If you’re staying at one of our self-catering cottages in Cockermouth and are after sweet treats or freshly baked bread, then head along to The Coffee Kitchen Bakery. They pride themselves on their delicious breads - made with no additives - and selection of tasty teas and speciality coffees. Owner Andy Walsh gives us a peek behind the scenes of this home-grown coffee shop.
Creating fresh bread
There is no better thing to do in life than bake bread. I remind myself of this on a regular basis and, although I don’t bake anywhere near as much as I used to, when I get the opportunity, I love it.
Waking in the dark in a quiet house, getting into the van, parking up and hearing the rivers running in their beds while most other people are asleep. Switching the ovens on to warm up. Looking at the shelves where, within a few hours, loaves of bread will sit, ready for sale. Mixing your first batch, forming the sourdoughs, being completely at peace with yourself. That’s what I feel when I’m on the early shift in the bakery.
Then, others join me, and we might put on a bit of music. I’m a great fan of cheesy pop while I bake: the cheesier the better! We begin to work together, forming loaves that go into the prover. Proved bread is then loaded into the oven, baked loaves are taken out to cool, and you’re hit with the smell: the incredible scent of freshly baked bread. It’s always good to take a moment to appreciate this before treating myself to a well-deserved cup of tea.
From humble beginnings
This is how it’s been for ten years now. We started baking bread when we opened The Coffee Kitchen in Cockermouth in 2011, using only a couple of Kenwood mixers that we worked into the ground, and baking in a conventional oven. Then in 2015, we moved the baking to our present site in the historical Market Place of Cockermouth where, if the wind is in the right direction, the smell of baking bread drifts across the road. Sometimes I think back and smile at our humble beginnings. I’m sure in ten years’ time again I’ll look back to where we are now with a similar smile.
We make real bread. That is, bread with no unnatural preservatives or additives. For example, our white tin loaf contains nothing more than strong white bread flour, water, yeast and salt. This gives us a much healthier loaf, though one that should be eaten as freshly as possible. We always say with our bread: “First day fine, second day fine, third day toast”.
We never intended to make celebratory, weekend breads that you can use to impress your friends (though we do this too). We always wanted to make real bread for everyday use. Real bread that can form the core of a person’s diet. Bread for sandwiches and toast but also bread to form part of a meal. Who looks at a plate rich in gravy or sauce and doesn’t think, ‘Now all I need is a bit of bread’? It’s natural, it’s right and it’s proper!
Our most popular bread is our three-seeded, which is a really dense wholemeal loaf filled with sunflower seeds, linseeds and pumpkin seeds. Also popular is our Beacon Brown, a loaf with added treacle and a shot of coffee. It’s a tribute to the old breads of West Cumbria that were enriched with anything (and everything) they could nick off the tall ships to make the bread taste better. We also make a Cumbrian Rum Bread on special occasions: dark and rich.
Around Cumbria and the Lake District
You’ll find our breads in a number of local Cumbrian shops and we can regularly be spotted on a market stall in places such as Keswick, Sedbergh and Stainton. We tend to stay fairly local, though some of our wholesale deliveries take us as far as Carlisle and Penrith. You might catch me in my little white van, enjoying the scenery as much as any tourist. I’ll often stop and take a picture if the mood takes me: I think our Instagram account is as full of mountains and lakes as it is of bread and cake!
Thursdays tend to be Bakewell Tart Day while Saturdays belong to chocolate eclairs, banoffee pies and cheesecakes. Every day is a traybake and scone day. Cumbrians love scones and during the Taste Cumbria Food Festival held here in Cockermouth every September, we sell over a thousand in the course of the two days! It’s incredible how folks always have time for a scone, and we love to give them plenty of options with flavours including cheese, treacle, plain, Stilton and walnut, and white chocolate and cranberry.
Go forth and bake
The hours are long, the work is hard, and there are days when my knees make me feel like I’m 101. Yet I’m not sure I would change the last ten years. To have spent such a big chunk of my life bringing something as joyful, as tasty and as good for you as a simple loaf of bread to the people of Cumbria… Well, I’m not sure it gets any better than that. There is something earthy, something rooted, something precious about taking flour and water and making something exceptional from it. It’s a lovely thing to do. You should try it.
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This is a guest blog written by Andy from The Coffee Kitchen Bakery. Visit their website to find out more.
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