The artisan baker
It’s no fun being an artisan baker, getting up long before dawn and working in the early hours in a hot, floury bakery.
Happily, that’s not a problem for Mark Lazenby of Cinnamon Twist: ‘I’ve been getting up at the crack of dawn for years. It’s a lifestyle,’ he says cheerily. Which is good news for the rest of us, because the breads and pastries, cakes and tarts he makes while we sleep are superb.
The bakery is in Pickering and Cinnamon Twist stand every week at markets in Northallerton, Helmsley, Pickering and Driffield. Mark and his wife Jillie load the van and drive across the county to fill the stalls with good things. These good things include chocolate chip cookies, ginger nuts, raspberry frangipane tarts, almond croissants dusted with icing sugar and a Jenga pile of giant, crunchy, cheesey, cheese straws.
The stalls are piled high with rustic white loaves, scones, croissants and teacakes, or baps as we call them in Yorkshire. ‘Yes, all this will go today’ says Jillie, unloading a tray of pastries from the van.
It’s a bakery built on traditional values. Mark calls it ‘homely and rustic, like grandma used to make’ but there’s more to Cinnamon Twist than a show of crusty loaves and blousy meringues. They bake fresh every day, using the best ingredients and incorporate traditional, time-honoured techniques of slowly fermented dough for their bread. Their puff pastry is allowed to rest before it’s turned and chilled for their fabulously puffed up cheese straws. Croissants are layered with French Charente butter to produce the kind of pastries you only find in the traditional old bakeries of Paris.
These are the principles learned not from Huddersfield Tech where Mark trained but from Gail Stephens whose beautiful Gail’s and Baker & Spice shops in London were instrumental in the way Mark bakes today. ‘Gail was a stickler for doing things right,’ he says. ‘It had to be a certain standard. She was strict, but if you did things right, she was a very nice woman.’ While there he worked alongside a youthful Yotam Ottolenghi and they continue to be firm friends.
While Yotam went on to book and restaurant fame, Mark and Jillie ran their shop in Helmsley before moving to country markets but Helmsley remains special. ‘When I visited Helmsley I really felt at home and thought, this is the place. It’s such a privilege to be here and it’s been a wonderful place to bring up our two children.’
The values that Mark and Jillie bring to their little business is evident from the bountiful display on their market stalls. A recent customer told Mark ‘I can tell everything here has been made with love and care.’
Their mission statement reads: ‘Our ingredients are sourced with honesty… we never use anything nasty… we would rather not make it if that was the case… Taste is paramount… we never compromise. In today’s world we are a rarity’. Too true. Bakers like this are increasingly rare and that’s why it’s important to treasure them.