Author Archives: Barbara Stone

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Sourdough September at the Bretzel Bakery

It is encouraging to see the upsurge in interest in sourdough bread over the past while. For years at the Bretzel we have tried to educate that fermentation makes a difference; that good bread is good for you, easier on your digestion, better for you and the planet. It is only the first week of Sourdough September but we have already been inundated with requests for our starter.

The aim of Sourdough September is to encourage people to bake or buy good sourdough bread. To this end, members of Real Bread Ireland, including the Bretzel, share their starters free of charge.

But if you have trouble with your sourdough or if you would just like to know more about the making and baking of bread, The Bretzel is also running some events during the month of September.

First up is a sourdough demonstration at the Naul Artisan Food Fair on Sunday September 15. This is a free event.

On Culture Night, September 20, the Bretzel Shop is hosting an evening of talk and tasting about bread and the cultural influences on the bakery. The is also a free event.

Saturday September 21, sees our baker demonstrating in Dollard & Co on Merchants Quay. Free event.

The Bretzel has teamed up with the Conrad Hotel in Earlsfort Terrace to reprise the sell-out sourdough demonstrations we had last year. There are two sessions on Wednesday September 26. This is a ticketed event.

#sourdoughseptember #realbreadireland

William Despard

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BRETZEL BOULE to be introduced at BLOOM

Bord Bia’s Bloom rolls around again and we are very excited to roll out our Bretzel Boule. We scale this beauty at 2.4kg, a tangy sourdough moist crumb with a wonderful chewy caramelized crust. The stall at the Bloom Food Market will sell it whole, half or quartered. Longer fermentation is always key – the dedication and skill of the whole baking team has given rise to arguably the best naturally fermented bread yet.  Wheat & rye, water, pinch of salt and buckets of time & passion are all that is required. The delivery will be “free from” emissions too – give a wave to the Deadline courier cyclist who will be pedaling their new tricycle to the Phoenix park.  The Bretzel duo of Fabrice & Barbara explain more:

This pain de campagne is the typical rustic French loaf, evolving from the mixture of grains that would be present historically in a field of wheat. Rye seeded itself naturally amongst the wheat and was harvested along with it. This gave the bread its distinctive dark colour and taste. Originally this would have been a coarse and unpredictable bread as the mixture of wheat and rye varied from place to place and made each district’s bread unique.

Before the advent of commercial yeast, bread was made using sourdough cultures. Letting the dough ferment for a long time increased the flavour and the longevity of the loaves. This was particularly useful when French villages had communal ovens where everyone brought their bread to be baked. This cost money and the ovens were not used every day, so loaves had to last a family for a while. Consequently the ‘miches’, or loaves, were made big and hearty, sometimes weighing as much as four or five pounds. Adapting this bread to modern tastes has made it a firm favourite and more widely acceptable.

In recent years, sourdough tradition has undergone a strong revival amongst artisan bakers as well as consumers. The Bretzel Bakery’s pain de campagne is made using wheat flour and wholemeal rye flour and it takes time: time to allow the dough to ferment, to develop the gluten which in turn makes the bread not only more digestible but moist and full of flavour. To quote our French baker who developed this loaf, ‘the sign of a good bread is the combination of a chewy caramel crust and a creamy, moist crumb’.

@bloominthepark @BordBia @BretzelBakery #sourdough

William Despard

Published on LinkedIn May 20 2019

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The Bretzel Bakery’s Brexit

The Bretzel Bakery was asked to comment for the Claire Byrne Live show last Monday on the effects on business if there no agreement reached about the border with the UK. Michael’s personal story of Omagh bombing was tragic, relevant & harrowing – but the business end of Brexit was treated rather lightly. It’s not possible for a programme like that to go into detail on such a complex problem but while Tony Blair’s original spin doctor, Alistair Campbell, was allowed to talk for far too long, he did remake the point that process is about the survival of the Conservative party in the UK…and Ireland’s issues are not what is driving them.

There is no doubt there will be some negative effects if there is no agreement. The problem is no one knows what is going to happen and we can only make contingency plans based on hypothetical situations. The Bretzel does not export but as some of our ingredients have to pass through the UK we will not be immune. There probably is no ingredient sourced from or through the UK of which we could not get the equivalent or better straight from Europe. There may be those who will use any outcome as an excuse to raise prices and it is likely that costs will rise. Our aim will be to look after our customers, ensuring continued supply and mitigating as far as possible any increases.

But perhaps this will help focus all our minds more on where our food comes from, and even encourage consumers to buy more locally. We may find we are no longer prepared to accept food that travels unnecessarily.

