Six bread-making enthusiasts, all with a wish to bring the benefits of slowly-fermented, healthy, artisan bread to their fellow citizens, came together for four days to bake, to develop their knowledge and skills and to ferment their good ideas.
Before the course, everyone had told us something of their plans, their breadmaking experience and what they most wanted to focus on.
Day one started at 10am and by 11am everyone had their hands in a wet and sticky sponge-and-dough that would become ciabatta, focaccia and rolls as well as providing a versatile schiaccata that can be filled and topped with local, seasonal variations.
The business session and introductions covered the idea of a community bakery and gave us all an appreciation of the rich mix of personal stories, goals and real bread companions we would be working with during (and beyond) the course.
By lunchtime a basic wholemeal yeasted bread and a cheese bread were in progress and during the afternoon the day’s production was baked in the wood-fired oven.
The essential preparation of overnight sponges and sourdoughs for the second day and a clean-up of the kitchen were followed by a drink and then supper of schiaccata, Whitmuir beef, Macbiehill vegetables, apple and oat pudding, accompanied by yet more bread-tasting and bread-talk.
Day two began with appreciation of a day’s work well done, followed quickly by rye sourdough and its variations (seeded, Borodinsky, Rossisky etc.) and the first turns of a laminated dough that would be ‘book-turned’ at intervals before being shaped into croissants, pain au chocolat and rich pastries.
Two business sessions drew together the essentials of the baking process (scaling up, bakery layout, product range, regulations and compliance) and of creating a social enterprise.
After starting an overnight-rise wheat sourdough (using their own leavens) and making the first plans in two groups for the final day’s baking of a batch of products, participants enjoyed a glimpse of a real-life example of community-supported baking, in a visit to Breadshare Bakery at Whitmuir Farm.
There isn’t a middle day of a four-day course but if there is going to be a wobbly period, when the enormity of the challenge weighs heavier than the bundle of resources we’ve already gathered to tackle it, that is likely to be on day three. Having people who are proficient in business and finance alongside others who are experienced in community action highlights the constructive tension between the ‘social’ and the ‘enterprise’ elements of the endeavour.
It is reassuring to remember that we don’t need to become experts in company law or business structure in order to start a viable and valuable community bakery - and to know the resources and organisations that can help with our diverse projects.
Baking on day three used the overnight doughs to make sourdough wheat baguettes and bâtards. The essential elements of planning any baking enterprise, such as staff, suppliers, delivery, production and planning made up one session.
Timing, costing, marketing, ingredients and pricing were all part of a realistic small-scale bakery production. Two groups planned, costed, prepared and baked a small batch of products and ‘sold’ them to an appreciative audience of companions and visitors.
There is much to absorb and to reflect on, to follow up and to put into action. Four days isn't long enough to develop a thorough plan for a baking enterprise but it is enough to create the conditions in which one can begin to thrive. We are looking forward to helping Théo with his project in Stirling and to following the progress of Gail, Antony, Esther, Stephen and James in England, Scotland, the United States and perhaps in Kenya.
"thank you very much to both you and Veronica for such an enjoyable, educational, and inspirational Baking for Community course" (James Doig)