13 Hand-Made Tales to end 2013
In starting Rex Artisan Bakery, we’ve realised what a quagmire Food Labelling is. This is not obvious to most people, nor what Rex means by Hand-Made the old-fashioned way by a local artisan baker. So to celebrate the end of 2013, this lists 13 food preparation facts – legal & Rex – that you might not have known
1) Hand-Made by law
The Food Standards Agency says a product “must be significantly made by hand” to qualify as Hand-made. So far, so good, right? But it’s apparently also OK to produce “hand-made” “within an industrial setting” so there’s every chance much of the process is mechanised – “hand assembled” would often paint a fairer picture.
2) Hand-made Rex pastry
At Rex, hand-made croissants & sausage rolls don’t just mean hand-assembled with bought-in pastry as many people assume (perish the thought!!) but literally that our pastry is hand-made by Rex, from scratch. There are 24+ pastry layers made & turned by hand, with only the best ingredients, so good that maybe one day even Rex-made Puff Pastry will be available for sale….
3) Hand-made Rex mixed peel
The Rex Baker peels lemons, oranges & grapefruit himself and boils them 5 times separately then stews them in a glucose sugar syrup over several days to create his own mixed peel for Buns, Stollen, Mincemeat etc. It’s not that he is being religious about producing hand-made… it’s just that he strongly believes this tastes better, like most hand-made items.
4) Hand-made Rex Multiseed with Honey
Most granary loaves in modern and in-store bakeries are made with “granary mix” – a blend of different flours, wheat grains for a nutty flavour, and indeterminate additives. The Rex Bakery Multiseed loaf is instead hand-made from scratch. 20% of the loaf consists of oats, sunflower seeds & super-food linseeds which are soaked overnight in hot water & honey, which naturally enhances the moistness of the loaf & creates a very fine flavour. This is then combined with a 70:30 organic white: wholemeal dough mix.
5) Hand-made Marzipan, and Almond Cream
Most patisseries and bakeries would buy theirs in and use them almost interchangeably. But the Rex Baker separately hand-makes his marzipan (for the Stollen) with a lot of egg yolk, glucose, & golden syrup whereas his Almond Paste (for the Almond Croissants) is more butter & flour based. He does this because he believes they are quite different & to be sure of the taste
6) Slow hand-reared Sourdough
Sourdoughs require a very special 3-day process including the constant nurturing of the Sourdough culture. To get the right taste, this needs feeding & the right level of warmth and regular checking all by the loving Rex Baker himself.
7) Slow hand-made Breads
All Rex breads take at least 24 hours to properly ferment the flour. This is called a ‘Sponge’ and is the same process used back in the old days where a local baker would keep back some of his dough each day to put into the next day’s dough. He knew it gave him better flavour, as do only artisan bakers.
8) Time to mix Ciabattas
Nearly as much water is mixed into Ciabatta & Focaccia dough as ciabatta organic Very Strong white flour with ~14% protein, and it takes longer to mix than any other bread – as much as 30 minutes just to combine and obtain the big holey texture. It’s so tricky that hardly any in-store bakeries seem to make on the premises, most will buy in from factories
9) Baguettes Fully Made not just Part-Baked
In France there is currently a backlash against the supermarket-style baguette which are delivered part-baked on an industrial scale with their tell-tale braille-like dots on the underbelly. The hallmark of a good baker is considered to be the quality of their baguettes – which in turn depends on hand crafted care, time, temperature.
10) A strong hand in experimentation
The Rex Baker spends a LOT of time thinking about new products – reading, experimenting, testing, baking, refining – to provide new personally developed artisan ideas. Recent examples which haven’t yet formally hit the bake list include an Apricot, white chocolate & marzipan Brioche, Poppyseed Stollen, Walnut & Linseed Loaf, Pork Pies, Malt Loaf…
11) Home-made by law?
The good news is that the Food Standards Agency insists that “home-made” should mean made not just assembled; by oneself; in the home or catering premises; simply, using traditional methods. The bad news is that it’s deemed OK to use partly-prepared supplies that are available to anybody domestically in products that are described as home-made – eg “pre-prepared raw pastry“!! If that wasn’t Rex-made it wouldn’t count as home-made in Rex Bakery, that’s for sure…
12) “Freshly baked” by law?
Terms like “freshly baked”, “baked in store”, “oven fresh”, “baked from scratch” and “artisan-like” can be really misleading – they can be used to describe what’s recently been baked somewhere – but was absolutely not freshly made by hand from raw materials, and not even necessarily on-site. Sometimes big mixes like “soft roll mix No.2” are delivered to be diluted & baked in a store, sometimes part-baked pre-frozen products arrive to be baked-off in-store & sometimes they are baked elsewhere and just delivered for sale. Rex Bakery will have its bakery kitchen on full view to the public so there will be no hiding, and baking will take place through the night on-site.
13) Nothing else added
The Rex Baker selects the very best ingredients he can source, organic where possible and nothing else added, so plenty gained. He eschews the chemical preservatives & stabilisers you might find in many breads so that does mean that Rex baked goods last just as long as is natural – we believe this is right for taste, health, for knowing exactly what you & your family are eating. This is different from the European Court of Justice. Did you know they ruled that the description “naturally pure” was even OK for a strawberry jam with not just added pectin but also some lead, cadmium & 2 pesticides?!
For all these reasons it’s hard to trust food when you don’t know who is producing it for you. Friends of Rex Bakery can trust & taste the love & personal care put into all Rex baked items. So now you know 13 hand-crafted facts, don’t forget to put your Saturday orders in by Thursday at 9pm each week to firstname.lastname@example.org