I arrive early and sit in my car in the car park outside the Victory Hall, Collessie in North East Fife. It’s utterly still, occasionally one car swoops along the lane. A village hall seems both an unlikely place and an obvious place for a bakery. After all it’s the heart of the community. Each Friday, a team of volunteers bake bread for the local community. Up to 80 loaves are made each week. If there’s a special celebration, such as Easter and the up coming Crail Food Festival, the production expands. It’s such a great way for locals to get fresh bread weekly – the orders are even delivered!
Paula Benhaddad arrives and welcomes me into the hall. It has that smell that all village halls seem to have and looks just the same as any other until we walk into the kitchen. At one end, there’s equipment you’d expect to see in any commercial bakery – ovens, hobart mixes, tins and baskets. Neatly stacked below are additional ingredients including seeds, then to one side large sacks of Shipton Mill Flour. Welcome to the Doorstep Bakery.
The Doorstep Bakery was launched in September 2011. It grew out of the local community development group responding to local people’s desire to have a bakery in the area. It’s entirely run by volunteers. Today, Paula, Carol-Anne and Mary are on hand and I am about to join them.
It’s all about timing. With just one mixer available, and limited space in the prover, everything is weighed and placed in bowls in readiness. We’ve sheets of clearly printed the recipe for different volumes of bread. The bakery makes 5 standard flavours. Today we’re experimenting a little as we’re using different yeast to usual.
Once the bread is mixed its placed in containers and popped into the prover whilst the next mix is done. With all the mixes done, it’s time to for the next step.
Some customers prefer tin loaves and others “free form”. Their preferences are all marked on the delivery sheets which we check as we go.
The first dough has risen beautifully. It’s placed on the counter and weighed into equal sized pieces and either places in tins or formed into balls. A few rolls are made with the remainder of the dough.
The work is constant – there’s plenty of banter but also a lot of focus. We could be on to finish earlier than usual, we’re so organised!
It’s a battle to get the breads shaped before they become overproved, but we’re getting there. The oven’s up to temperature and Paula starts placing the loaves at the back of the oven. We’re using a second oven too to accommodate the volume.
After about 30 minutes we start to take the breads out of the oven and replacing them with more loaves. We’ve still got the labels and bags to sort out for the delivery.
What a sense of satisfaction when the last breads come out of the oven. We made all of these! Now just to bag everything up for delivery.
Inspired to Find out more about bread?
If you’d like to take out a bread subscription and live in the area, do get in touch. The Doorstep Bakery are unfortunately too short of volunteers this year to appear at the Crail Food Festival.
Inspired to make bread? Bread in Fife run a range of informal bread courses.
Join the Real Bread Campaign – this is great for bakers, from beginners to professionals. It is the only network dedicated to championing the rise of Real Bread in our local communities and the people who bake it. Membership includes discounts on courses (including Bread in Fife) and supplies.
Buy your baking supplies in Crail at Smoke Fired Wholefood Shop.
Check out Fergus Walker’s people powered flour mill which was developed in Fife.
Postscript 2015: It was sad to read of the demise of the Doorstep Bakery via their Facebook page at the end of 2014. If you hear of other community initiatives in Fife, do let us know.