“If ever there was a time for us to be supporting our local producers, makers, suppliers and growers, then it’s now,” said Sue Brown of Forge House Bakery when we met in her kitchen in Lower Heyford this week.

Sue sells at local farmers markets such as Deddington where customers are often queuing up before she even arrives!

And she’s right because we can all avoid the supermarket panic by enjoying fresh, locally produced food while supporting our small, local businesses at the same time, and Sue looks like she is going to get very busy very quickly.

She launched her micro bakery just over a year ago, and has already snapped up international awards for her speciality sourdough breads.

The loaves and other treats were an immediate hit with local people and continue to be enormously popular. Sue sells at local farmers markets such as Deddington (customers are often queuing up before she even arrives!) and also delivers to surrounding villages.

“The croissants I make are really popular and a total labour of love as they take three days to make and bake”

She told us that her delivery area will be increasing in the next few days, to cope with the current crisis: “It is a very worrying time, but we have to be as flexible as possible and try to adapt what we offer, so that we can keep going, while providing a decent service to the local community as well.”

Sue opened Forge House Bakery after moving to the area and realising that the one thing missing was decent bread. “Everybody eats bread pretty much every day. And it was something I could provide for local people.

A degree in food science, a career in recipe development, plus a stint making wedding cakes, have all given Sue a wealth of knowledge and expertise about food and flavour, and she admits that she loves a culinary challenge.

Sue started selling at farmers’ markets because it was a great place to try out new recipes but admits at the beginning, perfecting her recipes wass a matter of trial and error: “I am really proud of my produce, but it has taken a while to get it right!

“The croissants I make are really popular and a total labour of love as they take three days to make and bake. When they’re gone – they’re gone!

“I think that’s why I chose sourdough!” Sue laughed. “It is hard to get right and has been frustrating at times, but I love the taste of it so was determined to perfect it. There is nothing like home-made sourdough bread.”

Her efforts have already paid off – Sue’s loaves have already won numerous awards; the cheese and Marmite, plain sourdough, and potato and rosemary loaves winning silver and bronze medals at The World Bread Awards.

However, with farmers’ markets on hold for the time being, Sue will be concentrating on local deliveries instead. She issues customers with cotton bread bags to protect her delivered loaves and also leaves some orders in a box outside the bakery for collection.

“I always have a few reserved loaves each week as well, and I will give these to anyone who is in need. It’s a small thing that I can offer.”

“There seems to be no better time to support small local businesses and producers so stay away from supermarkets and avoid the madness!”

She echoed the feelings of many when asked about the future of food businesses: “My heart goes out to those in hospitality whose businesses are on the brink of disaster. As long as we stay well at the bakery and maintain our high levels of hygiene I will be continuing with my weekly deliveries with a few changes.

It means that this week she will deliver as usual to homes in the Heyfords and Somerton but there will be no collections from the usual collection points of Steeple Aston Post Office and Middle Barton stores. However, customers can collect from Buzzy Beans Coffee (@buzzybeanscoffee) in Deddington.

“I will leave orders in bags hanging on doors, in boxes, sheds or anywhere that customers prefer but I won’t be knocking on doors. It means I will also be offering a slightly reduced selection but will have everyone’s favourite items available as well as hot cross buns from next week, and an extra supply of &ampersand Dairy (@ampersanddairy) cultured butter,” she promises.  

“There will be a box of pre-bagged bread at the end of my driveway with an honesty tin as well.”

Sue added that she plans to forge more local partnerships too: “I am looking at ways of joining with other small producers of excellent local produce, to make these available for delivery too.

“There seems to be no better time to support small local businesses and producers so stay away from supermarkets and avoid the madness!”

Order your bread online at www.forgehousebakery.com

Sarah Edwards

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