It’s not every day that you get invited backstage to your favourite cakery, so when Sarah offered me just that, I was champing at the bit to get over and see what goes on behind the scenes at the Barley Sugar Bakehouse. Then came the bombshell “We’ll be in there from about 2:30.” I though she meant afternoon…
Sarah was talking about 2:30 AM!! For me, that time of day is only there for late night kebabs, or feeding babies.
By the time I had arrived at the Bakehouse at 9:30 (which I felt was a much more appropriate time to start the working day) Nigel and Sarah had already baked a rack full of meringues, tart bases, quiche cases, and many other delectable treats in preparation for the markets in their diary.
Now I don’t know about you, but I don’t know many people who have got the balls to quit their job and take a gamble on setting up their own business, and I believe that anybody who does so deserves the utmost respect. After being kicked out of college (I love a bad ass!) Nigel trained as an apprentice in The Savoy, before moving on to Soho House and eventually settling in the West country as a chef at Westlands. In June 2010 Sarah pitched up at Crewkerne farmers market with the first Barley Sugar Bakehouse stall, and since then the business has grown from strength to strength and now these guys set up an entire kitchen at Glastonbury Festival and for the first time this year, Camp Bestival, serving up sweet and savoury goodies for festival goers young and old.
Ask anybody who has tasted any goodies from the Bakehouse, and most will tell you that Nigels doughnuts are AMAZING. They are the size of your face, fluffy in the middle and literally oozing with jam. I’ve made doughnuts, and I tried to use a calpol syringe to insert the jam. It doesn’t work, the jam goes everywhere but inside the blasted thing, so when Nigel introduced me to this little delight my romantic illusion of him being the master of the calpol syringe dissipated. I call this: The Magical Doughnut Filler Upper. I’m proud of that.
I quickly found out that this is not the only pride and joy in The Barley Sugar Bakehouse, oh no. Whilst I was snapping some pictures I became acutely aware of a very living presence being presented to me. A pot of 150 year old wild yeast. Even though I am not a baker, I immediately felt the significance and magnificence of this little tub of gold. And the pride on Nigel’s face was that of a father holding his new baby for the first time. Think of that scene in the Lion King when Mufasa holds Simba up on the rock, only without the emotive music.
After my morning with Nigel and Sarah, I am blown away at the passion these two people have for what they produce. If you ever chat to Nigel, ask him to tell you about his croissants. They took him four years to perfect, and NEVER in my life have I seen anybody speak about the rise, the bloom, the lamination and the crispness of a croissant with such intense passion and enthusiasm.
Any guy who tells me that they want to bake sexy bread, and promises me a mind blowing hot sausage roll gets my vote every time, without a shadow of a doubt. We touched briefly on the subject of Bake Off (keeping it current and relevant obviously!) and I realised that actually, Paul Hollywood is not a patch on this fella.