Pop-Ups vs Permanents; The “Uberisation” of Retail

Pop-ups have become a ubiquitous presence in the retail environment in the past few years. As a retail concept it has evolved from the temporary shop or smaller brand’s travelling roadshow (think festivals and markets, rustic rather than smart) to catnip for major corporations who see an opportunity to promote, collect data and appear cool to millennials through PR stunts and events.

Providing the ultimate in location flexibility, a pop-up can generate value from (or “uberise”) an under utilised asset – the physical location – and enable a peripatetic brand experience.

There are a number of factors in play here.

  • Brands need new ways of reaching their customers and creating connections
  • Developers and retailers need to be creative about giving shoppers reasons to visit bricks and mortar stores
  • The “experience hungry” millennial craves all things new, tactile and different

Pop-ups can provide an opportunity for a traditional retailer to test the waters and are often the most practical way to explore a new location. Perhaps most important is the feeling customers have when they have “discovered” a limited-period brand experience and can share something newsworthy and different with their own networks.

For mainstream brands it can provide buzz around their brands and an opportunity to connect directly with customers and generate sharable moments, something that is normally relinquished to the retailer.

In high rent locations such as London and New York, pop-ups are abundant. London Pop Ups lists all of the pop up restaurants, bars, shops, galleries and gigs on any given week in the city as well as a handy back catalogue.

Pasta company La Ramiglia Rana recently ran An Italian Grocery pop-up in London’s upmarket Marylebone. Over a 5 week period in late 2018, the brand promised a “feast for the senses” in a part grocery, part workshop and part photo studio where shoppers were actively assisted in their photo taking against a backdrop of greenery, fresh flowers and marble. The pop-up even featured masterclasses in photography and Instagram from well known influencers Food Feels and Giulia Mule.

For a temporary pop-up to be really successful, harnessing the power of the visual is essential, a tactic regularly used by luxury brands. For brands such as Gucci, Dior, Burberry, Armani and Ralph Lauren, food and beverages increasingly form an integral part of the overall experience and pop ups can help to fine tune the offer or provide a limited-time experience.

Chanel’s exclusive 12 day pop up café in Shanghai a couple of years ago aimed to promote a new range of beauty products – Rouge Coco Gloss – and resulted in three hour long queues, some frantic selfie taking by the select few who made it in for the exclusive desserts and coffee and of course bucket loads of conversation and sharing on WeChat. A marketers dream.

Combining hard to get products with limited durations, pop-up stores are a textbook example of “hunger” marketing, which is particularly effective in a country like China. Queues here generate excitement, rather than a sense of inconvenience. Pop-up retailing has grown by over 100 percent since 2015 in China and it’s estimated that by 2020 there will be over 3,000 pop-up stores in the market.

Food pop-ups are particularly stretchy, and include supper clubs and food trucks as well as the more traditional shopping centre format. Mexican grocery shop Picado on Dublin’s Richmond Street hosts an intimate themed Supper Club for a small number of customers one Saturday a month. The appeal lies in the authentic experience and nomadic-like flexibility on offer.

Cultural immersion with great food. Check. Something different. Check. (Relatively) good value. Check.

Some food pop-ups are just plain preposterous. The Misunderstood Heron – a funky food truck located on the shores of the beautiful Killary Harbour – serves locally sourced food against the stunning backdrop of the Wild Atlantic Way during the summer months. A few weeks ago it made it onto Lonely Planet’s list of the Top 10 Coolest Food Trucks in the World. It shouldn’t work, but it does.

Are pop-ups the future of retailing? With all kinds of online/offline permutations possible, pop-ups will be limited only by people’s imagination.

THREE RECENT FOOD POP-UPS IN IRELAND

(1) Cakes

Baked With Love
Baked with Love, Marshes Shopping Centre, Dundalk, Co Louth

(2) Chocolates

Butlers Chocolate Cafes
Butlers Chocolate Café Kiosk, Upper Concourse, Blanchardstown Shopping Centre, Dublin

(3) Cookies

Dublin Cookie Company
The Dublin Cookie Company, Arnotts, Henry Street, Dublin

 

Stoney-Vegan-Batter

The small enclave of Stoneybatter north of Dublin’s city centre just might be a candidate for vegan capital of Ireland, with a slew of new vegan eating spots adding to the area’s existing foodie credentials.

