Orange Bakery offers sourdough detours

One sunny day in a warm, September I found myself driving through rural Oxfordshire in central England making a detour to the lovely market town of Watlington.

It’s here that daughter and father team Kitty and Alex Tait have created the amazing Orange Bakery. I’ve been following their progress for many months having first noticed them when scrolling through Instagram and noticing the name ‘Orange’ which piqued my citrus antenna.

So while they have little connection to Sevilles or Navels, they have grown from baking in the kitchen for fun to opening a gorgeous shop on Watlington High Street.

I’ve been following their progress for many months having first noticed them when scrolling through Instagram and noticing the name ‘Orange’ which piqued my citrus antenna.

Sourdough specialists

Names of people investing in the bakery through a very successful crowd funding

The bakery, which specialises in sourdough bread and freshly made pastries opens Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday usually closing at around 1.30pm or when the last loaf has left the building. Arriving on a Friday afternoon at just after 1pm, I had time to chat with Kitty’s parents Alex and Katie. There were just six loaves remaining on the shelves. I chose a walnut and cheese sourdough and was rewarded with a delicious, tangy, flavourful bake with a bouncy crumb and generous pieces of walnut.

The process of baking, according to an interview with the bakers to Country Living magazine, is that “from Tuesday to Saturday, the pair bake three types of sourdough: the Watlington (a traditional white loaf), the Albert (a white loaf without holes, made using the Japanese Tangzhong method, and named after Kitty’s brother) and a History Loaf (made with ancient grains). They might also make a Comfort Loaf (Marmite sourdough), challah or Christmas Trimmings Loaf (with cranberries and walnuts”.

Sourcing and baking

They source flour from another Oxfordshire-based business, Wessex Mill near Wantage and gather eggs, cheese and honey from local producers in neighbouring villages.

According to the lifestyle magazine Country Living, “one of them then takes the freshly baked loaves and pastries to the shop, while the other makes up sourdough for the next day … they mix flour and water, add the starter and salt, and allow the dough to rise (known as bulk fermentation). Every hour, from 10.30am to 2.30pm, they stretch this dough and fold it over itself, extending the gluten and trapping air. ‘We use the San Francisco method,’ Kitty says. ‘It’s respectful to the dough’. Finally, they chop it into 900g balls, mould it into oblong shapes, fit these into proving bannetons and slide them into the fridge”.

Local community hub

While I was in the shop, a steady stream of locals popped in and out often staying for lively conversation, in an atmosphere that suggests the bakery has already become a bready, social hub for the town. [ And yes, I did cast a quick glance in the (real) estate agent’s window!].

Watlington has a bakery, butcher, chocolate making shop lined along its picturesque High Street and a regular fruit and veg popup, all of which is very unusual for a small British town these days.

For more insight into the Orange Bakery, check out their Instagram account here. You’ll can also pre-order their first book, Breadsong which is due to be published in April 2022, here from The Lemon Grove outlet.

Bruce McMichael

Food writing, discovering food stories, meeting producers, chefs and food enthusiasts are all part of desire to inspire, inform my readers and fellow food lovers. I am a freelance writer, journalist and published author focusing on the international world of food and drink, culture and travel. In 2019 I graduated from the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Pollenzo, Italy with a Masters in Food Culture, Communication and Marketing. I am now a visiting Professor at the university teaching Food & Drink Writing. Based in London I travel widely, particularly across western Europe. I have chaired many conferences and meetings, spoken at conferences and events and often appear on radio and TV talking most about food, the business of food and being an entrepreneur. In 2017 I won an episode of the ITV (the UK-based national television channel) cooking competition show, 'Gordon Ramsay's Culinary Genius'. I took my children on holiday to Sicily with the prize money. As an experienced farmers' market manager and operator of a small marmalade/ preserves company, I am very familiar with the issues surrounding local food, farming, enterprise and the environment.