B30 Foodbank update

Every Thursday we bake extra bread and bag any leftovers to be collected by the B30 Foodbank on Friday mornings. It’s usually somewhere between 30 and 60 loaves and they get distributed to people in need by the dedicated team of volunteers at the food bank warehouse.

They got in touch this week with an update which we thought we’d pass on verbatim. We can afford to give the bread away every week because of the volumes you buy, so it’s really you, our customers, who should be thanked.

Dear All at Loaf,

Thank you so much for your recent kind donations of food to the B30 Foodbank.

As you probably know we are a completely voluntary organisation, supported by the Trussell Trust. We rely solely on donations from organisations and generous supporters such as yourselves to provide for people, including families, within our local community who, for whatever reason, find themselves in immediate crisis, and are therefore going without.

Just to give you an idea of the scale of the work we do at the B30 Foodbank: during 2021 we gave out 95,257kg of food to feed 6,770 people (of whom 2,307 were children) across 3,340 households. Unfortunately we noticed a significant rise in the number of families requiring help in 2021 and with the anticipated increases in the cost of living we expect this trend to continue as 2022 progresses.

Should you wish to learn more and keep up to date with the work of the B30 Foodbank please visit us on our website, Facebook or Twitter.

We would like to reiterate how important your donation will be in helping us to make a real difference to individuals and families who would otherwise go hungry — and on their behalf we thank you wholeheartedly once again for your generous support.

Kind regards,

The B30 Foodbank Volunteer Team

The CoCoMad programme is out

It’s only a month until CoCoMad, the big community festival in Cotteridge Park, and the programme is back from the printers. This year it’s a tabloid newspaper chock full of articles and activities, beautifully illustrated by Edie Woolf and designed with care by Kerry Leslie.

We’ll have copies on the bakery counter this week (while stocks last) and you can read it on your computer here. Kerry says she’d like to make it a regular thing with more articles next year so if you’re interested, get in touch!

Bike beer

News has reached us that our sibling worker co-op, the Birmingham Bike Foundry, have had a beer made for them by Attic. Musette, named for the refreshment packs handed out to cyclists in long-stage races, is a lower-alcohol beer for summer riding days and comes in a eye catching can. Sadly we can’t sell it at Loaf without a licence, but you can get it from Stirchley Wines and Attic themselves.

So why doesn’t Loaf have an Attic beer? We both work with fermentation and there’s a long history of bread-related beers. Rest assured, we’re on it. Watch for something later in the year…

Alright, Babka?

For the last couple of weeks, Molly’s been making loaves of babka for Saturday. Babka is a braided sweetbread originating in the Jewish communities of Poland, Russia and Ukraine. Our variant is a braided sweetbread with a generous chocolate filling, folded into a tin and baked as a loaf.

This is a new thing for us so if you’ve bought one we’d love to hear what you think, especially if you’re already a babka fan! Look for babka on Saturday mornings…

Top: ready to go in the oven. Bottom: baked and on sale!

Bread and Butler’s Kickstarter

Andy Butler was one of the first bakers at Loaf when we opened on Stirchley high street a decade ago. In 2015 he left for Deptford in London to start Bread and Butler, first baking at home for friends, then in a café’s shipping container kitchen and finally in 2018 in their own building with a team of eight.

The pandemic has been tough, of course, but an expired lease meant they also lost their home in January. Treating this as an opportunity, they’ve secured a new space and are building something new from their successes. They’re crowdfunding £30,000 for new equipment including an oven, and are at 80% in five days so they must be doing something right!

Excitingly, part of their plans include teaching which we’re naturally big advocates of. In order to teach, you need to understand your skills in deep and nuanced ways, and we’re convinced that running bread courses has made us better bakers. The more bakeries that teach the better!

One of the best things about having been around for a while is watching seeds planted at Loaf grow into mighty trees. We’re very proud of what Andy’s built and hope you’ll join us in wishing him well on this exciting new chapter.

As we approach our 10th anniversary on the high street this year we want to share more stories like this. If you’ve had a connection with Loaf which has led to something interesting, do get in touch. We’d love to hear about it!

Say hello to Ian, our new trainee baker

Ian became a permanent member of the Loaf team last month so we asked him to write a bit about his experience.

For the last nine-and-a-half years, I’ve been working as a software engineer in the visual effects industry. This journey has taken me from London to Vancouver and now to a remote working arrangement in Birmingham. While in Canada, I started baking bread at home as a creative pursuit to improve my mental health.

Three months ago (with lots of encouragement from my partner), I approached Loaf to see if they would be interested in taking me on as a trainee, part-time. Since then, I have been fortunate enough to train with their experienced team of bakers – getting to grips with bakery schedules and larger-scale baking processes and techniques.

The bake shifts remind me of a long day on the ski slopes – fun, exhausting and the first après beer is pure bliss. There was a chance this journey could take the joy out of baking, but it has been just the opposite. I’m excited to bake for a wider audience and hope to continue to spread the love for real bread.

It’s also been a real breath of fresh air to be part of the Loaf co-operative. Having an equal voice in the bakery and company decisions, self-responsibility, and a focus on serving the local community is what gets me out of bed for those 5am starts!

