In the autumn of 2008, Julian Carter a 10th generation baker and former sous-chef at Hambleton Hall began the Hambleton Bakery with the backing of Hotelier, Tim Hart. It’s here they now produce award-winning, traditionally made bread for Hambleton Hall and Hart’s in Nottingham. They also sell bread in their three shops and to pubs, restaurants and delicatessen all around Rutland. Unfortunately, I don’t get to meet Julian as he’s on leave – the first time in what sounds like forever. Typical. I doubt he’d be too upset he missed me as I’m told “Julia Bradbury from Countryfile was in recently”, popular, it seems not only with the locals.
Mr drives me out to the Bakery, a former power station on the Cottesmore Road, where all the magic takes place. Wilma is originally from Dundee and is “front of house” and in charge of the Bakery shop, she also hates having her photograph taken so here’s her apron instead.
She knows everything about the bread and cakes made here and I ask about the bestseller. She tells me that the Hambleton Sourdough is very popular but that the Hambleton Local is quite special. This loaf contains organic wheat which is stoneground in a local windmill. The dough fermented for more than 24 hours using beer barm (the yeasty froth that comes from fermenting beer) given to them by the Grainstore Brewery in nearby Oakham. The crumb on this loaf is smaller than the Hambleton sourdough. It tastes malty and is slightly bitter. The bread made here doesn’t contain any additives and the slow fermentations encourage creation of lactic acid (that’s the slightly sour taste you get with the sourdough). It’s also a fabulous mould inhibitor which stops your bread from turning green, then black. They make breads for every diet from the Borodinsky Rye (yes, historians named after the Battle of Borodino in 1812) to the Sprouted Grain and there are at least another dozen on offer.
I had already sampled the breads at Hambleton Hall during our breakfast and loved it all especially the teacake, the English Muffin and the Manchet which is a soft breakfast roll. I got really excited when I saw the trays being prepared for the next day and Jan who was glazing the frangipane tarts, invited me into the bakery for a tour.
Jan used to work in Human Resources and she told me she feels very lucky to enjoy her job in an artisan bakery. It was her lifelong ambition and it’s clear it’s not dampened her love of baking or indeed good food all round, who else would be so excited about baked products on a Sunday? She talks me through the Portugese Egg Custard Tarts, the lemon tarts waiting for their blast with a flame, the savoury muffins which are being piped into cases on a different station and the tray of Eccles cakes I want to run away with. Only I could get myself worked up into a frenzy when I see the Artofex mixer and the wood-fired oven.
Jan is as passionate about food as me and she told me that the Manchet and teacake made with a sweet brioche mix. It uses dough made with free range eggs, butter and milk and 24 hour fermentation. The English muffin made from a wet dough using a white French flour. After a slow fermentation the dough cooked on both sides using a griddle.
The teacakes use a Carter-family recipe. Currants, sultanas and orange peel soaked in tea overnight and a little spice added to an egg and flour dough and fermented for 12 hours.
They’re baked in the revolving stone-base oven, heated with wood and wheeled-in by the barrow-load. Now, ask yourself why artisan bread products are more expensive than plastic, white supermarket alternatives?
The Hambleton Bakery, Exton
Shops at Exton, Oakham and Stamford.