Our feature entitled “With These Hands” focuses on individuals in Leeds who use their hands to make magic. In this edition we look at bakers and the wonders they can create, whether it be in the comfort of their homes, in a warehouse or a cafe – we love what they do and we’re glad to show it.

Rosie – Sift Cafe & Bakery

I started baking when I was a child, with my Mum and Grandparents. Memories of eating my Nan’s lemon buns (as we called them in Yorkshire, pre-cupcake fad) and fighting with my sister over who got to lick the spoon are embedded in my mind forever. I started baking again in my late teens, and continued from there, until I did an evening Patisserie & Confectionery class at Skipton’s Craven College in 2014, which led to me leaving my job at Salts Mill and working at Betty’s of Harrogate. In 2015 I moved to Glasgow where I worked for two years, making bread, croissants, scones and cakes in a deli-café in the fashionable West End. I learnt so much during my time in Glasgow, and though the 5am starts were hard work, the joy I got from baking every day and seeing people appreciate what I had made really was a thrill every time.

I had dreamt of opening my own business for years, but had not planned on doing it so soon! I fell in love with a property in Otley in dire need of some TLC. The building has a history of cake, having previously housed two different baker-confectioners in its 150+ year history. I like to make wholesome, hearty bakes like cinnamon buns, pumpkin and chocolate chip, and courgette and pistachio cakes. No calorie counting here! I also want to make the most of our local bounty, and keep things as seasonal as possible, so everything is at its best. I hope to make Sift a cosy, comfy place, where people can treat themselves to something lovely and take a moment to enjoy the simple pleasure of time spent in good company and nice things.”

Lydia – Love Rouge

“‘Open a bakery’, she said… and that’s how it started. 6 years on and we’ve been through shop openings, business acquisitions, business closures, a flirtation with bankruptcy, business selling… and then we said “let’s open a bakery again!” There’s been tears, there’s been laughs and there’s been situations I’d rather not mention; what started as a mad idea has turned into a lifestyle that isn’t for everyone but is for us.

Becki and I now run a wholesale bakery supplying local businesses and larger companies with cakes and traybakes, we also do wedding and birthdays. We go through approximately 125 cake tins a week and over 500 tray bakes a month; we have our hands full but with a team of bakers we get it all done… somehow! Sometimes the last thing we want to do is make a cake and things go very wrong on occasions, but after doing it almost every day for 6 years we still enjoy baking, we’ve stuck at it, and we are looking forward to what the future holds!”

Sam – Wildcraft

We began Wildcraft 3 years ago in Mina’s kitchen, using her foraging skills, her passion for baking and bringing in influences of her Kenyan heritage. I am a fellow Coeliac who hadn’t eaten ‘real’ bread in years, and I was so blown away by Mina’s sprouted buckwheat sourdough that I quit a fifteen year career to join her in sharing artisan gluten free food with the world.

More than one in ten new food products launched last year were gluten free, and yet the quality is still often very poor, particularly in bread and yeasted products. Our philosophy is to make unprocessed handmade baked goods which are not judged on gluten free food standards, but can stand up to its wheat-based counterparts…

As an allergy conscious bakery, we empathise with the difficulties people have with issues around food, and because of that, they often open up and share their lives with us. The experience when they try our food is very special to us and we never want to lose that connection or those relationships.

That, and the smell of hot cinnamon and pecan Danish pastries or cardamom doughnuts wafting around the bakery on a Saturday, are what make the early mornings, the long days and all the sacrifices worthwhile.”

Liz – Porterhouse

I started baking seriously in my free time a few years ago. I’ve always enjoyed it and totally transforming raw ingredients gives me a satisfaction that none of the jobs I did after uni came close to doing. After a while I started getting requests from friends and comments that I should do it for a living. To be honest, I never believed I could be successful, being self-taught; it took a lot of persuading. In hindsight I didn’t really know which direction I wanted to go in but had a vision of a bespoke small-batch offering with a focus on flavour and quality.

Early on I got some wholesale orders and was asked to do a Leeds Indie Food 17 event with North Bar. I started meeting people through that – Leeds has an amazing foodie community full of awesome people. I did the Belgrave Feast and Eat North a few times, and then started supplying Laynes Espresso – my favourite spot in the city! Everything happened quickly but it hasn’t been easy! Lots of long days, aching muscles, sore feet, mountains of washing up, endless cleaning, early mornings, late nights, and most of all, worry about maintaining quality and desire to continuously improve.

Without any training I still have so much to learn and it’s hard to find time around regular orders to experiment and expand my knowledge. I’m not complaining though; I get to be my own boss on my own schedule, I listen to music and podcasts as I work, and eat lots of cake for ‘research purposes’. Most importantly, creating things every day and watching people enjoy them is so rewarding. If I’m feeling run down it only takes a delivery trip to Laynes, where I see people enjoying what I’ve made, to perk me up. I finally feel like I’m one of the lucky people who loves what I do.”