Stoneybatter has carefully cultivated its hipster haven status in the last few years. It’s a great place to socialise and eat out in, with an ever changing food scene. Several of the more traditional pubs in the neighbourhood have even embraced food trucks including the eclectic Glimmerman Pub on Manor Street where a Vietnamese food truck serves vegetarian meals from Thursday to Sunday.

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On the vegan front, estimates vary, however vegans are believed to represent between 1-3% of the population of the developed world. Vegans could be forgiven for feeling a certain vindication of late. Interest in plant based diets has never been higher. Their time has come. This is a movement that is proceeding at a high octane pace and no one wants to be left behind. Veganism has become mainstream, and very quickly.

It’s not so long ago though that veganism was very much in the margins, an activism-driven hardline community.

I myself had a short sharp introduction to veganism. After I moved to the UK some years ago I arranged to meet a friend from college who was then living in Oxford. We decamped to a nearby restaurant and revelled in our grown-up status. A proper restaurant that wasn’t the college canteen! Then my friend rather ominously announced that she had become a vegan and hoped there would be something on the menu she could eat.

I soon found myself hiding behind the large plastic menu as my friend grilled the waitress about the provenance of every ingredient on the menu, resulting in several trips back and forth to the kitchen. 30 minutes later, very little had passed the vegan test, and she ended up settling for a salad. On balance, I decided it would be better not to talk too much about my new job selling meat and dairy products.

The situation couldn’t be more different now, with many establishments almost falling over themselves to promote their “vegan friendly” credentials. The traditional food industry is also making great efforts to meet this growing demand. A full 14% of all new product launches in the UK in 2017 were vegan.

People cite one or more of three key motivations for going vegan – animal welfare, environmental concerns and personal health – and it is being accompanied by an endless array of new business startups, cookbooks, YouTube channels, online shopping options and polemical documentaries.

The hugely successful Veganuary was launched in the UK in 2014, with 3,300 people signing up; by 2016, there were 23,000 participants, then 59,500 in 2017, and a staggering 168,000 in 2018. Notably 84% of the registered participants in 2018 were female, while 60% were aged under 35. It’s also estimated that far more people “do” Veganuary than actually register – up to 10 times the number.

Attitudes have shifted as well, with veganism now viewed less as a restricted diet and more as a positive lifestyle choice which empowers people. Importantly, this is a culture rather than a movement, with many believing that worldwide conversion to veganism is the only way to save the planet.

Stoneybatter’s Vegan Options

Beo has set up shop in a unit formerly occupied by a clothing shop. The slightly unusual space (narrow at the front, wider at the rear) has been expertly designed into a comfortable and modern homage to vegan food.

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Beo, 50A Manor Street, Stoneybatter, Dublin 7

Famous for their vegan smoothie bowls, Kale and Coco’s first permanent outlet is now open in a ground floor unit within Swuite, one of the many student accommodation buildings now open in Dublin 7.

V-Face is a pop-up vegan burger stall which will reportedly shortly open in a site on North Brunswick Street. There is much speculation locally as to where this will be exactly. The former hairdressers? The former tattoo parlour? Or a hybrid offering all three?

Other vegan friendly outlets include Woke Up Café and Token on Queen Street. Vegetarian café Woke Up has been open since September while Token offers up a restaurant, bar, retro arcade, pinball parlour and event space with over 32 machines, 22 taps, and a range of vegan items on the menu.

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Woke Up Café, Queen Street, Stoneybatter, Dublin 7

Painting and Pinting

A new type of hands-on entertainment which requires neither experience nor talent, is coming to a venue near you. Paint by the Pints, or Paint and Prosecco if you prefer your drinks a little more upmarket, is a fun way to combine a creative activity with socialising, eating and drinking. Aimed at the novice or amateur, all materials including a canvas are provided, with step by step instruction from an artist and a free drink or two (with, sometimes, a little food). The end result is a self-crafted masterpiece (!) to be proud of.

Painting

These pop up classes have been running in Dublin and other locations around Ireland for a little over a year now and have tapped into a phenomenon that I am going to call “Learning to Have Fun Without My Phone”.

Mixing a hobby or interest with socialising – business or personal – is well practiced, of course. Relationships and friendships have long been cultivated on golf courses, squash and tennis courts, at all sorts of sporting events and even, in some countries, in the sauna!

As a rookie sales executive travelling the length and breadth of the UK some years ago, I recall being strongly encouraged to find out (discreetly) what kinds of sporting interests our customers had. Understanding the delicate upward and downward movements of the various football and rugby leagues became an unofficial part of my job description.

