Bakery on a roll in hunt for UK's best
Britain's Best Bakery ITV1
"AN epic search is on," reveals ITV's new yeast-based daytime show, "to crown one British bakery the best." And they don't mean Greggs.
The Britain's Best Bakery judges were in Stoke, a perk of the job being the requirement to gorge themselves on the output of the London Road Bakehouse, the artisan bread maker which doubles as the country's best-smelling museum.
London Road was saved by mother and son team Marie and Gareth Thomas. When it looked like its 130 years of tastebud tantalising were finally at an end, they trained themselves up and took it on. "All these wee bakeries are closing all over the country," said Marie. "We're determined to keep this one open."
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First impressions were good. "You'd expect the bakery to be the first to go," noted judge Peter Sidwell of the street's dwindling number of businesses. "These guys must have a good loyal following and must be really diverse in the way they do these things."
Indeed, customers flock there for products ranging from lemon drizzle cake to ciabatta, described by the programme as "a very humble Italian classic – a little slice of Venice in Stoke". It's not the first time this comment's been made. The ceiling of Poundstretcher is often compared to St Mark's Basilica.
London Road went oven glove to oven glove with bakeries from Rutland and Derbyshire in preparing a 'bake of the judge's choice', on this occasion the sausage roll, although I have to say Sidwell's sidekick Mich Turner looks about as likely to be found with a sausage roll as Kate Middleton does to be seen tucking into a Ginsters.
"The sausage roll," said the programme, "is a real British favourite. One major UK chain sells 1.5 million a week." I don't think they meant Liberty.
"But," noted the show, "popular doesn't mean easy." Although it might do with Girls Aloud.
"A great sausage roll is a true taste of any baker. The pastry must be beautifully flaky." A bit like your face on a cold day.
London Road gave their roll some added oomph by adding apple, leek, and black pudding. To my, admittedly untrained, eye, it looked fantastic, less fluffy than its competitors – I'm not big on sausage rolls that collapse into pigeon feed the minute you touch them. But sadly the judges thought differently and a rival was chosen as the area's representative in the next round.
London Road Bakehouse needn't reproach itself. As someone once said, sausage rolls are temporary, class is permanent.