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baltic bakehouse58675There are few things we couldn’t live without. And, increasingly, fewer people. So when something good comes to the city, run with passion by decent people, it kind of makes us feel like, yeah, Liverpool is all the better for it.

So it’s great that the city’s taken Baltic Bakehouse, and its owners Sam and Grace, to its heart. Because they represent the city we love: good folk, just getting on with it, doing one thing well, and giving us all our daily bread.

As the council fucks our markets, and food service catering and cynical startups place quick profits over nutritious value, its increasingly important that we make the effort to support places like this. We’d be a hell of a lot poorer without them.

Sourdough is science in action. Water plus flour making life. Microscopic yeast cells bubbling their gassy farts through to the surface, like the sulphuric ponds of Yellowstone park. A warm, primordial soup.

Take this acrid-smelling gunge, divide, feed with fresh flour and water – and something magical happens. You’ve created the stuff of life itself: real bread.

Add a pinch of salt, and you’ve got intelligent life. The best loaf in the city. From the most unlikely of processes our daily bread is born. Or at least, it used to be, until someone invented sliced bread, and it all went wrong (don’t get us started on the Chorleywood process, please).

Sounds deliciously simple. And it sort of is – it’s just microflora doing its thing – but it’s time consuming. Well, let’s face it, do you have time to feed a hungry Tupperware of flour every time it burps at you? Us neither. We barely remember to water our potted Jasmine.

Thankfully, Sam and Grace Henley do. Bread evangelists, they’re the brother and sister team behind the Baltic Bakehouse. Squeezed between door warehouses and transmission repairers, the bakery is the best reason to keep walking past the city’s 11 Tescos for your daily loaf. We caught up with Sam after his day’s work is done (that’s about the time you’re just starting yours), and the Bakery’s bread and cakes have been shipped off to some of the city’s best restaurants and cafes (don’t worry, there are plenty left for us to buy in the shop). As I arrive, Sam and Grace are munching their way through a selection of variously smoked and unsmoked bacon rashers in their ongoing quest to create the city’s best bacon butty. Well, getting up at 4:30’s gotta have some perks…

Why bread? where did it all start for you?

It all started when we were kids, we’d get fresh bread from Chalkins, a great traditional baker on Church road (off Penny Lane). Huge crusty loaves of white bread, massive Chelsea buns and great bagels, it was a fantastic traditional bakery and we loved it. Unfortunately, Chalkins closed about ten years ago and it was the last traditional bakery in Liverpool, our only option was to reach for an old copy of Mrs Beaton, from our mum’s book shelf, and try baking our own. It all stemmed from there.

So you’re completely self taught?

More or less. Everything we know is from books or the internet. Bread is a strange thing, you start by trying a simple white loaf with an old bag of flour and next thing you know it’s two in the morning and you’re arguing about sourdough on an internet bread forum. The more you learn, the more you want the know, its a fascinating and complex subject.

I’m always learning, constantly looking for tips on twitter or baking websites and always eyeing up a new bread book. Everyday is a school day, we’ve not done it before and there’s always something new to get to grips with, the joys of scrubbing old dough from an industrial mixer are unparalleled.

Is Liverpool a real food desert?

No not at all. We have plenty of really good places to eat, however some of the restaurants that garner a lot of attention aren’t the restaurants that deserve it. Are we worse than other cities? I don’t think so, perhaps we suffer from from constant comparison with Manchester, but I’m not sure that it’s fair, many of our restaurants can hold there own against anything any other city has to offer.

What’s your experience of bread in the city?

Not brilliant, and that’s why we started Baltic Bakehouse. With the end of the traditional bakeries, the gap was more or less completely filled with supermarket bread and plant bakeries, most of which is appalling quality bread. There are a couple of other producers in the city, but we have something different and better to offer: top quality bread that you can’t get anywhere else in Liverpool.

..So, why is a good loaf so important?

Bread is a fundamental of British food. Most of us eat some every day. The stuff we get from the supermarket has so many additives the chemicals it’s a wonder that it can be considered food at all. We offer really great bread, we’re not saying you should be eating toasted Walnut sourdough, a simple loaf of white, consisting of only flour, water, salt and yeast is a great and reasonably priced loaf. It’s real bread, with no chemicals, you can actually know what you’re eating.

