Meet Chris and Joanna Brennan
After years spent honing self-taught baking skills, Chris and Joanna Brennan founded Pump Street Bakery in Orford, Suffolk, in 2010. From a historic 15th-century building on Market Square, the pair make award-winning sourdough breads, cakes, buns and chocolate using local ingredients, inspired by craft production techniques.
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It all started when my father, Chris began to bake bread in his semi-retirement. He became obsessed with recreating a great baguette and a classic crusty, moist soughdough. He read books, went on courses and baked continually. Eventually, he set up a small Hobart mixer and a commercial oven in his garage. We still use them today.
Baking is a case of trial and error. We are both self-taught. Then, after my father took a stall at the market to raise funds for the local school, we saw how much demand there was for good-quality bread and pastries in Orford and beyond, as people were travelling to buy it. So, we took our first steps from there.
The bakery evolved a lot from conception to opening. I used to be speech and language therapist and I got involved by coming to bake and cook, mostly at weekends. Initially, I learned the craft through working at home and in other restaurants. We thought at first that our bakery would be a very casual enterprise, but as it grew we got more excited, found space, worked on products and realised that it was going to be a much more ‘traditional’ business.
Everything started with the sourdough. Then we developed pastries and, in 2015, we hit upon Sourdough and Sea Salt chocolate, which was our way of marrying chocolate with baking. It has become our bestselling bar.
Chocolate happened upon us the way baking did – through experimentation and curiosity. We became interested in the craft chocolate movement in the US and its similar approach to baking to ours. It’s about care in sourcing, a reliance on fermentation and great attention to the production process.
Our Suffolk location is very important. We have become a focal point for the local community. Our lovely team has made great friendships with our regular customers. Equally, the network of amazing food producers on our doorstep is an asset as they supply the ingredients for both café and bakery.
Neither of us has typical days any more. My father usually wakes early and goes to see how the bake is getting on. Then he’ll stop by and say hello at the shop, and go to the chocolate department. I sometimes work in the café kitchen, in which case I arrive around 7am and make hot chocolate, tartlets, soup, chutneys and sauces, before serving brunch and lunch.
This industry is so dynamic. We get great satisfaction from providing something that brings people pleasure. I felt when I left speech and language therapy that I would miss the ‘giving’ part of what I used to do, but it hasn’t gone away. My father and I are constantly learning, developing and improving and that helps to keep us energised.
Pump Street Bakery, 1 Pump Street, Orford, Suffolk IP12 2LZ, pumpstreetbakery.com
Photography/ Helen Cathcart