THE future of The Flour House is rising - just like their cakes.
The baked goods stallholder has expanded its operation and gone from a tiny spare bedroom kitchen in Ballinspittle, to an open plan bakery and café in Riverstick.
‘The Flour House at the Brook’ has opened its doors just in time for Christmas.
The new location is visible from the main road to Kinsale that passes through Riverstick, and is positioned in such a way so that a smaller road wraps around the building, leaving the exterior bakery at road level.
As you’re driving by, you can see down into the bakery, with a brigade of bakers whipping and mixing and rolling different kinds of ingredients, aprons dusted with flour.
Very stylish aprons too, might I add - and this clean and elegant aesthetic style is indicative of The Flour House brand and ethos.
Stepping down into the bakery gives the impression of an antiquated back-of-house kitchen, akin to what you’d find in an old stately home, something that the owner, Rebecca Mullen, enjoys the feeling of. A mixture of a place of hard work with a twist of grandeur.
Broad windows cover the walls of the building, offering great open plan views into the workings of the set-up.
Rebecca explained how much she enjoys the idea of the local community being able to see in and feel part of the process, watching the workforce lifting trays of freshly baked goods from ovens.
The building doesn’t give off the impression of a bakery, rather a country pub with a car park, which gives it its own unique quality and character.
The café opened on December 3 and I paid a visit a few days later. Customers were streaming in with excited messages of congratulations. The Flour House has clearly embedded itself into the community.
It has come a long way, and began as a humble home bakery in Ballinspittle. When Rebecca began baking she converted a spare room in her house into a miniature kitchen.
As she was giving me a tour of the new kitchen, she gestured to the size of the larder, where a plethora of ingredients were stored on shelves.
“It was basically this size, and it was so tight in there I would sometimes have to call the kids to help me reach for something as I was packed in so much I could barely move!”
From her tiny spare room kitchen, she produced baked treats and began selling them locally, and slowly moved further afield, eventually to Carrigtwohill Market.
Orders built up and Rebecca decided to convert her garage into a kitchen. She took on more markets in the city, occupying stalls at Mahon and Douglas Farmers’ Markets. Business kept growing.
Seeing queues at her stall is not uncommon, with people collecting slices of their favourite treats, like the red velvet and lemon meringue cakes, or my personal favourite,; the individual apple cakes; incredibly soft and moist with chewy, highly caramelised ends doused with a voluptuous topping of vanilla custard.
During this period, Rebecca’s husband Glen Mullen joined the operation, bolstering the business with his own expertise as he is a highly experienced chef. The couple strengthened and continued to build.
Her scone operation is a large one and her team currently bakes over 1,000 scones a week.
“Are you sconing today?” was overheard as Rebecca gave me the guided tour, as the workforce decided who was on scone duty for the day - no doubt hundreds needed to be prepared.
They supply to coffee shops and retail outlets around the city, and impressive creations they are.
“We’re not into pretty shapes, for us it’s about producing a big fluffy delicious scone,” said Rebecca.
She uses a bladed Robot Coupe to mix the flour with butter. They are then pressed together by hand with “minimal intervention, because if they are pressed too hard or dabbled with too much, they become compact and brittle.”
The relatively small shapes are then baked, and when they are removed from the oven, they are impressively decadent golden mounds.
As my tour continued, Rebecca described how big her garage kitchen was and gestured to the café floor space - not very big at all, especially considering she had a team with her at that point.
When they were at capacity, they had to implement a one-way system, so if someone needed to move they would all move in unison, like a carousel, until they all returned to their station again.
Another tightly packed unit included a station for wash up. And to think they still managed to pump out massive quantities of goodies over the years. Now they’re spoilt for space, with an entire room at the back dedicated solely to wash up.
You could dance around their spacious kitchen now, and they have earned every square foot of it!
I’m sure their delighted customer base wouldn’t begrudge them a few jigs of joy and a few glasses of wine to celebrate their achievement.
If you’re craving The Flour House, you can find them ‘at the Brook’ in Riverstick, opening days are Tuesday to Saturday.