heap of smelly greyness. We eyed the cut through shots of newly-baked bread with envy, and poured over hydration methods, proving times and flour ratios in search of the perfect bake.
There was also banana bread, but the least said about that the better!
And for every hobbyist baker that persisted, there were several that fell to the wayside, but for sure the legacy is that many of us know a lot more about bread now and appreciate the skill and time that goes into making a well-risen, perfectly baked, nutritious loaf of bread.
In the last year, there has been a notable rise, pardon the pun, in micro-bakeries popping up around the county, a trend replicated across the country: Seagull Bakery in Tramore, Bread41 in Dublin and Bácús Bakery in Dingle have all become must-visit places for locals and intrepid foodies alike, drawing crowds, all waiting patiently in line for a share of the baker’s effort. It is reminiscent of scenes outside now iconic bakeries in San Francisco back when sourdough was a still new phenomenon.
Ireland was hot on the heels of this trend too. The early adopters and campaigners that established Real Bread Ireland in 2014 have been baking for decades. Patrick Ryan of Firehouse Bakery in Dublin (and bakery school on Heir Island, West Cork); Joe Fitzmaurice (Riot Rye in Cloghjordan, Co Tipperary); Declan Ryan (Arbutus Bakery, Co Cork); Kemal Scarpello (Scarpello & Co, Derry); Thibault Peigne (Tartine, Dublin), and Josephine Plettenburg (Spelt Bakers, Kilkenny), along with Keith Bohanna and Joe McNamee, came together to “improve the quality of bread being produced and consumed within the Island of Ireland”.
Today, that ethos can be found in many of the micro-bakeries establishing throughout the county. So, who are they? Where are they? How did their real bread journey begin? And, most importantly, when can we go and buy all the bread?
Bread & Roses Bakery, Wilton
A family business run by husband-and-wife team, Moray Bresnihan and Valerie Kelly — occasionally helped by their daughter, Eva, that started selling breads and pastries at the Coal Quay market in 2017 and has grown steadily ever since. Moray is originally from Sligo and Valerie is from Tipperary, both have lived in Cork for 16 years.
“We decided to call our small bakery ‘Bread & Roses’ in honour of Rose Schneiderman, an American socialist, feminist, and one of the most prominent women labour union leaders of the 20th Century,” says Moray. Schneiderman is credited with the saying: “The worker must have bread, but she must have roses too.”
“We became a full-time operation three months before the pandemic and have been working through lockdowns ever since,” says Moray.
“We both had an interest in food for many years and always dreamed of having our own local bakery.”
“We sell directly to customers through NeighbourFood; the Coal Quay market, and wholesale to a number of cafes, sandwich bars, and restaurants. We make different sourdoughs but are most known for our Jerusalem Bagels, which we bake instead of boil, topped with sesame seeds and pomegranate molasses; also, our Babka and Kouign Amanns (a traditional Breton pastry that literally means butter cake).
“People are increasingly recognising the importance of good ingredients and well-made food for their diet, general health, and well-being, as well as the local economy, a factor made very apparent over the past year.
“Besides, good bread is always a special treat even though it’s a fundamental part of our lives. You can’t beat it!”
“We started small, and since our opening weekend on a single table in the Coal Quay back in 2017, we’ve had fantastic customers who have been incredibly loyal to us. Their enthusiasm for good bread has kept us going, growing, and allowed us to develop our skills and our craft.”
“Hopefully, we’ll see more orders coming in from the hospitality sector as it opens up over the coming months. We’ve been luckier than most over the past year but can’t wait to get back into the thick of it as people have always been central to our bakery.”
Where to Buy: NeighbourFood hubs in Cork city, Watergrasshill, Cobh, Midleton, Lisavaird and Ballincollig; also at Filter, O’Keeffe’s in St Lukes, O’Mahony’s Stores in Watergrasshill, The Alternative Bread Company in the English Market, or grab a delicious bagel brunch or breakfast from Sonny’s Deli, Good Day Deli or Ellen’s Kitchen Cobh. Or just stroll down to their weekly stall at the Coal Quay market every Saturday from 8.30am to 1pm.
www.breadandroses.ie, Instagram @corkbread, Facebook @breadandrosesbakery.
The Lighthouse Micro-Bakery, Crosshaven
Tom Walsh runs The Lighthouse Micro-Bakery from his home in Crosshaven Co. Cork, opposite Roches Point Lighthouse, hence the bakery name!
He says: “I have been a hobby baker for over 20 years and opened the bakery two years ago following some time spent in the School of Artisan Baking in Nottingham, where I met Wayne Caddy who instilled in me the importance of producing good quality ‘REAL’ bread and being true to the ideals of traditional bread making — in particular, bread without the addition of unnecessary chemicals and food additives.
