Review: My Visit To Emma's Bread, Exeter

“The smell of good bread baking, like the sound of lightly flowing water, is indescribable in its evocation of innocence and delight..." - M.F.K. Fisher.

Picture from website, picture by Helen Saunders 
This is a quote that rings so very true. Some even use the wonderful smell to help them sell their home. Living in the heart of Devon means that there is a wealth of fresh local produce at my finger tips, and I really wanted to explore what was available so close to me. I contacted Emma from Emma's Bread and she very kindly invited me to her bakery to see it in action.

Feeling tired from my 6:15 start, I arrived at The Real Food store in Exeter. I soon realised my idea of an early start was some what if a lye in compared to one of the bakers, Chris, who has 14 years experience in the trade and had been there since 4am! The 3 bakers, Emma, Chris and Liz, were hard at work kneading some dough on the centre table. Emma's website tells how her Bread "is real bread made using traditional methods resulting in a flavour and texture to satisfy the stomach and the soul." She helped set up Love Local Food, selling her bread and other locally grown produce via a mobile shop. She told me how she has been baking since she was a child, and commercially since 2004 when she started out selling at farmers markets, Shillingford organics and health food shops. She was a supporter of The Real Food Store, which is where her bakery now resides.

The Real Food store is a community owned food store that is owned by over 300 members who together raised over £153,000 by September 2010 and on 30th March 2011 the Real Food Store was opened, with the first batch of Emma's Bread being baked just days before! The shop sells fresh, locally grown produce from the surrounding areas and there's a Café that serves "simple delicious food", as well as Emma's glorious bakery. One point that Emma raised was how Exeter is surrounded by the countryside and fields, but it isn't necessarily that easy to buy the produce from those fields, and this is exactly why The Real Food store is a necessity for the area!

Emma explained all the different varieties of baked goods they produce, from sour doughs, yeasted breads and sweet things. The first creation I was introduced to was the White Sour Dough bread. This is a bread that is made by a long fermentation of dough using naturally occurring lactobacilli and yeasts. This dough is made the lunch time before and cooked the following morning. Unlike breads made quickly with cultivated yeast, it normally has a mild and more sour taste.

Also in their repertoire is a range of scones, pizzas, malty loaf, seedy loaf, farmhouse white and wholemeal.

One of the breads I witnessed being created was Focaccia. This is an Italian bread that is seasoned with olive oil and can be topped with a variety of flavours.
The dough is made, measured out and then rolled out flat. It is then brushed with Olive Oil and seasoned.

After proving for a while, olives are pressed in and then it is left to prove for a little longer, and then baked. 

They have a wide range of flours, and use over a tonne within 2 weeks having all different varieties from wholegrain to white flour.

Emma was passionate about knowing where all of her ingredients come from, and making sure that where possible they are all locally produced, which is how it should be.

Emma also told me about The Real Bread Campaign which fights for better bread in Britain. An excerpt from their website:-

Starting with a basic definition of Real Bread being made without the use of any artificial additives, the Campaign seeks, finds and shares ways to make bread better for us, better for our communities and better for the planet.

Building on our success to date, we are now working to secure funding to help us unlock the social, therapeutic and employment opportunities offered by making Real Bread by hand. In this we aim to help people facing social exclusion due to a range of factors that might put them at a disadvantage, including living with mental health issues or physical disabilities. read more here.

With TV shows such as "The Great British Bake Off" now gaining more viewers than shows like "The X Factor", baking is something which is being brought to the forefront of peoples minds. Emma also runs baking classes for the beginners to learn the the basics of bread and flour, shaping, techniques and practical tips to help you become the baker you have dreamed of. More information on the classes can be found here

I popped back into The Real Food store at lunch time to get myself some goodies!  I looked across the shelf and all these goodies had been baked this morning.

All the baked goods from a mornings work

Here is the finished Focaccia bread.

There was also a cheese scone and Focaccia bread, but those got gobbled before I even had a chance to take a picture of them all together, and I must say that they were delicious!

I really enjoyed my morning with Emma and her team and learned a lot. Emma's passion definitely shines through in the flavour of her bread, and I recommend anyone who gets the opportunity to try some to do so as soon as they can.  Also have a look around the Real Food Store, and rediscover fresh local food from the fields visible from the Heart of Exeter.

L x

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