Previously in our Meet the Brand series we brought you denim loveliness with jeans makers ULLAC Denim and learned about some seriously sustainable swimwear from Dock & Bay. This week we hope you’re hungry as we introduce Baltic Bakehouse. This Liverpool based bakery opened in 2013, filling the gap in the city for quality fresh bread. Siblings Sam & Grace Henley are the brains behind the Baltic Bakehouse, which is now renowned as the place to go in the area for delicious bakes made by traditional methods. We caught up with Sam to talk about how it all came about.
The MALESTROM: Here at The MALESTROM we’re all about championing British brands, why don’t you tell our readers a bit about Baltic Bakehouse and how the business came about?
Sam Henley: Baltic Bakehouse came about because of a need to fill the gap for real bread in Liverpool. Over the previous 20 years, the old traditional bakeries of Liverpool had succumbed to the supermarkets, there where almost no places in the city that baked on site and made slow risen good quality bread. We wanted to fill that gap and offer something new in terms of a product range. Slow risen bread made with good quality ingredients, that is tasty and nutritious. With that we wanted to provide a cafe that was centred around bread, so sandwiches, soups, croutons etc. Great bread makes a great bacon butty.
TM: What are some of the pitfalls you’ve faced along the way?
SH: Setting up is expensive, particularly bakery equipment, we opened the whole place with less than £25k, which is a tiny amount, I could spend that just on a bakery oven. Money is a constant worry when you’re a new start up. This can be hard to balance when your purchasing equipment, we certainly bought some cheap kit, that didn’t do the job well enough or broke, in an attempt to save money. You really have to consider long term benefit when buying equipment, sometimes you have to spend more than you might feel comfortable with as its better in the long run.
TM: What is your ethos? And how important is it to the brand?
SH: Bake the very best bread we can. That’s it, everything else stems from that, make great bread and don’t compromise. If the bread is good, the bacon butties will be good.
TM: Tell us about the bakes you make…
SH: Our sourdough loaf the Baltic Wild is our signature loaf, made with some high extraction flour from Walk Mill, that they mill for us especially. It’s slowly risen, using only sourdough starter, it has a dark burnished crust and soft creamy crumb. We also do lovely yeasted bread, like soft white tin loaves and crusty french baguettes. All slow fermented for at least 15 hours. Along with our bread we do doughnuts, cruffins, croissants, chocolate tarts, cakes, Danish pastries, the list goes on. All kinds of sweet treats that change every day.
TM: How important is the handmade approach to the business?
SH: Very important, the moment you mechanise bread production, your quality drops immediately. Bakers need to be hands on with the dough, to know when its right to shape or bake. There are judgement calls to make during the process that require knowledge and understanding, these decisions can’t be mechanised and to truly understand them you need to get you hands in the dough.
TM: What’s the most popular item you’re selling right now?
SH: In term of bread the Baltic Wild is always our biggest seller, and sweet stuff doughnuts are very popular right now.
TM: What does the future have in store? What are your aims?
SH: At the moment we want to further progress our two cafes, offer better service and continue baking the best stuff we can.
TM: What advice would you have for anyone thinking of starting their independent business?
SH: Watch the pennies and plan things properly, do a business plan with forecasts and cashflow and see if you can make it work. You can make the best bread in the world, or the best jeans or the best cocktails or the best whatever, if you can’t run a business properly you’ll fail. If that means sitting at your computer after you’ve finished a 12 hour shift and going through invoices or the last months management accounts or doing the VAT return that’s what you have to do.
Too many happy hipster stories are told of people setting up their on businesses and how great it is and how much money they make, blah blah blah. You can only run a business if you give everything to it, that means 80 to 90 hour weeks, 7 days a week with no time off, and it means doing all the books and accounts and boring stuff properly as well as making the stuff you love.
TM: How important is it to engage with other like-minded brands?
SH: Probably not very important, focus on what you do and the way you do it. That being said, I’ve met a lot of other bakers through instagram and there’s a great community of bakers who are always there to offer advice and help when something you’ve baked turns out shit (this happens quite a lot) or if you need some new kit or supplies etc.
TM: What’s your favourite independent British brand? Who would you nominate for us to feature next?
SH: Honestly I really don’t have a clue beyond other bakeries; Haxby Bakehouse, Flour Water Salt, E5, Bostock Bakery and Season Bakery all bake great stuff. If you’re anywhere near them you should definitely pay them a visit. I’m sure I’ve left loads of other bakeries off that list that deserve a mention. Also I’ve got a pair of jeans by Huit Denim, they are great I love them.
TM: How can people track you down?
SH: Instagram or our website are best. We’ve two cafes, the main bakehouse near the city centre in the Baltic Triangle and our second place on Allerton road, both open 7 days a week. Also if you eat in any of the good restaurants in the Liverpool you’ll likely find our bread on the menu.