A Morning Baking With Emma’s Bread

I had the privilege of visiting Emma’s Bread last week to witness Emma, Lee and Iona do what they are good at… making blimmin’ good bread! My morning started early at 6am although the girls had been there from 5am and Emma from 4am. I arrived to a hive of activity. Numerous loaves were either being proved, shaped or knocked back ready for the baking process. 

Emma started off baking bread about twelve years ago after she got fed up working in an office environment sitting at a desk all day. The loaves she made were sold at Exeter Farmers Market and through the Shillingford Veg Box scheme before moving her business to the newly opened Real Food Store on Paris Street. It’s been a creative process from the start for Emma. She says “You never stop learning” and I believe this. Over the years the trends for different breads and flours must keep her on her toes!

Emma has five ovens in her bakery but generally three are used at a time each day. The first batch of loaves that went into the ovens were the white sourdough. Made the day before and left in traditional proving baskets overnight. The sourdough loaves go directly on the stone at the bottom of the oven for approximately thirty minutes at 250C so they form a delicious crispy crust. One of my personal favourites!

The yeasted breads came next. Malthouse which is like a granary loaf. Full of malted grains.. Delicious. Wholemeal, white, seeded malthouse and spelt. The wholemeal bread has a particularly local feel because it is made with flour milled at the National Trusts Clyston Mill at Broadclyst. The rest of the flour used for the other loaves is from Shipton Mill.

The sticky rye dough was presented next. A completely different look indeed. It resembles a cement and is very loose compared to the other doughs. Iona said this was her favourite dough to work with. She likes getting the sticky hands! You need plenty of water on your hands to stop it sticking to you. Emma’s Bread make a dark rye and a light rye. It’s a simple mixture of rye flour, water and salt and that’s it. Simple but so good.

Lots of yummy calzones, focaccia, cheese scones and fruit scones were made next. The way the team work is so smooth. They each know all of the jobs that need to be done and inter-change seemlessly like dancers moving around the kitchen. It is mesmerising to watch.

Emma said that “bread making is very immersive”.. You get lost in what you are doing. This is exactly how I felt when I was training as a dancer. You forget all your problems and deal with the task in hand. I guess it’s true what people say that making bread is a therapy.

The baguettes were made just before I left. Not particularly traditional in recipe but a top seller at The Real Food Store. They are made with white bread dough but it is fermented longer which creates a slightly different flavour. They coat the baguettes in semolina for extra crunch. Yummy!

I asked the girls before I left what their favourite “go to” bread was. It was an overwhelming response of the Borodinsky rye followed by the white sourdough. Iona had a soft spot for the nutty bite of the seeded sourdough.

I asked also what was popular with the regular customers. Emma said that rye bread was the winner there. It was one of the first types of bread that Emma made when she first started Emma’s Bread. She wanted to be different from her competitors and in doing this she has stood the test of time. She even mentioned that lots of German tourists pop in looking for their rye bread fix. I think this might have to be the next loaf on my shopping list!

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