Do you like the smell of freshly baked bread? Bread is a basic food stuff and bread baking is currently undergoing a revival for a variety of reasons; as an answer to a host of digestive issues, as a fulfilling, meditative experience and to regain breadmaking skills and thus control over the quality of our bread.
For some people, commercially baked breads, full of additives and preservatives to prolong shelf life, no longer fit the criteria for healthy everyday food – our daily bread. A return to time honoured traditions of bread baking, using slow rise methods and simple ingredients is an alternative.
In this respect Cressing Temple Barns with its 19th century bakehouse and wood fired bread oven is in an enviable position.
The Cressing Temple bread oven would have been used up to and perhaps during WW2. Since that time it had fallen into disrepair. The bakehouse was used as a storage area and had flaking paint, damp and crows nesting in the chimney. Fortunately the Friends of Cressing Temple Gardens initiated a restoration project in collaboration with Essex County Council. Starting in early 2015 the bakehouse was cleaned and decorated, the oven was repaired using refractory cement, the chimney was swept and a bird guard installed and the badly damaged floor pamments were replaced.
Finally in September 2015 all was ready to have a go at a first firing.
First we set a small fire to drive the moisture out of the brick. It was a magical moment to see the wisps of smoke curling up into the chimney. She – the oven, the Old Dame, behaved as impeccably you would expect from a well brought up old lady.
At the next firing we were able to bring the oven to full temperature and do the first bake. What a sense of achievement!
The bakehouse, when working, draws people towards it like a magnet. We would like to use the momentum and the magic to offer information about traditional bread making to the local community. Meanwhile, the oven is used by a baking group and also by a group of historical reenactors and there are baking demonstrations at events and for interested groups.
Due to the generosity of The Friends of Cresssing Temple and the tenacity of the members to see the project through, the old dame is now back and on the way to be the warm heart of the place and community.
You can visit the working bakehouse on 9th October during our Annual Apple Day Festival.
You can find more information about the real bread movement and traditional bread making techniques at https://www.sustainweb.org/realbread/ or send us an email if you are interested in being involved with activities in the bakehouse.