Author Archives: Barbara Stone

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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


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Fabulous French Flair worthy of the name…

Fabulous French Flair worthy of the name…

Baguette3Bag d1

All the experts will tell you that French bread is by definition crusty. Crispiness is the characteristic of a good baguette. Crispy on the outside with a light yellow crumb inside, this baguette offers bread lovers a heady bouquet of fragrance, and tastes as if buttered.

Taste good bread like a good wine: savour the creamy texture and the bubbly appearance, a sign of slow and careful mixing and well-developed long fermentation, inhale the yeasty tang and finally bite down on that crust. It is difficult not to bite into a hot baguette, just out of the baker’s oven. However, did you know that ideally you should have the patience to wait forty-five minutes or so before sinking your teeth in? Hot bread digests less well, and the heat masks some of the breath of flavour.

Going back to my French roots might seem a bit of a stretch but I can honestly say I am very proud of our latest addition to the Bretzel list: our baguette d’Espard. A classic baguette in the French tradition, it is the result of a partnership between ourselves and the French miller, Moulin Virons of Chartes, with whom we are very proud to be associated.

The Beauce region is known as the granary or bread basket of France. It is fertile productive land and one of the most renowned agricultural regions in the country. It also has a reputation as a magical and spiritual place. The majestic cathedral of the city of Chartres rises dramatically out of the flat plain of wheat and grain fields. Moulin Viron produces an unbleached soft French flour which is the main ingredient of the baguette d’Espard (plus lots and lots of time).

My family, Despard, is Huguenot, d’Esparde when we had to flee France in a hurry; The Huguenots were persecuted throughout seventeenth century and approximately 5000 came to live in Ireland at that time, including the La Touche family; It is after them that the bridge over the Grand Canal at Portobello, local to the Bretzel Bakery, is named.

Spring has suddenly blossomed into summer and at Bloom, (June Bank Holiday weekend) in the Phoenix Park we will officially launch the Baguette d’Espard. Already available in Portobello, where our loyal customers are enjoying the most French & fabulous baguette.

Fitst published on LinkedIn in May 2017

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A highly charged quiet revolution… The Bretzel Bakery Electric Fleet.


What do Cameron Diaz, George Clooney, Matt Damon, Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks, Will Smith, Stephen King and Leonardo DiCaprio have in common? Apart from being rich and famous, they all drive electric cars.

When the Bretzel invested in the little Reva electric car back in 2009 is was seen as a bit of a joke. No one took electric vehicles seriously and although it was ideal for a town runabout, it lacked glamour, normal car comfort and was seen as just cute. Now it is one of the most recognised customer service vehicles in town with more people remembering it than my face! What began as a gimmick rapidly proved itself to be the foretaste of the present fascination with electric cars, vans and bikes.

Since then our electric delivery fleet has grown to include three vans, a tricycle and of course our faithful Reva. Our drivers love them, they are easy to drive and our own onsite charging station does away with time-wasting refuelling. And they are quieter and less polluting than the diesel versions, particularly when charged at off peak times (the networks have spare capacity). Our daily deliveries around the city centre are a joy, particularly on the tricycle which can beat the traffic too.

But best of all the fuel bills required to deliver to our 150 customers in the greater Dublin area have dramatically reduced in the past few years. So what started as a leap into the future has not only become fashionable but has contributed to our bottom line. Our electric vans are helping us towards our goal of being not only a healthy business but an environmentally responsible company.

What has been the most astonishing is the huge progress there has been in the technology recently. The range and battery-life has improved exponentially so that now the spectre of running out of power at awkward moments is a thing of the past. Batteries last much longer and are less expensive. The top of the range Tesla electric car, which I enjoyed driving last week, thanks to Merrion Fleet, has a range of 400km.

First published on LinkedIn in April 2017

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Seeds of Innovation

The seeds and rye flour we use in our multi-seed Country Store are more digestible as we soak them for 24 hours in advance – a bit of soakage breaks down the seed wall – so that I don’t have crack open each flax seeds with my brittle teeth. Also with wheat flour longer fermentation is vital – but lots more on that in later blogs. Today my second blog is the back story to my first product innovation, our Country Store loaf.

Prior to taking over the bakery, my baking was strictly on a domestic level.  In 2003 we were delighted to be mentored by the DIT Bakery School to develop new breads. Country Store was born out of a German-style “Holzfaller” recipe, rye flour, wheat flour and handfuls of healthy seeds; rolled in polenta. The word is from the German “Woodcutter’s bread”, but the energy rich Germanic recipe also looks after the mind and body. Natural Nutrition. The value of these seeds is uncontested. Sesame seed has a range of physical benefits including being a source of certain vitamins and trace elements; the flaxseeds are high in omega-3 fatty acids, “good” fats that have been shown to have a healthy effect on the heart. Sunflower seeds are a powerful anti-oxidant and are a source of magnesium.

A Country Store Loaf, to you and I, is just good bread… but there is lots of complex natural healthy stuff rolled into a 500g food parcel. And I forgot to mention, it tastes ffantastic & high in fibre (you don’t have to be old to need a good source of fibre).  The experience of creating the first “new” Bretzel Bakery Bread in probably 20 years was invaluable and spurred us all on. Many thanks to the National Bakery School, then down the road in Kevin Street, D8.

We now have fortunately have grown to now have our own in-house technical manager training and developing our baker skills. We continue to collaborate with the DIT, Cathal Brugha Street at a technical and practical level.  My passion is to provide wholesome breads which retain their nutritious qualities whilst maximising flavour. Developing new products and fine-tuning recipes has been a big part of the work since the opening of the second bakery in 2013, with our great bakers continuing the story.

Viel glück

First published by William Despard on LinkedIn March 2017

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Welcome to our Blog

Welcome to our new blog, here we will keep you up to date on the latest news from the Bretzel Bakery.