But people’s needs and wants have evolved and become more sophisticated and nuanced. It is more acceptable and in fact encouraged to explore one’s creative self, expose our vulnerabilities and try something new. The enjoyment of the endeavour, rather than the output, is what is important.

And in an era where society has never been more connected and yet, conversely, never been more isolated, it isn’t surprising that more meaningful engagements are being sought out in all aspects of life.

In January I attended a rather unique bloggers networking event in the smart surroundings of House on Leeson Street in Dublin. The Bloggers Brunch consisted of a yoga lesson, a healthy (and super tasty) breakfast and a short but very effective opportunity to meet and learn from other bloggers. It was a refreshing change from the vast majority of networking events which tend to follow very standard tried and tested formats. As our yoga instructor rather serenely put it “People have fewer barriers when their bums are in the air”. So very true.

Bloggers Brunch

Also important is participation regardless of perceived talent or ability. When, I wonder, did we start telling our adult selves that we are not good or “useless” at something? Take art, for example. Our kitchen is practically wallpapered with our young sons’ creative works of art (which we of course compliment and marvel over) whereas my sole contribution to date has been to arrange them artistically on the walls.

So what’s next?

Meditation with Muesli?
Jigsaw Jambalaya?
Quinoa Quizzes?

Whatever it is, it will need to deliver to an audience of self-aware, health conscious and experientially focused individuals.

Meanwhile, I’m off to buy some paintbrushes.

London Calling and it’s about Street Food

The days when options for food during festivals and events were limited to lukewarm chips and barely cooked burgers are, thankfully, long gone. Street food has now evolved into an exciting and vibrant food offer which caters for a mobile customer who wants affordable and good quality food, in all weathers and all locations.

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Photo by Tuur Tisseghem on Pexels.com

Street food really took off during the recession when people still wanted to eat out but more affordably. Since then, many formats have developed with pop-ups, roof tops, factories and even people’s front rooms all being put into action.

Eaten at markets, festivals, disused warehouses and now dedicated street food events, the vibrancy of the street food scene has been driven in part due to its accessibility, presenting great opportunities for food entrepreneurs with an original concept and  culinary skills.

It’s also a great way for cities to develop their night-time economy, support local communities and create a tourist destination. Dublin’s Eatyard, open since 2016, has created a hip and vibrant hub at the less fashionable end of Camden Street, for example.

Street food has a particular appeal in urban centres where many people seek escapism from the daily grind of commuting and are busily planning their next foreign holiday. So while chowing down on a gyros in The Athenian isn’t quite the same as lounging on a beach in the Mediterranean, it’s as close as you can get on a cold January day.

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The Athenian, Boxpark Wembley

In London the Boxpark concept was the first to formalize the street food concept into a modern shopping and dining experience. The first site – presented as the world’s first pop-up mall – opened in Shoreditch in 2011 and was constructed entirely out of refitted shipping containers. In 2016 the second Boxpark opened in Croydon, with version 2 focusing entirely on drinks, dining and events.

And now to Version 3 – Boxpark Wembley Park which opened in December 2018 with 27 food and beverage operators and a large events space, in an entirely indoor site located right beside the stadium. This location in what would have been previously regarded as an unfashionable part of North West London already hosts millions of visitors who come every year for world class sport, music and shopping, and there are plans for over 7,000 new homes, 500,000 sq ft of retail and leisure space and 630,000 sq ft of offices.

boxpark wembley

The food brands on offer in Boxpark Wembley are hip, cool and a bit quirky-different, including Kool Cha (North Indian cuisine), Hola Guacamole (Mexican), Ugly Dumpling (Chinese) and Zia Lucia (Italian).

The beauty of a street food concept in a location like this is that it caters for groups with diverse food tastes and wants. Most can relate to the experience of traipsing around restaurants after a gig with a bunch of friends examining menus and trying to find one that caters for the vegan, coeliac and meat lover in the group. Quick, minimum fuss and inexpensive.

boxpark communal

Where the Wembley site is really a bit different though is in the “play” part of the Eat Drink Play offer. A leisure theme bar on-site called Playbox features a giant shuffle board unit, day-glo table tennis, pool and football tables. A bit like an adult playground, with the aim of course of keeping people in the facility as long as possible in this wonderfully immersive food, drink and entertainment experience.

