With his bakehouse tucked away in Reydon near Southwold, The Breadwinner Ravi Muniandy is one of our most local of local suppliers.
Since 2011 Ravi has been baking daily, developing a unique range of artisan bread, cakes and cereals. At Slate we are particular fans of his fabulous granola, crammed with fruit and nuts; also his rye-seeded crackers, full of taste and texture they make perfect companions for any soft and creamy cheese.
Ravi is passionate about the quality of his products. He is a member of the Real Bread Campaign and was an early adopter of the "Real Bread Loaf Mark" which provides assurances that his bread is made without processing aids or artificial additives.
On a blustery Suffolk day a visit to Ravi's bakehouse is a treat of warmth and glorious baking aromas. Large beasts of industrial ovens and highly organised boxes of ingredients create the backdrop for beautiful loaves proving on wire racks. The air is scented with a mix of freshly baked cakes and yeasty notes, accompanied by the gentle hum of a giant mixer.
Catching up with Ravi in between his busy schedule we were delighted to discover more about his passion for baking and find out just how early he gets up each day!
Have you always loved baking?
I have always enjoyed cooking (and eating!) so I have helped in the kitchen with cooking since childhood. At school, I did food technology and I remember practising my cake every week until I got it right. My mum did a lot of baking when I was younger including home-made bread. My dad also cooks a lot so I have always enjoyed great home cooked food. I started baking after deciding that I was in the wrong profession - I worked in in the NHS for a few years but baking suits me better.
What does a typical day for you look like?
Unlike some bakers, I bake during the day not the night. I generally start at about 5am. Fortunately, I don't live far away so the commute into work is very short. My first job is sweeping the ovens out as they have to be cold to do this, then I switch on the three ovens and start getting the bread ready for delivery. My next job is to start mixing the bread for that day. I may do up to six different mixes - some are done in a mixer and some by hand. Sourdoughs are started two days before they are baked. I will shape those early so I can bake them later on in the afternoon.
When all the mixing is done, I then wait for the bread to do an initial prove before it is shaped. on a cold day, this can take ages! Once I have shaped the dough, it either goes into a tin or in a basket for the final prove. I may make cakes or biscuits in between times or order ingredients from my local suppliers. The bread is baked during the afternoon and left to cool overnight. I generally finish work around 6pm and go home for some relaxation time.
Tell us a little bit about the Real Bread Campaign and how it ties in with your approach to baking.
The Real Bread Campaign encourages and supports bakers to adhere to certain standards which include no additives or preservatives. My bread is made with just flour, water, yeast and a little salt. I believe this makes it better tasting and better for the digestion than mass produced bread.
What is your favourite product to make?
My favourite product to make is the Suffolk Seedy loaf. This is the type of bread I enjoyed as a child.
A particular favourite with us here at Slate is your fabulous granola - how do you make it?
I like to use jumbo oats as I think these have more flavour. I also like to cut up the fruit myself rather than buying pre-cut as this means I can ensure I use the best quality ingredients. It is very time consuming to make but tastes great. I enjoy it for breakfast every day.
Do you have any exciting plans for the business in 2018?
I am hoping to develop my range of biscuits and cakes as these are very popular.