MEET THE PRODUCER - Holtwhites Bakery's Richard Copsey and Kate Smith
The Chase Sourdough is the best selling loaf at Holtwhite’s Bakery. Named after its Chase Side address, the bread began with a “stiff starter from Paul Merry’s Panary” explains Richard Copsey, co-owner and head of production. Now, of course, having been fed twice a day by him, it is truly an EN2 sourdough.
It’s also an award-winning bread, and what’s mind-blowing is that Richard, and his wife, Kate Smith are relatively new to the baking profession. Coming from teaching and social market research respectively, they “went through a bit of a mid-life crisis.”
They’d always loved food and had long spoken about running a café, or some such. Eventually they took tentative steps and, while working full-time, set up a weekend micro-bakery in their home. Kate admits she thought “that losing sleep overnight would get it out of Richard’s system.” Clearly not.
To begin with they baked for ten friends. With enthusiastic word-of-mouth assistance, there was very soon a fiercely loyal group of 60 people who would queue on a Saturday morning to collect the bread they’d ordered, and that Richard had baked through the night.
So they took the leap and almost quicker than you could toast a slice, they found a site for their bakery and new careers. Embarking on this with a young child and a new-born was arguably bad timing but also fortuitous:
“The Great British Bake Off phenomenon has been great for us. It’s really raised awareness of what should go into a loaf of bread or a cake.”
But there is a lot more than bread and cake at Holtwhite’s. In fact Richard’s favourite job is making the croissants, (“I love rolling them up”) followed by research from his collection of 400-odd cookbooks and travels. Interestingly the bakery’s delicious pasteis de nata, Portuguese custard tarts didn’t follow their trip to Lisbon (keenly tracked by their Instagram followers). Rather two Portuguese bakers who briefly worked with them shared their recipes. In a Holtwhite’s twist, Richard now uses the custard of one, and the pastry of the other in which he uses “French patisserie butter which you wouldn’t use in Portugal.”
Meanwhile, the sourdough bacteria have been working their magic and pretty soon, lots of happy customers, whether from around the corner, or from much further afield, will be arriving for their award-winning loaves of bread.
As Kate says:
“That’s probably the main thing: a focus on quality. Because people aren’t stupid and they won’t buy it just because it’s local, it’s got to be good.”
And, lucky Enfield knows it is very, very good.
Holtwhites Bakery will be bringing their award winning bakery to the Festival on Sunday 26th August and Richard will be cooking pizza in Forty Hall Vineyard from midday. Festival line up here.
Photography - Dan Bone