This year I spent the four days leading up to Christmas Eve in Somerset working for my parents’ bakery Tracebridge Sourdough. This was the first time that I have properly shadowed Dad throughout a whole baking day; starting at 6am and finishing at 20.30. Through the windows of the bakery, the daylight hours came and went; but the rain never stopped, and as we rolled and whisked and baked the thought of flooded roads and wet market stalls weighed heavier and heavier on our minds.
On my breaks from mixing, stretching and shaping dough with the head baker, I helped mum weighing out the dried fruit for German Stollen bread and rolling out the 100g pieces of marzipan that get carefully rolled into the centre of each loaf. The rich dough that mum makes bears little resemblance to the first Stollen made in 13th Century Saxony from oil, flour, yeast and water. We have Pope Innocent VIII to thank for that; in 1490 he sent what has become known as the ‘butter letter’ to the Saxon Prince allowing the Saxons to use butter during Lent.
Friday is market day for the bakery. Older brother Tom and I were up at 6 and on the road by 8.15 with a van full of bakery goods and a windscreen covered in condensation. The sky looked heavy with rain, but the deluge held off for most of the day. We are always the last stall to arrive at Minehead Farmer’s Market; due to the produce being baked fresh that morning, and due to the 45 minute drive it takes to get there. On arrival it is a matter of setting up the stall as quickly as possible while serving a steady stream of eager customers at the same time. We smashed the previous record takings for a Friday, having sold everything except for one rye loaf and a few cheddar whirls.
On the way to Minehead
Panorama of the market along Minehead High Street
(Ours is the stall with the white flags)
Tracebridge Sourdough price list
Saturday allowed us a lie in. 6.30 up in the bakery, making the goats cheese muffins mixture and garnishing each one with pine nuts, basil pesto and more goats cheese! Also making our famous Appley Buns as well as some Christmas cranberry and orange variants; and of course glazing more Stollen! This was for the small market that is developing at Moorish in Wiveliscombe on Saturday mornings. There you can find Will and Caroline Atkinson’s delicious Stawley goats cheese and Biz and Nigel Smith’s farmhouse Touchwood Cider.
When the bread baskets emptied and the flow of customers ceased, we shared a meal to celebrate a successful year of food. Baker, chef, cheese maker cider-maker; looking back on a year of food and drink challenges and looking ahead to the new year and more food innovation to come.