** As a footnote, I couldn’t resist a spin on the topical “The Metabolic Age Testing” machine which showed a pleasant surprise of 38 years !!! We should get some of my favourite healthy❤ carbs into Leinster House😊.

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Sourdough and Wholegrains in 2019

Roughly one third of the population has a new year’s resolution. Most are related to health: losing weight, eating healthily, or giving up alcohol. The healthy eating options are myriad; fat used to be the big bogey, now we are told that there are good and bad fats. One day we are encouraged to adopt low carbohydrate diets, now we’re told concern about our intake should not stop us eating unprocessed and good quality foods. It is welcome news that whole-grains can reduce the risk of major diseases as reported in The Lancet last week. Although calling it ‘news’ suggests that this is something we have not known about before. The wisdom that whole-grains are good for you has been around for a while. Adequate fibre in our diet is known to promote good gut health so it follows that wholegrain breads and foods should be better for us.

Fermentation is another popular thing right now, but it is not a fad. Fads come and go. Fermentation as a process has been used for centuries as a means of preserving food. Fermentation in dough provides greater breadth of flavour and a moist texture. Sourdoughs keep longer, are more nutritious and, because of the action of the bacteria in the natural yeast, are more easily digestible. Using good wholegrain flours in a long-fermentation dough brings these two things together and creates a simple food that is high in fibre but low in fat and sugar. That’s the science, but the bread tastes good too: the depth of flavour makes it not just good for you but a joy to eat. And did I mention that it’s vegan?

The Bretzel Bakery won a gold award for a wholegrain sourdough, so sourdough is fast becoming recognised as a better bread. The trend towards healthy eating can only help its justifiably healthy reputation.

Many resolutions made in January are abandoned in the first few weeks of the year. With the revival of artisan bakeries around the country, sourdough is more readily available. Eating good bread is a habit that can be maintained.

William Despard, Bretzel Bakery owner

#bretzelbakery  #realbreadireland #sourdough #blas2018 #wholegrain

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100% Rye 6 c

It’s been a good week for archaeology news. Not only did the Brú na Bóinne site give up some more of its secrets after several millennia, but scientists in Jordan have identified bread fragments that date from a period in history long before any others that have been discovered.

There is a timelessness about bread. Its enduring appeal has lasted through the ages in its simplest companionable form of breaking bread together. But the positioning of this baked bread in a period that predates settled agricultural activities, when people started growing cereal crops, suggests that bread became big part of social interaction long before it was a staple food. What is intriguing about this latest piece of information is that there was more than one flour used in the preparation, which makes this a recipe rather than simply a process. It has even been suggested that wheat and barley were cultivated by the first farmers because they were already an important ingredient in special foods for big occasions.

What is evident, however, is that bread has not changed its basic composition in all those years. Flour and water are still the main ingredients.  Grinding, mixing and baking still form the structure of the breadmaking process across the world. Whether the flour comes from wheat or rye, is organic or sprouted, (or in the case of this most recent find, tubers from bulrushes), the fermentation process is the same.

Few things can claim to be that consistent. Although there were advances made in large-scale bread-making in the twentieth century, no one in all that time has come up with a better way of making really good bread.

So we will keep to our methods of long-fermentation coupled with good ingredients and, who knows, maybe in another 14,000 years a Bretzel sourdough will be a piece of history. Now that’s what I would call a find.

William Despard



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Glad to be Green: Bretzel goes Smart

OG PictureToday we received our Bord Bia Origin Green certificate. The culmination of a lot of planning and hard work, but well worth it. But this is only the beginning of the story. Setting manageable targets, while not easy, is just a plan. Implementing that plan takes the real effort.

The Bretzel has always tried to be green: we have electric delivery vehicles, we do not package our retail bread so there is no plastic or cellophane to dispose of, we make our bread mainly by hand so fewer machines to eat up energy. Sustainability is about more than having special light bulbs and a bag for life. We all agree the planet is in trouble and businesses have a responsibility to minimise their impact on the environment.

The Origin Green programme has made us focus on where we need to make the changes that will have real implications not only for the environment but for the very sustainability of the business.

Smart technology

One of the stumbling blocks we found was that some of our energy use and waste was difficult to quantify. We teamed up with Cognition who introduced us to the Internet of Things (IoT).

Cognition helps manufacturers reduce their energy and production costs and increase compliance using their analytics platform, Cognition World. Cognition deployed dozens of IoT data-capture sensors in the Bretzel, which feed real-time production information into Cognition’s analytics platform.

