small bakeries embrace Ireland’s love affair with bread

While stored trays of sliced ​​processed white bread became a status symbol during the Big Freeze, post-pandemic processed bread is truly out of style. Wellness is more of a priority than ever, and a host of innovative bakers are reinventing bread to meet this need.

When I talk to Karen O’Donoghue, owner of The Happy Tummy Co, I’m going through a particularly acute episode of abdominal pain accompanied by mental confusion.

Many of Karen’s clients find themselves at a crossroads, she tells me, often suffering for years from colon health problems.

“They have lost hope. Some Irish have this mentality that if you have a problem, you stay with it and you have to suffer it.

Karen’s signature bread, which costs €25, has led to phenomenal results and testimonials on her website, including a glowing one from Goldie Hawn describing the bread as ‘magical’.

Last Christmas, a customer named Richard who suffered from long-term diverticulitis drove four hours to stock up for the Christmas period.

Originally from Carrigrohane, Karen set up the business in London before moving to Westport in November 2020.

“I was born with intestinal problems. We Irish have a great affinity for carbohydrates. Because of the weather and because we work very hard; carbohydrates support our high-energy lifestyle.”

Karen herself struggled with eating disorders, and it wasn’t until she understood that food was a tool to enhance well-being rather than shame that she resolved those issues.

He experimented with different formulas for years before creating Happy Tummy bread, which sought to feed the gut microbiome from within and, in turn, improve well-being in other areas of the body.

Raising awareness about how to change our relationship with food is a cornerstone of everything Karen does. She is aware that women’s weights in particular fluctuate, especially around the menstrual cycle, during menopause, or indeed perimenopause.

“I don’t shy away from talking about weight loss, because it’s a very important topic for some women. But along the same lines, I would never promote it.

While we are facing a harsh winter in which many will have to curtail electricity use and buy cheaper, no-brand food, one thing Karen’s customers don’t skimp on is their bread. Having moved from the UK, she believes the Irish are less likely to be hurt by price if they experience the health benefits.

“My biggest culture shock was that, coming back to Ireland, I thought the price would really turn people off.

“We’ve got farmers, we’ve got mailmen, we’ve got 80-year-olds using it instead of laxatives, and every person that walks in says, ‘Fair game to you for charging the right price.'”

Karen knows that eating a slice of bread and a cup of tea is one of life’s greatest pleasures; While most diets focus on restriction, her philosophy is to add bread that feeds the gut with prebiotics and produces the enzymes needed to break down other foods. .

rye and shine

I walk into Angela Nöthlings’ microbakery in Mayfield and the smell of sourdough is intoxicating. There are several varieties of loaves on a breadboard on the kitchen table, and I try to hide the fact that I’m salivating with the urgency of one of Pavlov’s dogs.

Don’t mention trying the bread, I think to myself, though my face must betray me as Angela starts slicing what she tells me is rye bread with nettle and sunflower; it’s fragrant, malty and slightly bitter, delicious with a drizzle of honey and the dark roast coffee I’m drinking.

In Angela’s native Germany, to sell bread, one must embark on an intensive training program that can last up to four years.

Fortunately, the Irish system is not that strict and Angela achieved both of her goals shortly after starting trading during the pandemic: passing an HSE inspection and becoming a member of Real Bread Ireland, a network of professional bakers that she supported. heavily on Ryes and Shine’s childhood.

Angela knew how to make good bread and sensed that business savvy was coming.

“I learned about sourdough 25 years ago when I moved here. My mom always baked it. She missed good bread and she needed to make it myself. But then my knowledge stopped. I just made the same recipes. so i started listening [The Sourdough Podcast]. I had no idea in those 20 years how much sourdough had been developed.”

Word of mouth was critical in building their brand.

“I just asked people at work. And five or six people said yes to one or two loaves. Now I have 80 clients”.

Of the four breads he offers, the Schwarzbrot is his favorite: a fiber-rich rye sourdough packed with pumpkin, sunflower, millet, and flaxseed. A mineral-rich and healthy bread, it has proven very popular, especially among IBS sufferers.

“Women especially come back and say ‘my digestion is working now’ and they can tolerate it.”

While Ryes and Shine may be young, Angela’s Sourdough Starter has been in the making for over 25 years and counting. She affectionately refers to him as Oscar, I cradle him like she would a newborn baby, it feels appropriate.

Fergal Walsh behind the counter at Dún Artisan Bakery, Dungarvan, County Waterford.  Image: Dan Linehan

Fergal Walsh behind the counter at Dún Artisan Bakery, Dungarvan, County Waterford. Image: Dan Linehan

dun bakery

Fergal Walsh, owner of Dún Bakery, is doing things differently. He and his partner Caitriona have his own small property, they grow fruit and vegetables, and he has started a barter system with neighbors who often provide him with fresh fruit in season in exchange for a cup of coffee in the cafeteria; His farm-to-table spirit is very much alive.

“We’re picking up one day,” he says, “cooking and serving the next day. That’s the summary we set out to do. Everything has to come from raw ingredients. There is nothing prefabricated”.

Fergal and Caitriona opened the bakery during the pandemic and it soon became known as the go-to place for artisan cakes and sourdough bread in the port city of Waterford.

Fergal first encountered sourdough as a young chef. After undergoing back surgery, he was transferred to the pastry section of the hotel where he worked. While anyone who’s experimented with a sourdough starter during the pandemic may remember the lengthy process as painful, it’s what draws Fergal to the craft.

“It’s a complete experience from start to finish, there are a lot of things to consider: air temperature, different seasons, and how it will affect the sourdough.”

The ingredients used in the cakes and breads are mostly sourced from their own smallholdings and from local farms and gardens, or are harvested locally. The smallholding was born out of a desire to be self-sufficient, says Fergal.

“We started small about five or six years ago, growing a few potatoes. Now, it’s snowballing, we have around 400 fruit trees, from apple, fig and nectarine trees to native Irish cherry trees and a tunnel prepared for strawberries and raspberries.

“This is our first full summer; we’re really trying to stock up so we don’t have to buy anything.”

Fergal’s partner, Caitriona, studied nutrition and as a team they use as many organic products and processes as possible. They have a fully functional underground ecosystem on their land.

“We don’t rotate anything. Potassium-rich comfrey, Tramore kelp and nettles are the only fertilizers we use.”

Fergal and Catriona want to diversify people’s palates and not even their white bread is “a real white”. Packed with purple whole wheat spelt and whole grains, making high-fiber bread is essential to “everything we do,” says Fergal.

The long fermentation also makes it easier for our bodies to digest the bread, says Fergal.

Nearly all of Dún’s purveyors are Irish, including Oak Forest Mills in Kilkenny, and Fergal singles out his high-protein flour as a favorite among gym-goers.

Having a low carbon footprint doesn’t seem like a challenge for the couple who say “there are so many amazing food producers on our doorstep.”

There was talk of the Dún facility being cursed (several previous businesses did not survive), but Fergal and Caitriona are just getting started.

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