Is that sandwich you’re eating made from freshly baked bread or factory-farmed sliced? Did you know that Britons eat around 30m loaves of mass produced sliced bread every year. It’s no secret, but it’s not necessarily widely appreciated what mass produced means in terms of the ingredients used. When the production of bread was mechanised after the Second World War, all manner of additives were added to enable factories to produced it quicker. From industrial mills to chemically enhanced mixtures, making a loaf of bread went from a good day’s work to a few hours production.
Wrapped up in the added ingredients are extra gluten, extra yeast, fat, emulsifiers, preservatives and myriad enzymes. These take away the need for any art or artisan in bread making. The added fat aids the softness of the crumb. Emulsifiers contribute to size and softness of a loaf of bread; they also help the bread stay fresh for longer on the shelf or in your bread bin. Preservatives do what we know they do best: extend shelf life.
So when you dine at The Miller, savour the warm and freshly baked bread that we produce in our kitchens every day. At The Miller the bread is as important as every other dish that leaves the kitchen. We’re probably making about 650-700 bread rolls per week plus 10-12 large loaves for sandwiches. We make our bread using only flour from Wessex Mill in Wantage.
Freshly baked bread
Bread has been part of the conversation since we signed on the dotted line at The Miller. In terms of creating unique selling points for the business, it was a no brainer. We thought about the name “Miller” and I was very keen for us to create something around that, i.e. freshly baked bread. I think having bread to share around the table is a lovely way to get conversations started and show the intent of the kitchen. I’m pleased with where we have got to with it and we will continue to develop new recipes.
We started with just two bread rolls: six seed and white. The more we have worked with the recipes, flours and raising agents we have become better at making and producing the bread. We interchange the breads probably once every 6 months. We’re hoping to bring back a bacon brioche but with an improved recipe.
It’s a great skill for a chef to understand bread and be able to make it to scale daily under the pressure that comes in kitchens.
Bread is part of the meal
When we started at The Miller we charged for bread. We were a new business and we needed to see where the land lied. But with our overall positioning and offering, plus our customer price point, it’s not right for us to charge. It really comes down to the type of business and its focus. We decided that to really showcase what we do better, we should include freshly baked bread in people’s Miller experience.
Pass the parcel
We present our bread in artisan sacks. We thought the sack was a unique way to present the bread. It’s a play on original sacks of flours, it’s communal and its fun. My idea was that it could be passed around the table and you wouldn’t be sure what you were going to get. A little theatre or talking point, I suppose. Eating out should be a reward and it should be fun. So it’s vital that we play our part to help get that element of the experience started.
We bake three breads so that there is enough choice for poeple to find one they might love. We will happily supply more as and when people request it. The current favourite it our beef dripping and onion bread.
Better the butter you know
I was getting a little bit fed up of the continual rise and rise of bought in butter. We had been talking about churning our own butter for a while and therefore making the right choices on creams. This is a good process for the team to go through and it also allows us to put, what we think is, the right amount of salt into each batch. We’ve just recently been looking at the cream we use to create something even better. As with everything else here at The Miller – we’re always looking to improve.
More than a dusting of the milled stuff
We’ve been working with Wessex Mill from the beginning. It’s important to Mary and I to work with people we like as well as to source the very best produce we can. The history of the mill itself is a major drawing card; it’s on its fourth generation of family millers. Those millers are as brilliant as the flour their mill produces. They try their hardest to support the UK farmers and generally mill British flour. This all ties in with our overall ethos.
Beyond the dining table
We invite our hotel guests to head home with fresh loaves of Miller bread tucked under their arms, baguette style. So they have option to put a bread order in the night before they check out. We do sell the other odd loaf here and there, but we couldn’t keep up if we were needing to produce 10-12 loaves per day. Our oven’s probably not big enough either! We would always consider a special order though providing we had enough warning (and the sourdough starter was playing ball!).
Which is your favourite Miller bread?