Earlier this year, 15-year-old Kitty Tait persuaded her family and friends to help her make hundreds and hundreds of orange pom poms. His plan was to ‘bomb’ his Oxfordshire village with them, scattering the shiny balls of wool over the bare winter trees.
This was Kitty’s guerrilla marketing tactic for her first food pop-up, the Orange Bakery. She opened it just a few months after her father first convinced her to get into baking.
Dad is Alex Tait, 49, a teacher who works with dyslexic students at the University of Oxford when he’s not teaching Kitty at home. He describes his own style of cooking as “enthusiastic but sometimes disastrous” and says that the breads he made himself from time to time looked like cinder blocks.
“When Dad made homemade bread, I always quietly opposed for the sliced white,” Kitty says now, as she prepares to open her own bakery on Saturday. It will be in Watlington, a market town of about 3,000 people, where she lives.
Sold out in 23 minutes
The new store is a response to popular demand: During the January pop-up, queues meandered through the streets and supplies sold out in 23 minutes. In April there was a Kickstarter, which raised £ 10,140 – double the £ 5,000 requested.
“Around the same time last year, I wasn’t much of a baker,” Kitty admits. “I started baking bread at the end of the summer. I was sick and needed a distraction and at first that was all it was – a distraction, but it got me hooked.
“The feeling of a living creature under your fingers; breathe, grow, change. I never really thought about creating bread like pastry, rather than participating in some extraordinary magic.
Kitty has quickly gone from standard white to sourdough and will have cinnamon rolls, cookies, croissants and cheese straws in her bakery as well as breads. She is also excited about her focaccia and hopes she has found a new recipe.
She even makes her own butters to serve on toast: there will be smoked, wild garlic and sea salt. She cooks every day and gets up at six or seven. At one point, she was sleeping in the kitchen to keep an eye on her dough babies.
Her favorite bread-based combinations currently are the Egg and Soldiers with her Marmite bread, which she has named Comforting Bread; bean toast with its white toast; and smoked salmon and poached egg on rye. For foodies, she features a chocolate chip bread with fresh raspberries and peanut butter in an Instagram video.
A generous community of bakers
Alex credits Kitty’s lightning-fast progress to the generous community of bakers she met via Instagram. “It’s a good antidote for anyone talking about how negative social media can be,” he says.
Pophams in Islington, London gave Kitty her most valuable equipment, Margo the Mixer, while Laura Hart of Hart’s in Bristol donated her test baskets.
“Bakers are a special breed because they make you feel comfortable and treat you like an equal,” Kitty explains. “Hamblin’s in Oxford and The Dusty Knuckle in Dalston were amazing. And Ducky from Handmade Bakery in Huddersfield has been a brilliant person to chat with from the very beginning.
Kitty’s “God of Bread” lives further away. This is Chad Robertson from the famous San Francisco bakery Tartine. She hopes to meet him one day. “Tartine was the first book that correctly showed me how to make sourdough – it describes its journey while educating you about the beauty of sourdough,” she says.
The meaning of real bread
“Real bread” is so called to distinguish it from bread made with processed ingredients or added preservatives. It contains four ingredients: flour, water, salt, and a leaven which, in the leaven, is a starter or “mother”, a living culture that you nurture, cultivate and share. Kitty cooks with Wessex Mill flour, made from locally grown wheat in a mill 40 minutes away.
She started sharing her bread because she baked too much for her family of five: In addition to her father, there are her mother, Katie, and her siblings Albert, 17, and Aggie, 19. At the time, she was also cooking in a neighbor’s oven. , which was much hotter than theirs.
“We had amazing feedback and people started saying they would pay for it,” says Alex. “It prompted her to set up a subscription service and she was dropping 10 or 12 loaves of bread a day, and people would place an order and she would go around and deliver it on her bike.”
A new village baker
Friends and neighbors continued to offer help and support, and one day they were approached by a man who discovered Kitty’s bread in one of the pop-ups.
He told them about a unit he had available in town, and he created what Alex describes as a “very flexible” deal so they could try out the idea and see how it goes. The plan is to open Wednesday through Saturday.
Alex says they heard there was a bakery in Watlington that closed in the 1970s, but he never intended to do that sort of thing. “We are an ordinary family and tend to do the kinds of things other people do. We didn’t expect to do home schooling and open a bakery. “
If you don’t live in a big city or don’t have five dollars to spend on just one bread, it can be difficult to find good bread. Kitty asked for £ 2.50 for the bread at first, which rose to £ 3, double the price of a supermarket bread. But the cost is what’s in it.
Real bread is for everyone
However, she doesn’t want to cook foods that are beyond everyone’s reach. One of the reasons the owner was so impressed with his pop-ups was the wide range of customers he saw lining up.
Some of them were the 239 fans who supported Kitty’s Kickstarter, and she pledged to paint the names of 196 of them on oranges on a huge mural of an orange tree in the new bakery.
If they all show up on Saturday, let’s hope they form an orderly queue.