Saturday, 9 January 2010

The best thing since sliced bread: Bondgate Bakery, Otley

Excuse the cliché but Bondgate Bakery in Otley really is the best thing since sliced bread. I'm not sure who coined that particular phrase but, if I could, I would ask them to explain exactly what is so good about sliced bread. I guess it's that much touted word "convenience", but today's plastic wrapped, industrially produced white sliced loaf bears little resemblance to its artisan hand made equivalent. Anyway what is so difficult about slicing a doorstep sized wedge off a freshly baked crusty loaf, before slathering it in butter and devouring it? If this is considered a hardship then we should seriously count our blessings!

Since 1961 much of the bread produced in the UK has been made using the Chorleywood Bread Process. This speeded up, commercialised procedure involves the addition of a whole host of ingredients that, in my opinion, have no place in a loaf of bread: emulsifiers (usually E471 or E472e), improvers, ascorbic acid (or E300), vinegar added as a preservative and relatively large amounts of unhealthy fats and salt.
If the resultant tasteless, slimy, sliced white loaf represents all that is bad about food in Britain today then Bondgate Bakery is going some way to redress the balance towards all that is wholesomely good.
Local bakers in Otley since 1984 all of their products are (& have been since the beginning) produced using free-range eggs. There are no nasties found in their bread; they do not use any artificial additives, preservatives, trans-fatty acids or hydrogenated fats. They pride themselves on the quality and integrity of their baking and all of their bakery products are hand crafted on the premises using traditional methods.
Winners of BBC Radio 4's Food and Farming Awards for Best Local Food Retailer in 2004, they also recently featured in Jamie Oliver's food magazine, so it is great to see this local producer getting some national recognition.

The previously cramped shop has recently been expanded and with more than 30 different types of bread to choose from the new behind the counter displays are visually stunning. From a large white loaf to ciabbata, sour dough, rye bread, French sticks, oat bread, seed breads,oven bottom muffins, bread cakes, rolls, multigrain, fruit loaves... the choice is bewildering.

The malt house loaf is my favourite; made with wholemeal flour with added flaked malted grains for a crunchy texture, it makes for almightily tasty bread.

There is an equally impressive range of pastries and cakes including pain au chocolate, croissants and cinnamon Danish swirls, iced buns, brownies, flapjacks, parkin, Yorkshire curd tart, oat and muesli bars, slices of fruity oat crumble, frangipan and bread pudding.
They do a nice line in savouries, pizzas and flans too and also have a number of options for gluten and wheat free products, sugar free and vegan options.

For me Bondgate Bakery restores meaning to life itself, but also to the prose of English poet, Robert Browning:
“If thou tastest a crust of bread, thou tastest all the stars and all the heavens.”
Robert Browning (1812-1889).

Try it, hopefully you'll understand what he means.

Bondgate Bakery
30 Bondgate, Otley, LS21 1AD