More info on YouTube and Wembley Box Park.

The Three Biscuiteers

A friend of mine working in one of Dublin’s top legal firms recently drew my attention to the latest trend in corporate gifting. Not pieces of bog oak. Not wine or whiskey. Not crystal glasses.

Bankers and lawyers are now gifting …. biscuits.

But these are not ordinary biscuits. They are hand made and exquisitely iced. The packaging is super premium and luxurious and designed to make the recipient feel very special. You can buy single biscuits all the way through to sharing boxes (and biscuit bouquets).

In the interests of research (and because I always include a Santa present for myself under the tree) I decided to try this out and recently bought a biscuit from the seasonal range on offer from Honeywell Biscuit Company.

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My personalized Christmas tree bauble (costing £16.63 including postage) arrived on November 19th. The presentation is beautiful with the packaging alone a delight and every detail considered. The flat box fitted easily through my letterbox and the sturdy (yet pretty) box ensured that my immaculately iced biscuit arrived intact.

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Expensive? Yes.
Indulgent? Without a doubt.
An ideal present? Absolutely.

Biscuit favours are becoming increasing popular and can be fashioned for any occasion, whether it’s weddings, children’s parties, Christenings or corporate gifting. As we are becoming an occasion-oriented society, with celebrations for just about everything, it is easy to see why small yet durable pieces of edible art are becoming a “thing”. From a corporate perspective it shows just enough thought, without being too personal, and with little risk of offending.

Biscuits

From my own perspective as a “giftee” I always sighed when I opened yet another bottle of red wine (gives me a headache) or whiskey (have never liked hard liquor). Happily someone benefitted as I usually passed them on for the office raffle at Christmas!

The reality is that gifting can be risky. Buying a gift means you have to place yourself into the shoes of the recipient, sometimes someone not well known to you (a colleague or acquaintance). Fun and playful biscuits which present just enough – but not too much – of a “surprise” can solve real gifting problems.

The role of packaging and presentation in all of this, of course, is key. Great packaging is a given and beautiful presentation creates excitement and delight. Given the standardization of the corporate gifting market the uniqueness of a beautifully presented and slightly novelty item which engages the senses and has had a bit of thought invested, is very tempting.

London based Biscuiteers is slightly more high end and their Christmas range features everything from snowglobes to a nativity box of biscuits. This company also runs workshops where you learn to ice your own creations. Starting at £45 for a 1.5 hour session these are not cheap but the idea of being expertly guided through the delicate icing process and bringing home one’s own work is rather appealing.

Following some additional research, I was surprised at the large number of companies specializing in personalized biscuits in the UK. These include Biscuit Village, The Bespoke Biscuit Company, The Cake Store, The Biscuiterie, Biccies and others.

Coming up to the Christmas shopping period this got me thinking about how seasonal food gifting has evolved over the years. Hampers have long been popular of course, but has food gifting moved on from this? Is there a need to be more personal, quirky, thoughtful?

Recent figures from the US market show that just under half of the population regularly purchase speciality food gifts, particularly at key buying occasions such as Christmas. Not surprisingly chocolate leads the way in food gifting accounting for 28% of purchases. But this was closely followed by baked goods as gifts at 19% of the market. In Ireland, with online shopping for gifts on the rise (total gifting spend online by individual was €448 in Christmas 2017), food items could be the perfect alternative for easy, risk-free presents.

 

“Money can’t buy you love, but it can get you some really good chocolate ginger biscuits.” Dylan Moran

Two Days in Paris

There are some simple things which the French do very, very well. One is macarons – allegedly very tricky to make (more on this later). Another is style – Paris really trumps London in its wonderful character and ambience, where ordinary streets are elevated by their chic shopfronts and quirky interiors.

SIAL Trade Show

I was in Paris to attend the SIAL Food Show. This is a giant behemoth of a show with over 7,200 exhibitors from 119 countries and 310,000 visitors, of which 73% came from outside of France this year. The 2018 show had a vibrant and upbeat atmosphere (as compared with 2016, which was a little subdued with strict security arrangements in place following the Paris bomb attacks). Security is still tight but less intrusive.

This year’s show saw a number of innovations including the Alter’Native Food Forum, dedicated to sharing trends and knowledge on new healthier foods, and also Future Lab, which focused on food forecasting and what we might be eating in 2030. An immersive walk-through tunnel explored four major food trends as follows:
• Alternative proteins
• Personalisation of food and health products
• Robots and artificial intelligence: the chef of the future
• Transparency and traceability: knowing where our food comes from

My prize for most eye-catching stand at SIAL has go to Camelicious from Dubai which sported a very life like mascot!