When I’m not baking, I love to run, play board games, build LEGO and discover local craft beer.

My favourite loaf is a tie between the seeded spelt sourdough and the white tin.

You can look back on Ian’s baking journey and follow his progress at @ianbakesbread.

Fruit galettes

Sarah is covering the sweets shift this week and decided to go off-script, with spectacular results. The bread puddings and oat slices are taking a break and filling the gaps are some delicious fruit galettes.

A galette is a type of single crust, free-form pie with a fruit filling where the crust is folded partway over the top of the filling. This week we have apple, cherry, rhubarb and strawberry, and raspberry and strawberry – all on a pistachio frangipane cream filling.

And if that wasn’t enough, there’s also an upside down blood orange polenta cake!

Thanks Sarah!

Loaf’s going to the UK Grain Lab

Martha and Neil are off to the UK Grain Lab in Nottingham this weekend: “a gathering of farmers, millers, plant breeders, bakers, cooks, scientists and academics promoting the growing and eating of non-commodity grains in the UK”. As we’ve been researching the heritage grain market for our bakery and cookery school, a number of people have recommended this event and this will be our first time.

The conference programme runs the full gamut from the biology of breeding new strains to sustainable farming practices to building new agro-economies. Not to mention making food from it all. There’s also a fringe programme run with the Real Bread Campaign, open to non-delegates.

We’re particularly looking forward to connecting with the folks from the Nottingham Mill Co-op who we helped crowdfund last year and hope to work with in the future.

Look for a full report soon!

(Photo taken from the UK Grain Lab website)

Molly went to Italy

Last week Molly went to visit ex-Loaf member Valentina and her family in Italy and flooded the group chat with photos of Recco‘s glorious landscapes… totally obscured by the food.

Above is focaccia dough filled with stracchino cheese and then deep fried in this disconcertingly large pot of hot oil.

And this is the state of a normal bakery window.

We’re amazed she came back at all.

Paska bread for Ukraine

We were given the recipe for Paska bread by a Ukrainian customer while talking about how we at Loaf can help the relief efforts. Rachel had a go at making them and we sold them on the Saturdays before both western and eastern Easter weekends raising £130 for the DEC appeal.

We were also happy to support the exhibition, We Are Here: From Ukraine, chronicling the experiences of faculty and students of Kyiv University of Technologies and Design who were on an Erasmus exchange in Birmingham when the war broke out. The show runs at Artefact until May 7th – please do check it out and pick up one of their lovely tote bags.

In praise of the Sourdough Tin

For the last few months we’ve been making tinned sourdough loaves on Saturdays. People are often surprised that they’re sourdoughs as we’ve gotten used to a certain look for the sourdough loaf – round with an arching crest bursting from a blistering crust. These tins look kinda basic by comparison, like you might find in a supermarket.

So what’s good about them? Well, they fit better in the toaster! Not to mention there’s something deeply satisfying about a square sandwich.

It’s also an important part of the Real Bread Campaign to make it clear that “real bread” can look ‘normal’, and that’s OK. We naturally get excited by the aesthetic opportunities available to the artisan baker, the ability to produce something unique that delights the eye as much as the taste buds. But there’s an honest beauty to be found in the tinned loaf: the simple shapes and smooth crust; the form following function. We should embrace and celebrate it.

Our version of the sourdough tin has hidden depths, mixing two very different grains to produce a pretty unique loaf. This is a white wheat loaf made with a rye sourdough starter which gives it some special advantages.

Firstly, we are able to proof the dough at an ambient temperature, meaning it doesn’t take up precious space in the fridges.

Secondly, the rye slows down the ferment while also giving the dough a boost, helping it rise in the tin and producing a lovely smooth, domed crust.

Finally, the whole process fits neatly within our existing baking schedule meaning we can make more bread for you!

And of course all these elements, from the mix of grain to the method of fermentation, produce a texture and taste unique to this loaf.

The sourdough tin is available to pre-order. We’re very proud of this loaf and hope you’ll give it a go!

Cotteridge Park is charity of the quarter… again!

The last couple of months have been really busy at Loaf and we weren’t able to properly support and promote our nominated charity, Friends of Cotteridge Park. So we’re going to keep them on through to the summer and the annual CoCoMad festival.

You can continue to give donations with your pre-orders and at the counter in store. And as spring turns into summer we’ll be drawing your attention to the many things going on in the park and how you can get involved.

BAB Lab 2022 – bio art at Loaf

Laurie Ramsell is an artist who works with biological material. Until recently he was a Stirchley resident and became a good friend of Loaf. So when he approached us to be part of his new project we were intrigued and quickly agreed.

BAB Lab 2022 is a series of bio art workshops and talks taking place in Birmingham this August. They will focus on living materials: yeast, flora, clay, fungi, and the human body. The yeast workshop takes place at Loaf and will be our the first time teaching breadmaking as an artistic pursuit!

Laurie is also bringing in practitioners to talk about creative brewing and, most excitingly, using yeast to develop photographic images by selectively exposing them to UV light. You can see some examples of ‘yeastograms’ here.

We’ll have more to share about this nearer the time, but it’s dead exciting. Maybe we’ll be adding yeast art to our courses on offer in the future!

More about BAB Lab.