Metaphors to one side for the moment, there is a serious tone to my writing; a very sincere confession – I am coming out. Yep, here’s the scoop – I swing both ways. I am no longer ashamed to shout loudly, “I am a fully fledged and practising bread bisexual” (oh and practise, do I hell… there’s no stopping this Little Miss Baguette-Nymphet. I have racked up some seriously high dough mileage in my time).
So where’s the rub (apart from the tops of the aforementioned limbs)? Somewhat of a West Side Story feel to this great South West bakery divide comes in the perfectly proven form of the delectable Vicky Harford (Vicky’s Bread) and the equally tasty Tom Hazzledine (Baker Tom). It simply shouldn’t be a question of either/or but either and both thank you, and please can you pass the butter.
Vicky, a near and dear friend of mine, packed up her first class honours in Law together with a toothbrush, heading for the big apple, where for three months she worked furiously, nose to grindstone at the renowned French Culinary Institute in New York – apparently the very best place to learn how to bake bread, the French way. Go figure. Brains, bakery and beauty to beat. Six years later, Vicky and her handmade, slow-rise organic wonders now boast a portfolio of multigrain, spelt, 100% rye and on Saturdays, an out of this world organic olive oil and thyme bread, together with seasonal specials to wrap your lips around. Feast on roasted potato and rosemary or for Easter, bunnies wouldn’t keep me from her apricot and hazelnut with spices. Who needs chocolate? Don’t even mention her apricot flapjacks else I shall dribble, heavily, into my keyboard. I am not alone in my admiration, Raymond Blanc himself rates Vicky’s bread as the very, very best. She never shouts about that, so I will!
Vicky’s Bread has a bakery in Helston and supplies to a host of artisan delis, local shops and farmers’ markets in Cornwall. You can never miss Vicky’s stalls, as beautiful as the baker herself and as homemade as her bread – eye candy carbs with bespoke style. If you are lucky enough to get to the front of the queue before the bread sells out (and it does, this dough is hotter than tickets to a Lady Gaga gig and with her groupies to match) then you’ll catch a glimpse of the girl herself, or her magnificent significant other ‘Hairy’ (who is as much a part of the business as Vicky herself. ‘Hairy’ may have worked for those biker boys, but ‘Hairy Bread’ simply doesn’t cut the PR mustard.) Excitedly for Easter this year, Vicky and Hairy are opening their very own shop in Helford Village where, of course, you can pick up your bakery fix as well as other, carefully chosen local goodies. Expect panache – it will be undoubtedly overflowing.
Keen to get your hands down and doughy? Vicky now runs day bread courses, brilliant bespoke bakery lessons to help you, quite literally get to grips with your sourdoughs.
The story of Baker Tom? I don’t think there are many professions I have stumbled across that rack up more ‘bill-ables’ than those in corporate finance: pulling horrendously unsociable hours, at least six days a week. A budding baking entrepreneur needs passion, stamina and an immaculate palette. Introducing, Tom Hazzledine. A charming, softly spoken and exquisitely modest businessman who has built a bit of a bakery conglomerate in Cornwall. Returning from a gap year in India, Tom initially started baking bread for his local farm shop six years ago. From a few loaves in his own kitchen, Baker Tom has every right to be enormously proud of just how far his business has come; now sporting two outlets, one in Truro and one in Falmouth, a bakery in Pool and being cherry-picked by Fifteen Cornwall to take over the reins from their in-house baker when he relocated to London. Award-winning Riverford Organic food box delivery asked Baker Tom to team up with them, now delivering fresh bread across Cornwall and further into Devon. Last year Tom scooped ‘Best Young Business Person’ at the Cornwall Business Awards and in March picked up ‘Entrepreneur of the Year’ at the Cornwall Hub Awards, noted particularly for his passion and strong desire to grow his business without sacrificing quality.
Tom’s down-to-earth pragmatism and endearing decorum combined with a furious work ethic means firstly it is near impossible to get hold of the great man himself, and in so far as blowing trumpets, Tom would barely blow a penny whistle, such is his refreshingly understated pragmatism. Happily for this passionate foodie, the proof is in the pudding (or his heavenly rock salt and rosemary focaccia). Tom’s desire was to bring bread back into the ‘good’ books after a few years of carbohydrate bashing at the mercy of that dreadful Dr Atkins. His symphony of doughy offerings now sing out loud and clear, and include ‘Betty Stoggs’ beer bread, apricot and oat amongst some of the great many specialities, but for the less adventurous (or to accompany your Granny’s thick cut Seville) the organic white spelt is pretty hard to beat in my breakfast book.
Keen to meet the legendary and elusive man himself and to spend a couple of hours in his more than capable hands, then don your apron and head to one of his bread making courses at Bedruthan Steps. Don’t though, expect to be anything other than blown away by this boy’s incredible modesty. A bit of a crush, yes absolutely. The way to this girl’s heart is firmly through a warm croissant don’t however, do as I have done and ask the great baker just how much butter slides between the doughy folds; it is a bit of passion killer.
Visit Baker Tom in Lemon Street Market Truro or 10b Church Street Falmouth.