Talk to us about the mechanics behind a good loaf…

Good flour, gentle mixing and slow rising are the fundamentals. So much bread is over-mixed and quickly risen, it results in very light flavourless pap. Surdough is the opposite of this, full of flavour and great texture. Some sourdough can be very sour and heavy German style can turn into an exercise in worthiness, and actually isn’t always great to eat. We offer something thats far more approachable, our Baltic Wild, a white sourdough, is soft yet has a complex flavour. But it’s not too sour.

But isn’t it all a bit faddy? And, er, unhealthy?

Faddy? Not really, sourdough has been around for thousands of years. Yes, it’s undergoing a big a Renaissance, and rightly so. People are fed up of eating flavourless rubbish, we’re looking for great bread and inspired by childhood memories and trips overseas to places were great bread is still alive and kicking. I don’t think it’s a fad, it’s about people looking for simple good food.

Unhealthy? No, what a load of nonsense, anyone who says good bread is bad for you (coeliacs excepted) is talking rubbish.

What’s next?

Exciting things are happening in the Baltic Triangle, with new and creative projects popping up all the time. We’re open on Sundays now, and have a cafe opening in Childwall soon (more on this later) and we’re staging some more evening events in the coming months. But, really, all we want to do is bake and sell great bread (and sandwiches!)

Baltic Bakehouse

46 Bridgewater Street
Liverpool
L1 0AY

  • http://thelameunknown.tumblr.com/ James

    Bridgewater Street’s a little out of the way, I’ll be popping down but this is no place to start changing the habits of the ordinary shopper. Not suggesting it won’t be a success but the ‘Baltic Triangle’ is some sort of hipster ghetto; the city centre’s still woefully under-served and the council should be bending over backwards to get this sort of thing along Renshaw Street, Duke Street or London Road. Anyway, can’t wait to try one of those loaves.

  • http://twitter.com/vinylemporium The Vinyl Emporium

    Walked past their sign yesterday. Will pop in sometime this week.

  • Sara

    Sourdough is actually one of the healthiest choices of bread due to its low glycemic index, ie. It keeps you fuller for longer than most breads and gives you shallower sugar spikes in your blood

  • MrD

    I popped in a couple of weeks ago for a Chelsea bun. It was wonderful. I agree it would be better if they were nearer town but maybe I can drive down on a Saturday, risk the wrath of the parking attendant and nip in to grab a couple of loaves.

  • Mr C Ake

    This makes a very good read on the whole & Ive heard lots of positivity throughout the city. Its fantastic that the city can have an artisan baker self taught & showing such passion about his product but why such a negative dig at another style of bakery ? If in Sams & Grace’s opinion “Cupcakes are crap” where has he tasted & who are they to judge? Everyone can have an opinion but as a fellow baker surely they should show some democracy? Maybe they’ve only tasted Greggs or Supermarket poor quality cheap immitations? This is a very broad statement, should we tarnish creative bread bakers with “your bread is shit” because all we’ve eaten is mass produced tasteless limp supermarket rubbish for so long.. Of course not !!, every baker has a creative individuality & if they are passionate & genuine about their product then it will shine through in their creations

  • Grace

    Hi Mr C Ake,

    I’m Grace, the none baker of the 2 of us. I wanted to explain that we were not trying to have a dig at other styles of bakeries, it’s just the idea of cupcakes whether well made or greggs! Both me and Sam would both rather tuck into a well made tart or slice of cake, cup cakes seem to be over priced because they are mini, look pretty and appeal to this whole vintage twee craze. Sam is someone who is creative and passionate about baking and unfortunately when so much passion is involved he tends to get very expressive about what he believes in. I can say from my point of view that It’s an opinion that we both share about cupcakes but maybe it should have been expressed in a more diplomatic way so for that I apologise. Also it wasn’t aimed at any specific businesses or person it is an opinion about the whole idea of cupcakes.

    Grace (Baltic Bakehouse)

  • Boo

    Agree..the developments in the Baltic Triangle should be taking place in London Rd…its a disgracefully neglected part of the city…the ugly sister to the shiny new city centre sprawls

  • Grace

    Hi James,

    We love the Baltic triangle area, and for a first time business owner it is much much more affordable that the city centre. Also we have free parking outside which is great. We hope to see you soon 🙂

    Grace

  • http://twitter.com/dradny Andrew Taylor

    Grace I was in yesterday (white tin!) I emailed you with the French butter details!
    Bread was totally amazing!
    Andrew

  • Grace

    Mr D,

    There is free parking for up to 2 hours so you don’t need to worry about those pesky traffic wardens.

