One sunny day in a summery September I found myself driving through rural Oxfordshire in central England and made 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.
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 left 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 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.