Can Do Crumb – 22 Redbank, Manchester

There are many people who will tell you that carbs are the devil’s work and must be avoided at all costs. Ignore them.

You need carbs in your life. I’m not going to give you a lecture on the health benefits of including a moderate amount of complex carbs in your diet, as this is an enjoyable (I hope) food blog and not some whiny vegan shite. I am, however, now going to write a post all about bread. Get over it.

When I moved out of my chaotic student house, I took a flat with the girlfriend of one of my housemates; as much as he supported this decision (well, his two favourite ladies in one place, who wouldn’t?) he failed to see how this would work – ‘but Sarah doesn’t eat toast’ he exclaimed to my future flatmate. Kat loved bread. She ate a lot of toast and I was a notorious toast dodger. He just didn’t see how we’d be compatible (for posterity – we got on very well, one of the best housemates I’ve ever had).

Until recently, this bread aversion has always been the case, I just didn’t eat a lot of bread. I had no urge, no need, no craving for buttery carbiness; I hated sandwiches (still do in most cases), would only eat toast if there was NOTHING else to eat and just didn’t get why my sane, intelligent friends would find it so hard to cut out a bit of bakery for a few weeks to get in to a bridesmaids/wedding/party/delete as appropriate dress.

And then I started frequenting a local bakery and making the odd (very worthy but I persevered eating it anyways) loaf – a world of chewy crusts, delicate crumb, sour taste, the crack as the bread knife broke through the freshly baked crust… toast was soon something I was getting excited about before going to bed; I got scarily interested in flour types and even, once, contemplated making a sandwich (I didn’t do it).

Can’t beat a good loaf

After this awakening, I now perceive my current bread intake to be horrendous, however chatting to colleagues and friends I realise it’s only horrendous in relation to the amount of bread I used to eat. I’m not going to name and shame the ‘whole loaves in a day by themselves’ people I know. They’re northern.

A few weeks back I was invited to 22 Redbank; the funky office come bar come photo studio come space that houses The Liquorists and Tone Photography. ‘Come and learn to make some bread’ they said – not sure I was up for spending my Saturday night being lectured at by some Cheshire-set-WI-wifey who teaches/patronises idiots like me for a bit of pin money, whilst hubby supports the whole shebang by creaming it off the oil industry – ‘there will be free food and cocktails from The Liquorists.’ Oh alright then, free booze/food always gets me out of the house and my homemade bread is shocking, so I reasoned it was worth it.

Pushing open the door to 22 Redbank (guys, please fix the bell, rapping hurts my little girl hands) I was greeted by a quiet, but friendly bunch of young people with drinks in their hands, making introductions and chatting with one another. Over bounded a petite brunette in an apron with her hand thrust out warmly (‘kitchen help girl,’ mind thought; oh damn you first impressions/stereotypes). ‘Hi, I’m Jess, I’m going to be your teacher and I’ll forget your name, so you’re called sweetypie.’ Suddenly, I realised this was no stuffy bread making class, this might actually be fun….

Bread. Booze. Boom.

Introductions over, we all trooped downstairs, where Jess gave us a little bit of her background (talented lady) and a quick introduction to the mechanics of ‘how bread works.’ For people like me who need to know why something happens before we can master it, this was perfect; unpretentious, funny and very interesting, I nearly didn’t notice a new cocktail being placed in my hands. Nearly.

Next we tasted a few different breads, which had been made fresh by Jess and chatted about what we liked about each, whilst learning about the different technique/ingredients required for each bake. Throughout this, Jess confidently and engagingly fielded numerous questions from novices and those wishing to learn more – why won’t my bread rise, the texture is wrong when I bake, why do we need yeast…. and so on – we had a lot to ask.

And then it was our turn to have a go – as we were only there an evening, Jess instructed us on one of the easiest breads around; Irish soda bread (risen with baking soda and not yeast so no need to knead/prove/knockback/etc) (get you with your lingo – Ed).

First off ‘taste this buttermilk Sarah’, ‘er ok;’ cue the most screwed up face I have ever made and chortles all round (I was not chortling, damn my curiosity!), a quick instruction on how to make the bread and then it was all bunged in the oven. During baking time, Jess regaled us with tall bread tales and showed us different techniques to use when making a yeast based loaf. AND busted all the myths that you need expensive, fancy kit to make bread. You don’t even need yeast! Just hands, flour, water and an oven.

The night was finished off by more cocktails from Jamie Jones, bartender extraordinaire and part of The Liquorists – he even made a passable Chocolate Old Fashioned – in real person’s terms, this was AMAZING and should probably win awards; I still don’t think you should mess with an old fashioned though. Oh and a nice wee dram of whisky that I’m not allowed to tell Jody we drank…

Jamie Jones doing his ‘ay ees Massimo’ impression


Can Do Crust isn’t a night for experienced bread makers to get together and discuss the finer points of flour rising technicalities and neither is it a night for personal, solitary learning – it’s a fun, sociable get together, where you learn some pretty useful skills and get pretty tipsy too.