“Bread is a staple part of most people’s diet and my belief is that the bread we eat has a significant impact on our day-to-day wellbeing.
"I set out to make breads which have little or no chemical additives, have a long proofing (rising) time to allow natural yeasts and enzymes to work at making my breads a healthy and digestible alternative.
“I bake a small variety of sourdough bread using only additive free flour, filtered water and unrefined sea salt. It’s a bread I am proud to share with family, friends and the local community.
“I initially started baking and selling my bread with encouragement from Ultan and Lucy at Gort Na Nain farm in Nohoval. I began stocking a few loaves at their farm veg stall and was overwhelmed with the positive response. This encouraged me to continue with my sourdough bread journey.
“I continue to witness a significant undercurrent of people concerned about what goes into their bread and I am delighted a number of local people choose Lighthouse Sourdough Breads as a staple part of their daily diet.”
Where to Buy: Bread is baked to order, and orders are either via text (087 134 7441) or online via NeighbourFood.
Gort Na Nain farm stall (Saturday); home deliveries in Crosshaven, Fountainstown, Myrtleville areas (Wednesday and Saturday); online for collection at NeighbourFood hubs in Kinsale, Carrigaline and Passage West (Thursday). When it reopens, the Tracton Arts Centre monthly community market. https://www. facebook.com/The-Lighthouse-Micro-Bakery
WildFlour Bakery, Innishannon
Originally from Clonmel, Co Tipperary, Chris Fahey is getting ready to open a new bakery shop for after outgrowing his current facility. The bakery only opened in September, 2020, the expansion perfectly following the increased demand for real bread.
“I opened a bakery because I thought the quality of bread available wasn’t very good and it’s difficult to get your hands on real sourdough. I fell in love with baking real bread and wanted to share it with everyone.”
“At the moment, I mostly supply wholesale, and some online orders for customers to pick up at locations in the city. My Oat & Honey Sourdough is a fan favourite, and The Alternative Bread Company sell a lot of my Cheddar & Jalapeno Sourdough. Cinnamon Buns are like a drug, everyone is addicted!”
“The difference between a homemade loaf and a mass-produced loaf is huge. So many people in Ireland are gluten-intolerant because of all the additives and excessive yeast. There is more education around sourdough now, and you don’t have to fear gluten, just ferment it.
“For pastries, it’s about quality: there’s no comparison between a frozen, commercially produced croissant and a handmade one using Irish butter.
“Now that restrictions are easing, work has begun on a permanent location in Innishannon. Up to now, I have worked out of a rented catering unit at my house, but I have outgrown it and need somewhere I can sell from and meet my customers. Construction is underway and should be ready to go in a few weeks. In the meantime, the challenge is to keep up with demand!”
Where to Buy: Currently selling online from Wildflourcork.com. Breads available from ABC, Cooney’s Garage (Coachford, Chris’s local garage), Bean Brownie, The Olive Branch in Clonakilty and soon from Diva, Ballinspittle. Cinnamon Buns at Pink Moon, Cafe Molu, Some Dose and Three Fools in the city; and Stone Valley Coffee Roasters in Clonakilty.
The Flour House, Ballinspittle
Rebecca Mullen is owner and creator at The Flour House in Ballinspittle, specialising in sweet cakes and desserts. Originally from London, she moved to Cork in 2002 with her husband, originally from Bandon.
She says: “I’ve always been involved in catering, events management and the hospitality industry. Baking was something I shied away from although I have fond memories of baking with my Mum and Granny. When my daughter was born, I started to bake for fun, starting with scones, trying lots of recipe until I found one I loved. In the past 12 years, I became an avid hobby baker until I had to find an outlet for all the baking and The Flour House was born.
“I started farmers’ markets in 2016, and now we bake for retail and private sales. Our speciality items are our much-loved Lemon Meringue and delicious Red Velvet cakes.
"Our pretty miniature bakes, called Bouchon’s, always hit the spot. Our ethos is providing simple, elegant baking using exceptional ingredients to create delicious tasting cakes for our discerning customers.
“There is more emphasis on quality and consistency — people are cooking and baking for themselves so to entice them to buy something I bake, it really needs to stand out from the norm. I want my customers to feel they are getting something truly special.
“In anticipation of restrictions lifting, I hope our business will grow further as people travel to markets and look to celebrate occasions with families and friends once again.
“People want to support small local businesses as they have been a lifeline and kept communities going with quality products made with love and care.”
Where to Buy: Mahon Farmers’ Market on Thursday, Douglas Farmers’ Market on Saturday, Spar Mount Oval, Ballinspittle Centra, Urru Bandon, Cinnamon Cottage in Rochestown, Bean Town Café on the Model Farm Road, Bruno’s Resturant in Kinsale, Get in touch: 086 390 2690, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.theflourhouse.ie, Instagram & Facebook.