Author Archives: Barbara Stone

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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

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Bewitched, bothered and bewildered



Halloween and is origins remain a bit of a mystery. Opinions vary but mostly the Celts are given credit for establishing the festival. Originally marking the end of the year, Samhain was a pagan festival marking the onset of winter and hard times. Winter used to be an uncertain time, the short dark days frightening, and representing death for many. Food was vastly more important to people then than it is now. In such days if you had not stored your harvest for the winter by this time, it was likely you would not survive until spring. This crossing over period also applied to the worlds of the living and the dead. Spirits of the departed were supposed to walk free at this time. Similar festivals can be found in other parts of the world.

Rather than ban pagan festivals, the early Christians absorbed them into their calendar and adapted them as necessary. Thus Samhain (still the Irish word for November) became the feast of All Hallows, a celebration of the saints and martyrs. This was followed by All Souls when the souls of the dead were prayed for, so everyone was accounted for. The day before, All Hallows Eve, quickly got shortened to Halloween.

The bonfires of Halloween were intended to ward off evil spirits and disguises were supposed to confuse them. Nowadays we don’t worry so much about the dark or the evil spirits but we love the bonfires, dressing up and other traditions like bobbing for apples and eating barmbrack. Originally fermented with barm, or ale yeast, barmbrack is a sweet yeast bread, normally filled with dried fruit, mixed peel and spices.

Different objects, all which had significance, were concealed within the brack. They ranged from pieces of cloth to coins, a pea and of course a ring. The last is the only one that has really survived and remains a favourite. Having the slice that contained the ring meant you would be married within the year. A shared ritual that everyone in a family could enjoy, it remains popular to this day, particularly in Ireland.  It annoys me that barmbrack is available all year, rather than being a special part of the Halloween holiday. I look forward to our fresh bracks –  sweet yeast dough packed with dried fruit – a delicious breakfast for witches and wizards toasted and slathered in butter.

William Despard

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Bretzel Gold at Blas na hEireann

Bronze_2017_-_circleGold_2017_-_circleAs the Blas na hEireann Awards are the one of the only serious food standards in Ireland, we can’t help but feel delighted that Bretzel products scooped two gold and one bronze at the awards in Dingle this year. The new d’Espard baguette and the San Francisco-style sourdough were the gold winners and our delicious pain au chocolat attained a bronze award. More than two thousand products were entered in a total of 120 different categories. The competition was fierce and we are thrilled with the result. It is always rewarding to be recognised for doing something you love.

Now in its tenth year, Blas na hEireann (Taste of Ireland) was founded as a touchstone for quality in Irish food and the accreditation has the highest recognition among Irish consumers. Running concurrently with the Dingle Food Festival it is a great opportunity for producers to meet others, to attract buyers and generally exhibit their products to a large audience of food-lovers.


And it was great craic. The Dingle Food Festival brings together producers from all over the country and there are markets, workshops, cookery demonstrations and lots of different tastings. Something in the region of 30,000 visitors descend on the town for the weekend and the streets are filled with tantalising food aromas. And no shortage of great craft beers and local gin to wash it all down.

Particular thanks go to the Bretzel baker team who made this happen.


#bretzelbakery  #blas2017

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Goodbye August, hello Sourdough September

We are getting excited about Sourdough September again. Sourdough September draws attention to the making of good bread, without additives or preservatives. Members of Real Bread Ireland are giving away starter and hosting events around the country to celebrate the best in bread. It aims to get people into the habit of baking or buying wholesome bread, bread that is not only good for you but tastes so much better too. Real bread, in its purest form, is bread made without the use of processing aids or any other artificial additive.

Sourdough is bread made from the simplest ingredients – just flour, water and salt. When the dough is left to ferment it produces the cultures that make the bread rise naturally.

The flavour of sourdough varies from place to place and person to person. Things such as the amount of water in the starter, the method used, the length of the fermentation periods and the temperature and humidity, all contribute to the microbiology of the sourdough. This makes it sound complicated but in reality, to quote the founder of the Real bread movement in the UK, sourdough is:

 ‘One of the oldest yet simplest, tastiest and most nutritious breads you can make, sourdough needs only flour, water, salt – and a little time.’     Andrew Whitley

Call into the Bretzel bakery shop and café in Lennox Street for your free starter with instructions on how to care for it and use it.  Then check out the video on our facebook page. Fabrice, our head baker, takes you through the simple steps to create a wonderful sourdough loaf in your own kitchen.

#sourdoughseptember #realbreadireland #bretzelbakeryFabrice sourdough Sept

Fabrice, our head baker, showing off his sourdough

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A Bit More of the Sourdough story

An authentic sourdough typically has a decent crust, open holey texture and a lovely shimmering glassy crumb. Good baking technique, aided by the healthy bacteria means it keeps better too.

Sourdough is bread made from the simplest ingredients – just flour, water and salt. When the dough is left to ferment it produces the cultures that make the bread rise naturally. These friendly cultures work on the grains during the fermentation process to make the most of flavours and nutrients, and make it much easier for the body to digest.

Longer fermentation means tastier bread, but is it any better for you than other bread?

There is evidence that naturally fermented doughs are heathier, too. Long-fermentation sourdough promotes good gut health, healthy bacteria. Also because it has a lower glycaemic index it keeps you fuller for longer with more even blood sugar levels. The process also helps the absorption by the body of some minerals.  Research has shown gluten proteins are broken down into smaller fragments by the sourdough process and it has been suggested that this improves digestibility, especially for people with gluten intolerance problems.

There’s the science. Now let’s eat and enjoy.

#realbreadireland #bretzelbakery

First published on LinkedIn in April 2017