It’s no secret that I love Nutty Krust bread. It’s a staple item on the Eating Ideas shopping list. With this in mind, I was thrilled when the invitation came through to visit. Off I skipped to Irwin’s in a state of glee!
Irwin’s is a real family business with over 100 years of baking experience. While famous for using traditional techniques, the secret to Irwin’s success is a continuing focus on innovation such as the new Irwin’s Artisan range, which includes Irwin’s Sourdough and Irwin’s Seeds & Grains . During the visit, I got to try the tasty new additions – as well as my favourite, Nutty Krust.
After meeting the team – Brian, Colette, Ruth and Noeline – it was straight to the factory floor to start my education. Brian Irwin, Chairman of the company no less, took me under his wing and steered me through every step of the Nutty Krust production process. The first thing that hit me on the factory floor was the delicious smell of freshly baking bread. The second was the heat. The closer we got to the ovens, the brighter I seemed to glow!
After a quick detour to the Irwin’s Rankin Selection Barmbrack production area to see the mixed peel, ginger and sultanas being added to the mix before being shaped into the traditional barmbrack shape, we headed for Nutty Krust central. I couldn’t have been more excited!
We started at the main mixer where flour and water are added. This creates a ‘sponge mix’ which bubbles away for 24 hours before finally becoming the Nutty Krust dough. One drum of this dough makes a staggering 400 loaves! The dough is portioned into individual loaves and each one is oiled to ensure they separate. At this stage, the loaves are shaped by hand and, believe me, this is not as easy as it looks. I tried copying the one handed approach, favoured by the professionals, but resorted to using both hands in a desperate attempt to get it right!
Next stage is an unusual process of grabbing the loaf from underneath, slapping it down, and into its place in the oven. The loaves are lined up to cook batch style with only a couple (mine!) looking less than uniformly perfect in their rows.
The oven is basically a massive heated production line, which is continually loaded and off-loaded at the other end. After the first 25 minutes on the line, there is an opening at the side of the oven to check on progress. At this stage, the loaves are nearly fully proved before the yeast gets killed off at between 42-45 degrees. Then it’s just a case of waiting at the other end of the oven to retrieve the delicious smelling loaves.
I was issued with an oven glove at this stage and was surprised how heavy the loaves were. After cooling the bread then headed off to be wrapped before landing on the shelves.
As a home baker, I know how therapeutic baking can be but this was on a whole new level. I loved every minute of my time on the factory floor. I can honestly say that I will never look at Irwin’s Artisan range or my beloved Nutty Krust in the same way again!
A huge thank you to all the team in Irwin’s Bakery for their patience and kindness and thanks to Morrow Communications for arranging my visit.
The Irwin’s Bakery Artisan range, which includes Irwin’s Sourdough (RRP £1.25- £1.50) and Irwin’s Seeds & Grains (RRP: £1.25- £1.50), is now available across NI in Tesco, Dunnes, Food Force Ireland, Mace, Nisa Spar, SuperValu and Sainsbury’s.
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