The rise and rise of artisan bakeries and exotic breads

Selling bread at Griffin's Bakery in Galway where a wide range of different sorts is produced every day. Photo: Iain McDonald.
Selling bread at Griffin's Bakery in Galway where a wide range of different sorts is produced every day. Photo: Iain McDonald.

Lifestyle –  Bernie Ní Fhlatharta meets professional and amateurs for whom baking is a way of life as National Bread Week is celebrated

Childhood memories for many relate to the smells of granny’s kitchen as she baked brown bread or rustled up a few scones or even an apple tart.

And if you didn’t learn how to bake something off your granny, you might have picked up a few tips watching your mother – or maybe even dad – kneading dough on the kitchen table.

Certainly programmes like The Great British Bake-Off have sparked a whole new generation to taking up the rolling pin or, at least, appreciating the world of baking.

Thanks to advances in technology, there’s hardly a corner shop or garage that doesn’t offer some ‘fresh bakes’ daily and artisan bakers are enjoying a new renaissance.

Promoting the baking of bread is the main aim of National Bread Week which starts next Sunday. It will also encourage people to ‘Love Your Loaf’ and to intice people to try their hand at home baking.

Supported in Ireland by An Bord Bia and sponsored by companies like Odlums, the week-long promotion will involve making the public aware of different types of bread and its benefits, despite some modern anti-carb diets telling us otherwise.

A new Bord Bia bakery study claims that the home baking market in Ireland is valued at almost €120 million a year with more and more customers preferring artisan products made in small family run bakeries.

There certainly has been a change in our attitude to baking in the past century. Baking bread was routine, something that had to be done daily and often seen as a labourious chore.

But today, baking has never been as exciting with plenty of product varities to tempt our taste buds from granary to spelt bread to gluten free to different seeded breads.

And though the focus is on bread next week, local bakeries such as Griffins in Shop Street, Galway and Walsh’s in Clifden who are both taking part in the promotion, will be hoping their customers will be excited by other bakes as well.

Jimmy Griffin of Griffins Bakery is travelling to Sao Paulo in Brazil a few days after the end of bread week to attend the Flour Confectioners and Bakers Association International Conference as its Irish Delegate.

The award-winning baker loves to bake and is passionate about baking. When he’s not running the family business, now in its 140th year, he’s kneading dough at home with his children.

He bemoans the fact that families don’t bake anymore and remembers a time when most children were exposed to bread making in their own kitchens.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.