Have you ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes at a Whole Foods Market. From freshly ground coffee, an array of savoury artisan breads and delicious sweet treats the bakeries have all the goods to make anyone’s day delightful and a few sunny weeks ago I had the pleasure of meeting all the bakers in the High Street Kensington Branch to gain an insight into their world.
Whole Foods Market is well known for their organic approach in baking, only using eggs that are free-range and non GMO fed and only using flour that is unbleached and unbromated. You also won’t catch any artificial colours, flavours, sweetness or preservatives in any of the food they sell which means when you walk into theirs stores and smell the amazing aroma of freshly baked breads and cakes, you know that you’ll have a hard task finding anything better.
So what happened during my visit and where do the best brownies ever come into it? Take a read on and let’s find out.
08:30 – The introduction
I arrived at 8:30am sharp to the welcome of Madga, one of the Whole Foods Market bakers. As she stood equipped with chef whites and a net cap, it was clear the outfit I’d selected for the tour was not worth the anguish the night previous but needs must for food safety and as I adorned the chef whites and net cap i suddenly felt like part of the team. So with that off we went on the Whole Foods Market tour…first stop The Bakery.
08:45 – The Bakery
The bakery was possibly the most impressive part of my visit with their sour dough line up a particular highlight – I wish I could have bottled that smell and taken it with me, but instead I settled for tasting as many of the different flavours as I could. That smell wouldnt have been possible without their starter who I was delighted to be introduced to. Aptly name “The Mother” she took pride of place in their tiny kitchen bubbling away waiting for her next feed. I’ve always been fascinated by bread and used to wonder why on earth people named their sour dough starters, but to see how alive “The Mother” was made it so clear that they deserve a title and she in particular deserves that name.
Their Kensington branch is of few stores who bake their bread daily, using the freshest ingredients including Shipton Mill Organic Flour. Whatever bread you’re after, you’ll find as they offer so much choice from sourdough, focaccia, bagels, ciabatta and crusty French sticks which I was able to see being both shaped and baked before being whisked away and taken up to the Patisserie kitchen.
09:15 – The Patisserie
Eventually Madga managed to get me out of the bakery and upstairs to the cool patisserie kitchen which was a warm welcome on that hot morning. I was visiting on a particularly quiet day but nevertheless the bakers were busy in their day getting all the delicious cakes and tarts ready for the shop floor. In one corner a baker was busy decorating the chocolate orange….while in the other corner another was bringing out freshly baked croissants and lining them onto trollies.
I was fascinated how much they had got prepared that early in the morning but Madga confirmed that they had lots of mix ready made in large batches which saves time. She took me into their cold store to show me and I was distracted by their mince pie filling.
“Have you already got mince pies in preparation” I asked
“Yes of course Christmas is in full swing, we have to start preparing our flavours at least a year in advance” she replied ”
I was in awe of their organisation and loved watching all the bakers bustling in and out of the cold store, grabbing things here and there but smiling all the way. It was so clear they loved their jobs, and I’m not surprised.
As we left the cold store I was distracted again by their huge ovens to the left of me.
“Ohhh what’s in there?” I asked as I peeked into the window of their giant oven.
“Ahh those are our brownies” Magda replied, as one of the bakers opened the door to bring them out releasing what I can only describe as the smell of heaven.
“Oh wow okay so I’m going to need the recipe for these please” I begged
Madga laughed “Of course” as if that wasn’t the first time she’d been asked that question
09:45 – Shopping
After the tour and with my mind set on getting home and baking those brownies ASAP, it was time to buy some ingredients using some of Whole Foods finest.
First stop was of course Shipton Mill Organic Flour and I wanted to get as big a bag as I could carry on the train so opted for the 2.5k packet.
If I was making brownies I obviously needed chocolate so second stop was their chocolate aisle on the hunt for some unique and organic chocolate to use. I was determined to use something I’d never used or even seen before and found BlanxArt. This was the perfect choice as it was one of the creamiest dark chocolates I’ve ever tasted.
I also wanted to try some different sugar to the standard caster sugar which has been a staple in all my baking for all these years. I was keen to try something new and also as organic as I could find so opted for Equal Exchange Organic Raw Cane Sugar.
I could have easily spent longer browsing their aisles and filling my trolley with every wild and wonderful new ingredient I stumbled upon but my strength can only go so far so I had to stop there…next time I’ll be bring reinforcements.
For all ingredients visit your local Whole Foods Market of visit WholefoodsMarket.com.
WHOLEFOODS| THE BEST BROWNIES EVER
Preparation time| 30 minutes
Baking time| 45 minutes
350g unsalted butter
400g good quality dark chocolate
190g chocolate chips
Preheat the oven to 160C/Gas 3 and grease a 20cm x 20cm brownie tin.
In a large bowl set over a pan of simmering water, melt the 400g chocolate until smooth.
Melt the butter slowly in a pan then pour over the smooth chocolate and whisk the two together until silky.
Leave the chocolate/butter mixture to cool for 5 minutes.
In another large bowl whisk the eggs and sugar together until combined, but try not to overwhisk as you don’t want to add in too much air.
Pour the cooled chocolate mixture into the eggs and sugar mixture and combine well
Sift the flour into the mixture and add the chocolate chips then carefully fold it all together using a large metal spoon.
Pour the batter into your prepared brownie tin and bake in the centre of your oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour checking.
You want the centre to still be a little wobbly when you remove the brownie from the oven as this is what ensures you get the gooey brownies we all dream of.
Leave them to cool on a wire rack for a few hours or overnight (covered with a tea towel) then cut them into 16 equal squares and dust with some icing sugar.
Serve with strawberries and cream for the ultimate brownie dessert.
300g chopped hazlenuts
300g chopped macadamia nuts
550g white chocolate chips
For more information on Whole Foods Market UK and any of the ingredients I’ve used for The Brownies please visit http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/stores/kensington or pop into one of their many stores around the UK.