Microbakers on course to success

The School of Artisan Food’s Sienna Russell reports on their bakery business course.

We started Sourdough September 2022 with a fitting celebration of Real Bread and people who make it - the launch of our brand new course Creating a Microbakery: Theory & Practical. As the name suggests, it covered business and baking theory, as well as practical sessions in bread, patisserie and viennoiserie. Designed to complement and build on the Real Bread Campaign’s Knead to Know…more microbakery handbook, the five-day course was run by School of Artisan Food tutors Toby Doy, Amy Warman and Ian Waterland.

From Belfast to the Isle of Skye, students came from around the UK. Some already ran market stalls or small baking businesses from home. Others were at the early idea stage, seeking to learn more and arm themselves with the skills, knowledge and confidence to take the next step. Over the week, the tutors shared insights from running their own microbakeries, encouraging the students to consider important questions around the logistics of running their own businesses. Topics included production planning, pricing, marketing, legal requirements and finance, amongst others. Baking theory included baker’s percentages and an explanation of the key factors affecting rates of fermentation, such as controlling dough temperature.

Strategies for working efficiently

On the practical side, students were introduced to a number of recipes and techniques selected specifically for their suitability to microbakery businesses. In addition to breads made using baker’s yeast, the sourdough process, and a hybrid of these, students learned to make a range of patisserie and viennoiserie products. Students were also given the opportunity to use and compare ovens and other equipment that they may consider using in their own bakeries in the future. Throughout the course, emphasis was placed on strategies for working efficiently as a sole trader or in a small team, employing techniques such as autolyse and overnight retardation. Another example was creating different products from one base dough; a plain sourdough recipe that can be used to create a sweet muesli loaf.

Attendees’ immediate response to the course was positive. Zara Sheils said: “We all had such a great experience and I’m still telling people all about the best week I had!” Ferhet Ebrahem agreed that it was: “one of the happiest and most productive weeks of my life!” The Real Bread Campaign has offered to help students share updates on the developments of their microbakery businesses.

We gratefully received support for the course from Matthews Cotswold Flour, Shipton Mill and the Real Bread Campaign’s Friends In Knead scheme. As well as copies of the book and the mills supplying flours, the sponsors providing funding that enabled the School to offer subsidised places on the course to people from groups and backgrounds historically under-represented in bakery ownership, or who faced extra financial barriers to starting their own businesses.

Following the success of the course, we’re now taking bookings for when we run it again from the 4th to the 8th of Sourdough September 2023.


Originally published in True Loaf magazine issue 53, January 2023

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Main picture: Credit: School of Artisan Food