Artisan Bakeries and Real Bread in particular is on the rise across the UK, but it isn’t always easy to find out where to get it. In and around Oxford there are a growing number of Real Bread outlets available, but as no-one had made a list – I thought that I should.
“Real Bread” actually means something: the bread must be made with flour, water, salt and a leaven (sourdough or yeast), rather than a bunch of dodgy additives you wouldn’t consume if they were offered to you as the white/grey powders that they are. In addition, “Real Bread” bakeries tend to have finer ingredients, and use naturally length processes which allows for fullsome flavour development. This is then reflected in the price. Even so, bakeries are small margin businesses, and are difficult to break-even businesses until they have a little scale. This means that if you want to hold on to good bread, you should support the bakeries that provide this in your community or risk things returning to the bland doughey bread desert of the 1970’s and 1980’s.
The other cost of consuming industrial bread is the use of palm oil (eg. in Hovis and other many major brands) – bad for the environment, but the anti-mould agents in British supermarket bread are banned elsewhere and some scientists think the emulsifiers are linked to inflammatory bowel disease, Crohns and ulcerative colitis. If you are like me, and you’d rather take the precautionary principle and eat great tasting bread – focus on Real Bread. In this very brief review, I’m noting where you can buy Real Bread baked around here, comments and corrections welcome.
White Horse Bakehouse – This is my occasional only microbakery based in the heart of Iffley Fields, in the “Republic of East Oxford” producing just 20-30 loaves every week or two. Our Signature bread is the “White Horse Sourdough” which is probably the tangiest sour available in Oxfordshire. I bake bread on a stone hearth lined oven, and from time-to-time do specials in a wood-fired brick oven. I currently operate exclusively through a Facebook group, in which bread fans are informed when a bake is upcoming. Most of our products are organic. We have no shop front, so don’t waste your time looking for one! Join now.
Astons Bakehouse – A completely organic bakery supplying Oxfordshire and London, created by one of the founding fathers of organic bread baking in the UK. Amazingly produces organic croissant and pain au chocolat. Based at Sheepdrove Organic Farm near Lambourn, in the picturesque heart of the North Wessex Downs. Syd Aston’s bakery produces a lighter form of sourdough, which is proving popular here in Oxford. Available from Wild Honey on 111 Magdalen Road, Oxford OX4 1RQ, and 12 South Parade, Oxford OX2 7JL. Extensively supplying many London markets, with particularly excellent sourdough from 400g loaves to 20lb pagnotas! Aston’s has no shop front, but Syd has kindly let me visit by prior arrangement.
Natural Bread Company – Baking in an Oxford City based Bakery, Natural Bread has three main outlets which are cafés in Oxford (29 Little Clarendon Street OX1 2HU), Woodstock (30 High Street OX20 1TG) and a shop in Eynsham (1 Mill Street OX29 4JX). This is good solid sourdough, which is tangy and can be well toasted. Founded by William Black and Claire Véry, who also founded Appleton Farmers Market back in 2006. Their bread is also available in outlets including Appleton Community Shop, the Beetroot Pantry (Cowley Road, Oxford), GÄF (Magdalen Road, Oxford), The Postbox (Wolvercote Village, near Oxford), 2 North Parade (Summertown, Oxford) and the Barefoot Kitchen (Jericho, Oxford). William was my first bread baking teacher.
Modern Baker is at 214a Banbury Road, Summertown, Oxford OX2 7BY and bakes organic bread on the premises, which is also a little café. Melissa’s place makes some of the usual craft loaves as well as pretty amazing products including two gluten-free loaves (yes, actually gluten free!), sourdough baguette, sprouted wholewheat, the superloaf (quinoa, chia and kamut) and a couple of rye loaves. Due to demand, the café will be expanding throughough the facility, and bakery will be relocating to nearby Kidlington still supplying its local shopfront.
Degustibus is an artisan bakery in Abingdon run by Dan Degustibus, which through distributors Silver Fork delivers to Oxford, and via the The Market Garden delivers elsewhere to certain villages in Oxon. I’ve only eaten his bread via the Country Grains shopfront on Botley Road, Oxford – but he’s got some great fans. It looks like his Aelfric Sour is one of a number of pure sour (ie. no commercial yeast added) – pictures here, the bagels look awesome and he does do a 100% rye sourdough (though it appears yeast is added in this case). Also does a traditional range of farmhouse, bloomer and sandwich loaves which appear to be produced to a high standard. Won a Muddy Stiletto award recently. Dan’s bread is available at North Parade Market on the 2nd and 4th Saturdays each month between 10AM – 2PM.
Bakergirl is a Banbury-based artisan bakehouse and barn café at Wykham Park Farm near Banbury (OX16 9UP), founded by ex-London bakers. I haven’t visited this one – but the environment looks stunning!
The Old Farmhouse Bakery, Steventon
By far the most difficult to find, located through a farmgate across the village green in Steventon, next to a new houseing development. I have in the past become reliant on their delicious fresh Quiches. Founded in 1982, inspired by a desire to maintain the supply of Real Bread, the bakery utilizes a 77 year-old brick oven built in 1938. Their sweet treats and hedgehog rolls are particular good for kids. Also does farmers markets in Banbury, Summertown (Oxford), Didcot, Abingdon, Woodstock and Reading.
Marcopolo Bakery, Wantage
Marocpolo using locally sourced flour milled at Wessex Mill, and makes their bread available at their bakery shop, but it is also extensively available through other outlets South of Oxford, eg. Q-Gardens on Harwell Hill, but also available at Farmers markets in Oxford, Wantage, Malborough, Witney. Fairly traditional flavours, less than tangy sourdough, but bread that looks nice.
Another is Silvie which is a bakery café at 281 Iffley Road, in East Oxford which does a variety of good breads, including real bread made locally by Natural Bread Company and another local bakery, and developing its in house soda bread and others soon. Then there’s Bannister’s at 245 Iffley Road, in East Oxford which does sell the odd basic loaf baked on the premises – however – I value them mainly for their legendary blueberry pancakes with bacon and maple syrups. Another good outlet is “Country Grains” café at 69 Botley Road, Oxford which sources its bread from German-style Artisan baker Dan Degustibus in Abingdon (Oxon) – I have heard that their brazil nut loaf is good.
Others bakeries worth a mention are GAIL’s in Summertown, but unfortunately their bread is baked in their central bakery in London and shipped to Oxford, and I’ve heard it includes additives – which may have been a good business model, and it is good bread – but the shipping of the bread adds time and delay – and it just isn’t what I mean by local produce.
Other bakeries of note which I think might not be offering “Real Bread” are Gatineau in Summertown, Oxford which has the most amazing tasting and spectacular looking bread and pastries, and the Maison Blanc on the Woodstock Road in Oxford – which I believe was Raymond Blanc’s first outlet in the UK. If I’ve missed anything out, or got anything wrong – let me know and I’ll endeavour to update every so often.