Despite opening during the pandemic MOR Bakery in Stratford-upon-Avon has built loyal following
Nothing says ‘lockdown bake’ like the satisfying crunch of perfectly cooked sourdough bread. Here David Pearson, of MOR Bakery and Kitchen, tells Gill Sutherland about the business and to make the perfect loaf.
As bad timings go opening a new business in March 2020 just as a global pandemic hit is probably about as unlucky as it gets.
Yet MOR Bakery and Kitchen in Stratford’s Bell Court is surviving and flourishing against the odds, having found an appreciative audience hungry for its delicious artisan cakes and breads. (Confession: this author is a devotee of its sublime cheese and pickle sourdough toasties, a precious lockdown highlight.)
Serving its goods from a hatch however was not the blue sky start for husband and wife owners David and Danni Pearson.
Originally from Binton, Danni owns a local catering company called The Wild Oven, while David, who grew up in Wellesbourne, is a trained chef who also studied media at university.
“She’s got the business knowledge and I’ve got the baking knowledge,” David told the Herald. “We’re a good team.”
Explaining the thinking behind MOR, David explained: “It’s been a dream of mine to open something local based with good food and local produce, somewhere where people can get together and eat and chat and learn. We have a long 16-foot table, and the vision was to have workshops and big sharing feasts around it.”
The notion of a bakery began to take hold after Danni gave David a professional baking course as a wedding present recently.
MOR (simply pronounced more) is an intriguing name, David explained its origins: “Originally we were going to be called Fika which is a Swedish word and describes that ethos of time spent with friends over coffee and cake. But after we registered that we found three other cafes in England called Fika. MOR is actually a Swedish/Danish word for mother, so because we are a sourdough-based bakery, the starter dough [a live culture of flour and water] is the mother of all our bread so it fits in nicely.”
Recalling those first few days opening just as the first lockdown hit, David said:
“It was a bit of a baptism of fire. Just as we were gearing up to open Boris announced that ‘you can go to restaurants, but you shouldn’t go to restaurants’. It was a bit of a kick in the teeth after six months of preparation work.”
However good omens emerged with their first bake. David explained: “That afternoon we made our practice batch of bread with all the new equipment and it came out perfectly. We thought ‘right we don’t know what’s to come let’s get it out quickly and see what the response is’. We sold out that afternoon. That’s when we thought OK this might be possible.
“Then two days later full lockdown happened. We had to re-evaluate and evolve quite quickly to continue. It has been scary and daunting, but also an exciting time.”
The latest lockdown has brought a fresh set of challenges, but MOR continues to find its strengths.
“Lockdown 3 is certainly more difficult than the previous ones,” explained David. “Obviously the winter weather is one aspect – because everything is takeaway from a hatch there’s obviously no cover. It takes a lot of dedication to come in the rain for your bread. We’ve got a big group of local customers who are great – without them I don’t think we would have survived.”
David reckoned the mixed messages from the government caused confusion and that’s had an impact on business. He said: “We’ve certainly seen a downturn, but it’s our first January opening and traditionally there’s a lull. I think we are very lucky to remain open and sell bread, which is an essential item.”
David is thankful that lockdown has at least given people pause for thought and to appreciate things a little more.
“The flour shortage in the first lockdown showed how people were turning to baking. I think as a society we are growing more interested in where our food comes from and the quality of it. When people are baking at home they appreciate the difficulty and the flavour of it. People value an independent artisan loaf of bread over a slice white from the supermarket.”
See instructions in image below or you buy the sourdough starter kit with full instructions from https://www.morbakery.co.uk/