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There was a strong showing at this year’s SIAL show from Irish food companies which featured in four different halls. This included a presence for the first time in the Confectionery Hall. Exhibitors here included Cork biscuit company Hassetts Bakery, gluten free specialists Goodness Grains, Waterford fine food company Lismore, cake supplier Coolmore Foods and jam specialists Follain.

Paris Gastronomy

My French sojourn wasn’t confined to the trade show and, armed with a few tips from friends and colleagues, I spent a few very pleasant hours checking out Paris gastronomy. My first port of call was the new Printemps du Gout food concept within Printemps flagship department store on Bvd Haussmann. A former colleague based in Paris had recommended a visit, and it didn’t disappoint.

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Open since 10th January 2018, it consists of two floors of what could be best described as curated French delicacies. Located at the top of the men’s store, one floor features Fine Foods – the best of artisanal French produce – with iconic products on offer including the Maison du Chocolat, in addition to Maison Balme truffles, Byzance caviar and smoked salmon, Dubernet foie gras and more.

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The second floor – called Market Place – brings together other specialities, tastings, workshops and opportunities to meet producers, artisans, winemakers and chefs from France. These include France’s most creative chefs and artisan bakers including Akrame Benallal, Gontran Cherrier, Laurent Dubois and Christophe Michalak (pictured below).

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The décor is both modern and sumptuous and, with each artisan having their own dedicated tasting area, feels like a luxurious food market.

Paris is of course chock a block with fabulous “eat with your eyes” shops, such as Aux Deux Caneles near Chatelet (a canelé is a cork shaped pastry from Bordeaux with a caramelized crust and soft middle).

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Maxim Chocolates flagship store in the Louvre is an exercise in downright decadence.

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As a fan of bagels, I also checked out the chain Bagelstein (outlets nationwide in France and Belgium) which specialises in all things bagel, their mini bagel boxes are a treat.

20181022_143846Even relatively ordinary neighbourhood boulangeries such as Maison Marnay in Les Halles have fabulous ranges and very affordable prices.

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La Guinguette d’Angele serves gourmet takeaway food from one of the tiniest shop fronts I have ever seen.

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The Marlette “bio” café is a particularly interesting concept store, located in the The BHV Marais department store, which is located close to Notre Dame. Dubbed “the Parisian’s favourite”, this 6th storey department store was extensively renovated in 2014 and now rivals its more well known competitors quite comfortably. Marlette is a French organic baking kit supplier and this café sells both their organic baking kits and the finished product in a location which has stunning views of Paris. The chocolate fondant – so rich I couldn’t finish it – is a particular speciality.

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On the macaron front, by the way, the most intriguing offering I discovered (and there are quite a few) was Monsieur Benjamin in Les Halles, an art pastry shop which treats pastries as artistic endeavors. This is quite simply macaron heaven!

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For a few more suggestions, including the legendary Laduree and Pierre Herme, check out this link, Best Macarons in Paris.

Paris – best enjoyed unhurried and with a large pastry.

Sourdough Revolution

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Source: Bread Nation

Sourdough September

September’s annual celebration of sourdough breads presented a great opportunity for Ireland’s bread makers to highlight the best of bread baking. Members of Real Bread Ireland gave away starter kits throughout the month and hosted events around the country to share their secrets and demystify what can seem to many to be a daunting process.

Sourdough is a traditional type of bread that people used before the industrialization of bread making. The raising agent used to make sourdough (known as a starter) is made with just a handful of ingredients – flour, water and salt. The naturally occurring yeast and bacteria then ferments the dough over time which gives the bread its distinctive and mildly sour taste.

History of Sourdough

While sourdough bread has become fashionable of late, it is actually one of the oldest forms of leavened bread with an exceptionally long history which can be traced back to the Egyptians.

Sourdough bakers tend to pride themselves on the longevity of their “mother doughs”. One of the oldest and best known of these is claimed by the famous Boudin Bakery in San Francisco, whose starter supposedly originated in 1849. Indeed, sourdough has long been associated with the 1849 gold prospectors on the US west coast (known as the 49ers).

Breakfast Revolution

The current interest levels in sourdough can be linked to what some commentators describe as the “Breakfast Revolution”. From pancakes with caramelised bananas to avocado toast, artisan breakfasts made a comeback to our menus in 2017.

