Pig & Pepper - Buxton’s award wiining artisan bakery

Signature sourdough

Signature sourdough - Credit: Archant

Double success in last year’s Great Taste Awards trained the spotlight on a tiny bakery producing handmade artisan breads on Buxton’s high street. Catherine Roth reports on a local secret waiting to be discovered.

Aran and Laura enjoying Irish soda bread

Aran and Laura enjoying Irish soda bread - Credit: Archant

Husband and wife team Aran and Laura Cheatle have run Pig and Pepper since 2017. Open four days a week they sell their own range of freshly baked breads and pastries including sourdough, granary, foccacia, spelt, porridge and rye as well as cakes, scones and Chelsea buns. Top marks though go to their Croissage Rolls and Irish Soda Bread with Treacle and Honey, which were recently awarded one and two stars respectively in the prestigious national Great Taste Awards. The Croissage Roll™ is a sausage roll in croissant pastry that also comes with various alternative fillings, depending on the season. These include vegetarian haggis, Jamaican Jerk, to celebrate Buxton's carnival, and a festive medley of cranberries, hazelnut and fennel.

Pig and Pepper's artisan breads are made with just four basic ingredients: flour, water, salt and a raising agent, such as wild yeast or bicarbonate of soda. Aran says, 'There's something wonderful about creating food people want to eat. Bread is not just about carbohydrate, it's a comfort and nurture food.' He adds, 'Sadly a lot of modern day baking follows the Chorleywood method, which contains any number of fats, emulsifiers and enzymes that are not necessarily listed on the packaging.' With everything made in house they can explain to customers exactly what is in each loaf of bread.

All baking takes place in Aran and Laura's converted garage, which is attached to the back of their shop. The day begins at five o'clock in the morning and baking is non-stop for the next four hours to ensure that fresh loaves are on the shelves when the shop opens. When the shop closes in mid-afternoon, however, the day isn't finished. Then it's time to make the flour mixes for breads and enriched doughs for pastries ready for the following day. The bread dough is then shaped into loaves and left in the refrigerator overnight. This, Aran explains, causes the dough to rise slowly, which gives more depth of flavour.

Meanwhile, Laura is responsible for Pig and Pepper's social media, admin and accounting, as well as breadmaking classes - all whilst juggling a part time job in Macclesfield three days a week.

Getting ready for a bread-making class

Getting ready for a bread-making class - Credit: Archant

The pair haven't always been bakers. Living in London, Aran worked in commercial gardening and Laura in social housing policy. Although they both enjoyed food and experimenting with new recipes, it wasn't until Laura attended the School of Artisan Food at Welbeck, near Worksop, that she discovered a love of breadmaking.

Laura says, 'After two days I was hooked on the process and the more technical elements. I then spent two years experimenting with bread, trying things such as putting turmeric in to see if it turned yellow!' She then enrolled on a more intensive breadmaking course with the Bread Angels network that gave her the skills and confidence to start her own bakery.

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Laura and Aran moved to Buxton in 2017, familiar to Laura as she had often visited the town and surrounding countryside when growing up, and within an hour of direct flights to Cork where Aran's family lives. When house hunting they weren't looking for a shop as well but one property came with an adjoining shop available to rent. Aran says, 'Laura shook her head but I said "Yes!" So we discussed what we'd do.' Those discussions led to settling in Buxton and Pig and Pepper opening on the high street. The shop takes its name from a chapter of Alice in Wonderland. Aran says, 'We're both great fans of the book. In this chapter Alice is visiting the kitchen with its dust cloud of pepper and over-seasoning, which encapsulates my approach to cooking in general! We thought it was perfect!'

Moving to Buxton, Laura and Aran noticed the slight change in temperature compared to London, which also affected their baking as the lower ambient temperature meant they could control the bread better. Laura says, 'Success with dough is all down to temperature and time. With sourdough, the taste profile can vary from region to region depending on the local water and flour used to feed it. We also found that the change of season can affect breadmaking and that something that works well one week won't the next. That's been our biggest learning curve.'

An introduction to bread making

An introduction to bread making - Credit: Archant

It was also a learning curve opening their own bakery. Aran says, 'We underbaked for opening day then for three months after that we overbaked.' Laura adds, 'We got very good at using the leftover bread - we ate a lot of croutons and sourdough lasagne!' Although they now bake with the aim to sell out, any bread that hasn't sold is donated to the local community café. All except for the farmhouse rye bread, which is used to make fresh loaves. Aran says, 'You can recycle rye bread so we are consistently reusing the bread. This is done by mixing an equal amount of the old rye bread soaked in water with the new rye dough.'

Whilst Aran and Laura are keen to grow their business, they are also willing to share their skills. Laura runs various breadmaking classes from their dining room at home, including an introduction to baking, an introduction to sourdough and even evening pizza making classes. She says, 'I teach my classes with domestic equipment as commercial ovens have much higher temperatures and, although you can make amazing stuff, you can't replicate it at home.' Many of those who attend Laura's classes have either tried to make bread unsuccessfully or never tried before, but they find themselves coming away with their own baked loaves and bread rolls or sourdough together with the confidence to continue baking at home. One previous attendee has even opened her own bakery in Warrington.

For those making their own bread at home Laura has some useful tips to share. 'Weigh everything - even the water. A measuring jug isn't accurate enough and a cooking teaspoon isn't scientifically precise when weighing out five grams of yeast or salt.'

Running Pig and Pepper means long days and little spare time but Laura and Aran try to make time to relax. Aran says, 'We live in a beautiful part of the world. You can travel by train, car or bicycle in any direction and find stunning scenery and places to discover. We enjoy walking but always make sure there's a pub on the way!' Laura adds, 'We love eating out, visiting Buxton's cinema and theatre and we also have two incredibly indulged cats at home!'

Shop sign

Shop sign - Credit: Archant

Aran and Laura are keen to grow their business and talk about larger premises, more efficient ovens and the many more types of bread they could offer if they employed staff, which would allow them time to take on more creative roles in the business. But, just like perfecting their baking, Laura and Aran realise this isn't something they can achieve overnight. Aran says, 'You have to perfect your product and then see where it takes you.' This exciting yet unmapped journey is akin, perhaps, to Alice's own adventures in Wonderland - a journey which is at the heart of Pig and Pepper as Laura and Aran continue on their baking adventure. u

Pig and Pepper is open Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday 9am-2.30pm.

Pig and Pepper croissage rolls

Pig and Pepper croissage rolls - Credit: Archant

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