If we look at our daily routine, on average, we consume two slices of toast for breakfast, enjoy another two slices of bread in our lunchtime sandwich and perhaps even two more slices for tea, making up a significant proportion of our daily diet. Yet, when most people take a trip to the supermarket, they reach for the family favourite white 'spongy loaf' of sliced pan. Personally, I like the recent trend in people's movement towards real bread, baked the traditional way in bakeries who do not use additives or preservatives which are unnecessarily added to some supermarket loaves.
The rise in artisan bakeries across the country is growing at a steady pace, while in Cork one of the most successful artisan bakers is Declan Ryan of Arbutus Bakery. Every weekend at Midleton Farmers' Market, Declan sets up stall and is met with a long queue of customers waiting to buy his legendary loaves. Arbutus Bread stock a range of breads including; Irish soda breads, as well as wholemeal, white and rye sourdough, and white, wholemeal and spelt yeast breads.
Declan uses flours including; organic, French and traditional stone-ground Irish flours with no chemical improvers or additives. More recently, Declan has begun to supply multiples including; SuperValu in Grange and sells at Mahon Point Farmers' market every Thursday. A full list of stockists can be found here.
Declan is one of many talented, hard working and passionate artisan bakers in Ireland. Outside of Cork you will find artisan bakers including: Arun-Bakery, Blazing Salads, Bretzel Bakery and Paris Bakery among others.
If you wish to bake bread yourself at home, the one book I would strongly recommend is that by Patrick Ryan and Duncan Glendinning called Bread Revolution. Since writing this book, Patrick Ryan has set up his own bread school on Heir Island,West Cork. If you only plan one trip this year, then I would recommend a one day course in The Firehouse bakery. There you can learn the art of bread making, immersed in the beautiful surroundings of the breathtaking Heir Island scenery.