According to the US National Restaurant Association 72% of adults want restaurants to serve all-day breakfasts. Restaurants are increasingly adapting their menus to serve interesting breakfast-inspired options that can be available throughout the full day.

Sourdough in Space?

German start up company Bake In Space even has plans to take sourdough to space. Traditionally breads (apart from tortilla) have been banned from space missions because crumbs can damage the station’s equipment and even the astronauts themselves. To address this, Bake in Space is working with the German Aerospace Centre to develop a dough mixture and baking process that produces a crumb free bread. As well as this the company plans to send a yeast culture to the International Space Station that the astronauts will use to create sourdough from which it is planned to establish a line of made-in-space breads (back on planet Earth).

Ireland’s Sourdough Bakers

Some of Ireland’s best known sourdough bakers include the Bretzel Bakery, Tartine Bakery and The Firehouse Bakery. A new arrival to the sourdough scene is Bread 41 which recently opened on Dublin’s Pearse Street. Bread 41 is an organic bakery with a flour mill on site and a 44-seat café. The bakery’s sourdough range includes wholegrain, malt and rye variants. Like many other bakeries, they will also offer classes to aspiring bakers to meet the rising interest in bread making.

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Source: Bread Nation

Recreating the Sourdough Experience at Home

With many seeking to recreate their out of home dining experiences in their own kitchens, there is currently huge interest in learning how to bake breads. Waterford based Clodagh O’Neill has been baking sourdough breads for the past 2 years from a self-made starter. A seasoned baker, she describes her approach to sourdough baking as follows: “Firstly the starter is fed overnight with water and strong flour (this is essential to create the bubbles).”

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“The dough then takes 4 to 6 hours to make, only kneading a few times.”

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“Finally place it to rest in the fridge overnight before baking”.

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Clearly this is a slow, unhurried process – baking at its best! The long fermentation process makes sourdough breads more easily digestible than mainstream alternatives, and less likely to cause food intolerances.

If you missed out on the free giveaways in September, this Sourdough Recipe from specialist UK baker Vanessa Kimball is a great start. The Bretzel Bakery also has a video with their head baker demonstrating how to make a Sourdough Loaf. And let us not forget the visual appeal of a great sourdough. US Food blogger Shanna Mallon has compiled a list of 22 Sourdough Bakers to follow on Instagram.

Happy baking!

Celtic Cakers

We are currently clued to the screen every Tuesday evening loudly encouraging our favourite bakers on in their Great British Bake Off challenges. The painstaking level of detail and imagination deployed by the contestants under pressure and against the clock makes for riveting television. The high levels of skill in cake decoration and sugarcraft is particularly enjoyable to watch and contributes in large part to the appeal of the show.

Revival in Home Baking

There is no doubt that the GBBO has revived interest in home baking which has seen a resurgence in appeal in the last few years. In the last series on the BBC in 2016, nine of the top ten most-watched programmes of the year were episodes of the show, with an extraordinary 16.03 million viewers watching the finale. Figures for Channel 4 (now in the second year of airing the series) have dipped somewhat but still attract a more than respectable average of 9 million viewers per episode.

It is of course the season for baking as the autumnal chill sets in. The cake trade show season is in full swing in the UK with The Cake and Bake Show taking place in London’s Excel on October 5-7th and Cake International in the Birmingham NEC on November 2-4th.

At these shows the art (for it is an art) of sculpting, modelling, stencilling, shaping, garnishing and piping is imparted through demonstrations, workshops and knowledge sharing. Flowers, people, clothes, animals, seasonal decorations – literally anything that can be shaped and moulded is up for grabs. Such is the current interest in cake decorating, that enthuasiasts can now even subscribe to a dedicated channel Cake Decorating TV where experts deliver a series of online cake making tutorials, suitable for both beginner and professional cake decorators.

Sugarcraft in particular has an appeal that reaches hobbyist, home bakers, retailers, manufacturers and professionals alike. It is a relatively easy and inexpensive craft to learn. My own modest efforts (do cake pops count?) have provided a sense of satisfaction that is hard to equal!

Celtic Cakers

 

Celtic-Cakers-Cover-700x700And so to this wonderful Celtic Cakers book, which was compiled and launched earlier this year by Corinna Maguire, an award winning cake decorator. It is a beautifully photographed and illustrated photo tutorial book which features some of Ireland’s top cake decorators with their wealth of styles and techniques.

