Michele Shirlow – Farm Week Column 19th July 2018

Food NI bringing our quality wheaten bread to consumers in Great Britain

Food NI will be supporting the Tiptree World Bread Awards again this year as an integral part of our drive to in increase awareness of the quality of our locally produced food in Britain.

Last year, for instance, we encouraged the organisers of this important competition for bread makers across the United Kingdom to introduce a category showcasing traditional Irish wheaten bread, the first winner of which was Thyme and Co, a small artisan bakery and café in Ballycastle and the runner-up Cookie Jar in Newcastle. Thanks go to category sponsor Andrew Ingredients of Lisburn for supporting the Irish Wheaten Bread section.

Overall, the competition proved to be a tremendous success for bakers here ranging from major bakeries such as Irwin’s and Yellow Door, both from Portadown, Ann’s Pantry, Larne and two others from Ballycastle, Ursa Minor and Tony’s Griddle Goods, all lifting awards. This represented a very substantial improvement on 2016 in terms of entries and awards gained.

The awards are unique in not only celebrated the skill of bread-making at its most diverse and inspiring, but also in seeking to encourage and foster the art of baking both now and for future generations.

Readers of this column will be fully aware of the great bread baking traditions across Northern Ireland at both commercial and artisan levels. We have managed to preserve a network of home bakeries across Northern Ireland, many of which are now active Food NI members and have also gone on to success in other national competitions such as the annual UK Great Taste Awards, the results of this year’s prestigious event will be announced soon.

I’ve also been delighted to see artisan bakeries springing up and doing good business at farmers’ markets across Northern Ireland. Bread baking, especially wheaten bread, is manifestly continuing to thrive here.

I hope to see more artisan bread makers, small high street bakers, home bread-makers, trainee bakers taking part in this year’s World Bread Awards and benchmarking their products and skills against other UK bakers. I’d expect to see many more awards for local enterprise and skills.

Bread, of course. is a huge industry in the UK – some 12 million loaves are sold every day. We’ve seen the emergence of other products here especially sourdough from artisan and bigger bakeries. Irwin’s, among the most supportive of Food NI members, has responded to trends by launching sourdough loaves, an artisan range and the development of healthier loaves. And not only is commercially-made bread still popular, but home-baking is massively on the rise too, a growth encouraged by television cookery shows.

The Tiptree World Bread Awards are open to all producers of bread sold commercially. However, the Home-Baker categories are only open to amateur bakers. For the purposes of this competition, ‘amateur’ refers to a competitor who is entering an item that is not produced for commercial gain.

Bread can be entered in around 20 categories including traditional Irish wheaten. Entries must comply with health and food hygiene standards and be safe for sampling by the panel of expert judges and delivered baked ready for eating by 1pm on Wednesday 26 September.

So, get those entries ready for September and help us make an impact on bread making in Britain! It’s a great competition, and I am sure Northern Ireland has the skills and innovation to win the overall award for the first time.