Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread
Fragrant. Warm. Fresh and promising. Comparable to a temptress just waiting to lure you in and get you hooked. This is how bread lovers feel when they see a loaf not long from the oven. That urge to tear off a hunk and tuck right in is almost overwhelming. Or is it just us?!
We dont think so! As it happens, we know we are not the only ones who get tingles of excitement when it comes to bread. Our chefs, bakers and restrauteurs know the importance of making and serving good bread.
Bread is an international food, served in many guises all over the world. It’s the one food we all have in common as a global community. And there are different habits around eating it. The French, for example, particularly love eating bread throughout lunch or dinner. Spain and Italy also follow this tradition. Our European cousins are very wise. After all, you never know when there will be a bit of sauce or gravy to mop up from an almost empty plate, or a piece of cheese to enjoy after the main course.
In Ireland, etiquette dictates we serve bread with lunch (like soup and bread or in a sandwich), or at the start of dinner and during the first course. For the Irish, bread is the lead up to the main event. When it’s good, it sets the tone for the rest of the dining experience. Good bread and good coffee are the first and last impressions a customer will take from the meal. They really need to be special to provide that lasting memory of money well spent.
BRINGING HOME THE BREAD
Many of our restaurants and cafes make their own bread fresh every day. This could be as simple as a traditional Irish soda bread. Or as fancy as the best San Francisco sourdoughs, French Pain Rustiques and baguettes, or Italian Foccacia or Ciabatta. Whatever your taste, you’re bound to find it in a Good Food Ireland dining room.
Complimenting the bread may be some pretty curls of local Irish butter, a dipping bowl of Irish rapeseed oil or olive oil, or even a selection of home made pestos and tapenade. This is the prelude to the feast, and boy will it whet your appetite. Making good bread is testament to the talent of any chef. It requires lightness of hand and patience of mind, not to mention skill and intuition. Bread is a living thing. It needs care and attention to make it thrive and be wholesome.
OUR MASTER BAKERS
Needless to say we have more than one or two genius bread bakers in our Good Food Ireland family. Let us introduce you to them!
RYAN’S ARBUTUS BREAD
Declan Ryan of Arbutus Bread in Cork has made a retirement hobby into a substantial business which supplies many delis, shops and restaurants in the area with fresh bread every day.
The range includes Granny Ryan’s Brown Soda Bread, Sourdough, Baguettes, Pain Rustique, Medieval loaves based on traditional ancient recipes, rustic country loaves with wholegrain or multiseed, and many more.
Declan can often be seen selling his bread direct from a stall at some of the region’s food fairs and events.
In Northern Ireland, Master Baker Robert Ditty of Ditty's Home Bakery is known for his bread baking skills. His two shops and cafes sell a range of fresh baked breads every day. Robert is also a master of the Northern Irish traditional oatcake - simple oat based biscuit which is traditionally served in this part of Ireland.
Dermot Walsh of Walsh’s Bakehouse in Waterford City is one of bakers of the renowned Waterford Blaa, which dates back to Hugenot times in the city. This soft white bread roll now has PGI status ( Protected Geographical Indication) which means if it is not baked in Waterford city or county, it cannot be called a Waterford Blaa.
Esther Barron of Barron’s Bakery is another recognised baker of the Waterford Blaa, in her small family run bakery in Cappoquin, Co. Waterford. Esther’s bakers still use the Scotch Brick ovens her grandfather installed in the kitchens. Barron’s breads come in all styles, modern and heritage, but the traditional yeast breads like the Ridgey Loaf (baked in a tin with ridges in i) and the Turn Over loaf (baked in two and half foot long tins and with a billowing dark crust which turns over at the edge) are worth seeking out.
The famous Turn Over loaf is divided into three ‘hands of bread’ so called because you can hold one ‘hand’ between the crook of your elbow and the base of the fingers. Just the right size for a family loaf!
Hassett’s Bakery in Carrigaline Co. Cork has gone from a small bakery on site at the cafe and shop in the town centre, to a full blown bakery which supplies two Hassett’s shops and other cafes and restaurants in the area. Breads are displayed temptingly behind the counter.
You’ll find rolls, cobs, baguettes and much more all baked fresh every day.
As owner Michael Hassett told us, “there is no shortcut to good bread. You either make it properly, or don’t bother making it at all.” Hassett’s breads have no improvers or additives, just time, patience and the baker’s skills.
Nuala Hickey of Hickey’s Bakery in Clonmel Co.Tipperary took over the family bakery as a young woman and didn’t bargain for the way it would take over her life! Almost three decades later, she’s still there, still baking, still serving her regular customers with fresh breads and baking every day.
For generations of Hickey’s have been at this bakery and whilst the business has moved on to become a cafe as well as a bakery, the old traditions are still in place and there’s still a warm family welcome behind the counter. Some things never change.
THE BRETZEL BAKERY
Dublin’s Bretzel Bakery was established in 1870 in Portobello, the old Jewish Quarter of the capital. Now in the hands of William Despard and Cormac Keenan, The Bretzel has extended from its original size and now includes a cafe as well.
The original Kosher status of the bakery was re-established by the boys when they took over in 2000.
So you can be sure they still make Jewish ‘Challah’, a festive bread with sesame seeds, just as they always did and to the same strict standards and recipes. This time honoured bread has been joined by many other styles of continental breads and Irish traditional favourites. It’s great to see a local bakery in the heart of a community. The Bretzel has been serving locals since it opened back in the 1800’s and continues to provide that service today.
Sinead Gillard, known as Jinny since she was a child, is the brains behind Jinny’s Bakery in Drumshambo Co. Leitrim. This well travelled lady spent time in Australia, where she became inspired by baking and used this inspiration on her return to Ireland, creating breads and desserts for the family restaurant. Jinny's husband Pascal has a food science degree, and has used it to develop a range of health breads like yeast and sugar free loaves, which compliment the existing range.
Good bread for all is the philsophy here, and where better to find it than a cute bakery set in a thatched cottage in an idyllic location!