Not just for the more accomplished “caker”, the book is accessible to all skill levels with several beginners tutorials providing step by step, photographed instructions. The Seaside Wedding (above) is on the more challenging end of the scale with quite exquisite ropework. The Wooly Lamb (below, intermediate level) is simply adorable.

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More than a guide, the book is also a showcase of Ireland’s considerable talent in cake decorating, taking us on a journey around Ireland, its fabulous landscapes and introducing the Celtic Cakers and their stories. Corinna hails from Alberta originally and credits an “Away with the Fairies” collaboration at the Dublin Sugarcraft Cake Competition in 2016 with her inspiration for this book.

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Corinna Maguire

Among the other bakers featured in this book are Caryna Camerino, co-incidentally also Canadian, who runs Camerino Bakery in Dublin’s Capel Street. Specialising in cookies, brownies and tray bakes, Camerino recently opened a second outlet on Merrion Square East in Dublin.

Also included is Dublin based Karen Geraghty, a self-taught cake maker and decorator, of Bake Cake Create and South African born Tanya Ross, who runs Novel-T School of Cake in Moate, Co Westmeath, making cakes to order and teaching sugarcraft.

The Celtic Cakers book is available in good book stores or on Amazon.

Doughnuts on the Run

West Dublin was whipped up into doughnut frenzy this week as international doughnut chain Krispy Kreme finally opened its doors in Blanchardstown, bringing a slice of Americana to Dublin’s suburbs. At one stage on the opening day on Wednesday 26th September, up to 30 cars queued at the drive thru.

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Many will remember Dunkin Donuts relatively brief presence in Ireland some years ago, so this isn’t the first foray for an international doughnut brand in this country. It is however the first sizeable operation to set up shop in Ireland with Blanchardstown one of the chain’s largest outlets in Europe.

Located adjacent to Ireland’s largest shopping centre, the outlet seats up to 75 people and boasts a 24 hour drive thru. The company claims that it will create 150 jobs in Ireland across multiple disciplines including retail, logistics, administration and management.

Set up by Vernon Rudolph in the late 1930’s in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Krispy Kreme grew rapidly in the south eastern states throughout the 50’s and 60’s, eventually becoming a nationwide brand. The first outlet outside of the US opened in Canada in 2001. In 2016 the company was purchased for $1.35bn by JAB, the investment vehicle for Germany’s billionaire Reimann family, which continues to build its global coffee empire.

With 1,300 outlets in 31 countries internationally, Ireland is the latest international location for the company, although it has been present in the UK for more than a decade with over 50 outlets.

This is a well marketed brand which has benefited from near iconic status in terms of its celebrity associations. High profile fans include Madonna, Jimmy Carr and Beyonce. Basketball superstar Shaquille O’Neal – a franchisee and brand ambassador for the company went so far as to claim Irish heritage this week in a video message to promote the brand’s opening.

A Krispy Kreme doughnut is an unashamed indulgence and exercise in self treating. The company has traditionally excelled in upselling and bulk buy incentives. The doughnuts themselves are slickly merchandised and displayed in signature glass cabinets. Flavours include the classic Original Glazed and others with waistband busting monikers such as Chocolate Dreamcake and Reeses Peanut Butter Kreme. The Krispy Kreme brand design has changed little in the past 80 years with a consistent look and feel that positions itself perfectly as a comfort food.

Pre-launch publicity included a temporary pop up store in Dublin’s South William Street over the weekend of August 10th-12th which featured the Krispy Kreme Hotlight, which lights up when warm donuts are available. Curious passersby and fans alike queued at the hatch to collect a complimentary hot doughnut.

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Some might regard Ireland as a saturated market for doughnuts. In the last few years, several indigenous doughnut chains such as Off Beat, Boston Donuts and Aungier Danger (now closed) have opened outlets in Dublin, joining longstanding sellers such as Rolling Donut in a bid to capture the capitol’s sweet tooth. While the doughnut trend may have peaked in urban centres, coverage further afield however is relatively sparse.

Highly Instagrammable, doughnut makers have taken full advantage of people’s interest in and delight for colour and playfulness in food choices. Doughnut walls have even become a thing recently at weddings as an alternative to a traditional wedding cake (a hole lotta love?). Check out this trend on One Fab Day.

Further information on Krispy Kreme in Ireland is available here.