This helps us get smarter in how we operate and as we learn, we bake better bread. We can see clearly where changes can be made to production processes that make them more efficient and reduce operational costs. And it’s helping us to realise our sustainability targets as well. Smart.

William Despard

#BretzelBakery    #OriginGreen  #CognitionWorld


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On the European trail


Europain 2018

Nothing gives me greater energy or motivation than having a good time while working! Attending trade shows might seem like an extravagance in both time and money but I find the benefits outweigh the costs.

Exposure to new trends and products stimulate new ideas while helping you to evaluate your strengths and weaknesses by comparing your business with others. Gathering practical information about equipment and processes was my reason for going but it also helped to create strategic alliances with suppliers. Nothing really takes the place of actual meetings and conversations. Being open to educating oneself about the aspirations and ambitions of other businesses can only be productive.

Having spent a few days in Italy at SIGEP and in France at Europain, I have returned full of ideas and renewed energy. Having a solid team to take care of business while I am away makes it a pleasure to make these trips, bringing back inspiration as well as information.

William Despard


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Happy to be all JACK’D up…

Pendulum Summit

Lots of interesting stories and talks at the Pendulum Summit last week. Paul O’Connell, a particular hero of mine, Michelle Mone, Jo Malone and Richard Branson were amongst the names whose stimulating and constructive lectures and advice made the whole event well worth the two days. Also taking part was Jack Daly, a well-known international expert in sales and sales management, with more than 30 years’ experience as an entrepreneur. His talk was particularly inspiring and his new book is really worth a read.

From advice on business growth and sales to looking after your mental and physical health, there was a wealth of informative sessions. An productive & enlightening couple of days. Many thanks to Dublin City Council’s Local Enterprise Office coordinating this for the Bretzel Bakery.

William Despard

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Click & Collect at Bretzel Bakery Café.


LinkedIn Pastries

With a hundred-year-old history, and recipes to match, we have worked very hard in the past decade to upgrade our processes and facilities to keep up with the requirements of both our customers, our values and legislation. Qualifying for the Q-mark again this year has been a great source of pride and a brilliant encouragement for the staff. Now shop customers can pay and order on line.

Bringing our great pastries together with technology we now offer a click & collect facility to order and pay for a box of pastries online. You can then collect them in the Lennox Street shop, in a snazzy presentation box. Choose from a box of 12 plain croissants, 10 mixed pastries or 20 petite viennoiserie.

As a seasonal special we have created a mincemeat and custard pastry which is a welcome and flamboyant departure from the traditional mince pie.

All handmade, all butter, a guaranteed feel good boost to meetings or party.

Just use the Click & Collect link above or

William Despard

#mincepies  #bretzelbakery

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Slow in the City, a D8 great, last weekend

Fabrice Slow in the City 2017

SLOW FOOD – Let’s face it: we are all busy. We don’t always have time to cook or even shop properly for decent ingredients. There is a rise in meal-delivery services as people increasingly delegate the preparation of their food to others. So it was good to see what interest there was in Slow in the City, the first of Slow Food Dublin’s annual food festivals last weekend. This event was aimed at promoting the ethos of Slow Food of good, clean and fair food.
Our baker, Fabrice, enthralled an audience with his animated demonstration on making sourdough. While he is very passionate about his subject, he made it seem easy and encouraged everyone to have a go at making their own. Set in the tranquil surroundings of the Sophia centre in Cork Street, the whole event epitomised the tone of the slow food movement. I was very proud of the way Fabrice educated the room, delivering the real bread message with his own unique passion – particularly as he was up before dawn to bake for the Market stall. Thanks also to Barbara, our office manager, for manning the stall on a Sunday, with the help of her junior assistant Oscar.
Slow Food is a global organisation, founded in 1989 to prevent the disappearance of local food cultures and traditions, counteract the rise of fast life and combat people’s dwindling interest in the food they eat and where it comes from, and how our food choices affect the world around us. Slow Food also believes that food is tied to many other aspects of life, including culture, politics, agriculture and the environment.
There were talks, panel discussions, demonstrations, tastings and workshops. The main theme was about the health of Irish soil and its effects on our food. The small market of Dublin food producers was well attended and perfectly formed, with the Bretzel Bakery there as D8’s local producer. We are always on the side of good food so we
brought our Blas na hEireann award winning breads and pastries to the Market stall.
Well done to Dee Laffan and team and we look forward to taking part in next year’s festival.

William Despard

#slowinthecity  #deelaffan  #sourdough