Hobbs House Bakery: The fabulous baker boys
PUBLISHED: 11:03 21 April 2011 | UPDATED: 19:14 20 February 2013
Hobbs House Bakery is adding a new string to its bow with the addition of a butchery in Chipping Sodbury. Katie Jarvis finds out more from Tom Herbert.
If you think Hobbs House Bakery is the best thing since sliced bread, then wait til you hear about the new butchery. Its one of the many innovations from this Gloucestershire company that believes in combining the best of the traditional with just a few modern tweaks. Tom Herbert, fifth generation baker, tells us more about his familys business.
Tom, youre really putting the meat on the bones at Hobbs House if youll forgive the pun! Tell us about the new butchery.
My brother Henry and his wife, Jess, have taken on the running of the butchery in Chipping Sodbury High Street, next to our bakery shop. Its been a traditional family butchers for many years, and the previous owners the Nelsons have been very supportive. In fact Alan, who worked there with them, has stayed on. Henrys a great chef - he studied at Westminster Catering College, and was head chef at the award-winning pub, The Coach and Horses in Clerkenwell. Hes also the youngest chef to have appeared in the Great British Menu on BBC2, when he represented the South West. Running the butchery is the perfect job for him. Hes very interested in reviving old recipes his Scotch eggs are fantastic! (gooey in the middle and crisp on the outside) as well as curing his own meat. Its brilliant having the butchery: we use a lot of meat in the bakery for sausage rolls, sandwich fillings and pasties. Henry also produces recipe cards for dishes like glazed belly pork, and beef stew, which you can pick up in the shop.
There have been some interesting innovations in the bakery, too...
Weve perfected a method for frozen bread and croissants so that farm shops and delis can store our loaves in their freezers and bake them off when they need them. No one need ever run out of our bread again! Frozen bread has, quite rightly, had a really bad reputation in the past, and it took us two years of experimenting before we got it right; its very hard to do well. Its still hand-made we sell a frozen tabatire (French for tobacco pouch), for example, which has a special flap shape that can only be made by hand; its then blast frozen to seal the moisture in. We deliver batches within a 100-mile radius once a week.
And thats the Hobbs House philosophy to a tee: the best of the traditional combined with up-to-the-minute technology.
Absolutely. Our products are all handmade but we use modern technology where it will improve consistency. So, for example, our weighing of ingredients is computer controlled; and we use an Artofax mixer. Its actually made to a 60-year-old design, and it replicates the old bakers way of kneading the dough. It mixes really slowly and doesnt heat it all up, which is great for sourdoughs.
Talking about the traditional, tell us about sourdough.
We have a 55-year-old sourdough a blend of dark rye flour and water which we keep in a huge vat; thats what we use to rise our finest loaves. We take whatever we need out each day from a tap at the bottom, and add fresh four and water to the top so it wont ever run out. It never goes off because its a living yeast culture similar to yogurt-making or feeding a ginger-beer plant. Because its such a mature dough, it has acidity which gives our bread its great flavour. It also contains lots of beneficial bacteria that aid digestion in the same way that yogurt does. Strangely, because its a specific kind of yeast wild, airborne - you can actually eat this bread if you have a yeast allergy. My father-in-law has a severe one, and hes fine with it. We keep some frozen, just as a security measure, because its such an important part of our operation: our key magic ingredient! We consider ourselves custodians, and will pass it on to the next generation. Ive also got a sourdough at home that dates from 1857 the oldest Ive ever heard of. A lady whos a real sourdough enthusiast spent a day making bread with me, and she gave me some as a gift.
Bread-making at home is making a come-back, too.
Weve been selling lots of our bread-making kits, which include the quality flour we use (from Shipton Mill in Tetbury), a stone that enhances the baking process, and a jar of our 55-year-old sourdough. Theres a DVD showing how to do it step by step, along with four of our most popular recipes. Lots of people are rediscovering bread-making. In fact, weve even got an intern with us here in Chipping Sodbury from the School of Artisan Food. Hes in his mid-60s - all his working life, he was a solicitor, but hes now retraining as a baker.
- You can find branches of Hobbs House Bakery at 39, High Street, Chipping Sodbury (along with Hobbs House Butchery); Unit 3, The Corn Hall, Market Place, Cirencester; 18-20 Church Street, Tetbury; and 4, George Street, Nailsworth, where the Hobbs House bistro is also based. For more details, including mail-order, visit www.hobbshousebakery.co.uk