Handmade breads from Hoole Village are on the rise
PUBLISHED: 17:48 06 April 2011 | UPDATED: 10:59 09 May 2016
Jane Tomlin rose to the challenge when she wanted to make new friends. Emma Mayoh reports
As ways of making friends go, baking bread is one of the more unusual methods. But it worked for Jane Tomlin. When the 53-year-old moved back to her Cheshire birthplace from South Wales just under four years ago the majority of her friends had moved away and she wanted to meet new people.
She said: ‘I moved back and, apart from one very good friend, I didn’t know a soul. I didn’t want to start going out pubbing and clubbing, I just wanted to meet people my age.
‘In South Wales I was making bread to help a friend who ran a tea room and did markets and that was my first taste of it. I thought I might as well give it a go.’
She got a stall on Wrexham Farmers’ Market and before long her Jane’s Handmade Bread products were available at several markets across Cheshire and North Wales. But Jane has never thought of bread as a business. It is a hobby she does alongside her full-time job in educational tour operation and administration.
Jane, who is originally from Chester and now lives in Hoole Village, bakes twice a week and all her bread is made entirely by hand.
‘If I had mixers then I don’t think you could call it handmade,’ she said. ‘That would take the pleasure out of it for me. Instead of kneading the dough and making something properly I would be standing by a mixer all of the time. That’s not fun.
‘There are hardly any people around here who make proper handmade bread and I’m pleased I’m one of them.’
Jane, who is self-taught, makes more than 20 varieties of loaves, flat breads, rolls and tea cakes as well as Welsh fruitcake Bara Brith, a selection of other cakes and vegetarian and vegan nut roasts, using local ingredients, where possible, and certified organic flours.
Her breads are sold at farmers’ markets and several independent delis and although she doesn’t have her own shop, orders can also be collected from her home and she delivers to a handful of elderly customers.
On a market day or a day of deliveries, Jane gets up at just after midnight and bakes through the night.
She said: ‘I detest the first 20 minutes when I get up. It takes me a good half an hour, after my big line-up of alarms have gone off, to come round, but once I get started I just love it.
‘I love the feeling of kneading the dough and watching it all rise and get ready for the oven. It’s fantastic fun. There’s something quite therapeutic about it. It might take longer than expected sometimes because the bread doesn’t rise in the time you want it to. I’m always the last one to set up at markets because of this but the customers queue up at my empty stall and help me unpack everything. They’re great.’
The hard work has paid off for Jane as her hobby has transformed into a great success and it has been mission accomplished on the friends front, too.
She said: ‘It’s been a brilliant way of getting to know a lot of people. I think a lot of people recognise me too.
‘It wasn’t just about making friends; I wanted to do something I enjoyed too. It is hard work doing it as well as my full-time job but I enjoy every minute of it.’
Jane’s tea cakes
Makes 18 tea cakes
For the ‘flying sponge’
100g strong white bread flour
4 tsp fast-action dried yeast
150g tepid water
For the main dough
1kg strong white bread flour
200g granulated sugar
300g mixed sultanas, raisins and currants (include citrus peel, if you like)
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons mixed spice
200g margarine or butter
600g tepid water
All of the flying sponge
Extra flour for your work surface and hands
For the ‘flying sponge’
Mix all the ingredients in a large 8 litre mixing bowl to make a batter. Leave to stand for about 15 minutes.
For the main dough
1 Mix all the dry ingredients in another large bowl.
2 Put butter or margarine into a 1 litre jug and microwave for a few seconds until just melted. Add 600g tepid water to the melted margarine or butter. Test that temperature is only luke-warm.
3 Beat the buttery liquid into the flying sponge. Tip in the dry ingredients and mix with a wooden spatula until everything is evenly incorporated into a sticky dough.
4 Slip the whole bowl into a plastic bag and leave to double in size (this means reaching the top of an 8 litre bowl and will typically take two to three hours, depending on the temperature in your kitchen)
5 Cover two baking sheets each approx 33cm x 37cm with baking parchment. Flour your work surface generously and tip the whole bowl of runny dough into the middle and fold in half to stop the dough flowing.
6 Scale off dough into four evenly-sized pieces each approx 580g and one piece approx 290g then cut the large pieces of dough into quarters and the smaller piece into halves.
7 With floured hands, very gently shape each piece of dough (18 in all) into a round ball and space out on your baking sheets, into nine per sheet. Flatten gently.
8 Leave until the teacakes are well-risen and puffy. They should be fine to bake after about 45 minutes but better if you can leave them three or four hours.
9 Place trays into a pre-heated 200c oven for about 15 minutes. Watch them carefully and turn if necessary then slide on to wire racks to cool. If you can do this without separating any of the (now joined) teacakes, so much the better, as the tea-cakes continue to cook through while cooling.
NB This is an uncomplicated no-knead recipe. Don’t be tempted to add more flour. This is supposed to be a wet, battery dough. Jane is happy for anyone to call her for advice about her recipes on 01244 300761.