    Grace (Baltic Bakehouse)

  • http://thelameunknown.tumblr.com/ James

    Yeah, it’s a cool area and I get that it’s much more affordable. I’ll deffo drop by but my point was more that the council or whoever should make it so businesses like yours are easily able to set-up in a more central location.

  • http://thelameunknown.tumblr.com/ James

    Cupcakes are kind of boring though. They’re nice and I could eat them all day but there’s no substance to them.

  • Crusty

    Were you at the Hope St feast last year? Stuff in the main pic looks great…and slightly familiar

  • http://twitter.com/LaurasBakery Lauras Little Bakery

    Were you just coming to test mine out again at Threshold festival then? I’m sure you’ve had enough before to already reach that opinion, so now just wondering why you came and bought some from me? I found that entire section about cupcakes offensive I have to say….I hope the ‘fad’ stays as that’s my main line of business and the main stream of income that keeps my family in food and clothes! I would also invite you to spend a day in my kitchen just to test out the theory that’s there’s not a lot of skill in the baking processes!

  • Grace

    Laura,

    It’s Grace again. We are very sorry if we have upset you. Our comments were in no way a personal attack on you or your business and we are confused as to why you think it was. There are many people baking cupcakes in the city and we never mentioned any cupcake bakery directly.

    As I have stated before it is our opinion that we prefer other things to cupcakes, that isn’t to say we will never eat a cupcake again it just means that we aren’t fussed by them. Your cupcakes I must say are well made, but I would still rather have a slice of tart. I really don’t want you to be upset with us, no matter what our opinion I am very sure we wont manage to turn the people who love cupcakes against cupcakes. I’m sorry this has blown out of proportion, it is just our opinion which we are entitled to. If you want to discuss it properly then you can pop in or give us a call on 0151 708 6686.

    Grace

  • Anne Ponisch

    Congratulations Sam and Grace! I can almost smell the bread through the photos! So glad to know that you are open and serving people with real bread! Wonderful! Anne Ponisch

  • Grace

    Thanks Crusty, that wasn’t us, we weren’t properly up and running back then, but we hope to see you soon In the bakery.

    Grace

  • Grace

    Andrew, thanks for the kind words, we really appreciate it. We’re working on the butter as we speak.

    Grace

  • Crusty

    Indeed, see you soon I hope and good luck

  • Grace

    Thank you Anne x

  • http://www.facebook.com/domskidom Dominic Hope-Smith

    like nice bread? Try my wife’s Sourdough – really awesome. Good to hear there’s a new bakery in town.

  • tocca

    I love all kinds of baked goods & most cupcakes are at best just ok & I resent paying a lot of money for the shape & size & nothing else, but, I have a friend who makes the best cupcakes ever. Very different to what you can buy commercially. Her cupcakes have oomph.. She was at Hope St Feast a few years ago & people would buy singles then come back & buy multiples.

  • http://yasminselenabutt.wordpress.com/ Yasmin Selena Butt

    Laura, I follow your FB page and your cupcakes look absolutely amazing, like art and I very much doubt your livelihood is under any threat, but I also saw Grace’s point viz cupcakes and their massive proliferation in the baking world. I don’t think what you do is in the same mouthful with what she was getting at. In truth, as a non-baker but lover of bread and cakes – I used to like them, but don’t get as excited when I see them anymore, mainly as they’re often too sweet or the sponge is too dry. Or by way of another comparison, the way I feel about them is how I first liked ‘ Keep Calm and Carry On’ design, but when it was hijacked and then plastered on absolutely everything it irritated me to death and lost its appeal! But the original design is still pretty cool in its own context. It is all just opinions ultimately. x x

  • bunfight

    Hi..when I saw that quote, ‘style over substance’…it was a bonding moment, I’ve been saying exactly those words…along with’ twee’ about the whole thing, for some time now. In the very initial stages of trying setting up a baking concern of my own with a view of bringing back traditional favourites that might not look as artistic as cup cakes but taste a whole lot better. Best of luck with the Baltic Bakehouse, I will definitely be popping in.

  • mostyn

    i have to agree with you re. cupcakes .fantastic bread bought some today.loved your shop

  • Mr Test

    Test

  • Sydney Cooke

    Shame about him being a nonce like.

  • UrsulineBlue

    What a pity Sam Henley is a convicted paedophile. And, given that 7Streets are aware of this, why on earth is this article still up? He’s baking bread a couple of hundred yards from a primary school, FFS.

  • Grey Lantern

    I can forgive most things, but not when it involves children. Just because it is on a screen doesn’t make it a victimless crime. So I shall no longer be spending my cash at this establishment.