A Family Passion For Dough

Finding a local bakery you love should be on everyone’s list of essential requirements when deciding where to live. Being able to get wonderfully fresh, locally baked bread and cakes is surely one of life’s great pleasures, and that’s why De’aths Bakery on Manningtree High Street and East Bergholt Bakery attract customers from far and wide. Who wouldn’t travel to purchase hand crafted traditional breads, baked with passion in the ‘old fashioned’ way every morning?

If that’s not enough to whet your appetite perhaps this will.

David Smith is a third generation baker. He and his wife Tanya have been looking after De’aths Bakery since Mr De’Ath retired in 1985. They start baking at 4am each morning to ensure that bread and cakes (Tanya’s speciality) are coming out of the oven as the shop opens. How’s that for fresh?

After all these years, they are still using the same traditional methods and similar recipes, and still have many of the same customers.

David’s passion is apparent when he talks about the baking process:

“We use untreated, unbleached flour from Greens Flour Mills of Maldon, milled from locally grown wheat. Our wholemeal flour is all stone ground by Marriage’s using hand cut 100-year-old French burr stones. We use traditional long bulk fermentation and overnight sponge and dough methods along with low levels of slow acting yeast and salt. We even grow our own culture for making sour dough breads as our ancestors have done for thousands of years before us.”

You won’t be surprised to know that they use no preservatives or additives and try to source ingredients locally using small independent suppliers.

Along with the shop in Manningtree, De’aths supplies many local pubs and restaurants, delicatessens and caterers, often providing them with bespoke speciality and continental breads. 

David and Tanya’s son Christopher literally grown up in the bakery, helping with production and going out on deliveries. His favourite task was quality control!

Chris worked in the bakery all through school and college, during weekends, holidays and even early mornings. After studying engineering at college, he had several years in the telecoms industry and also worked alongside a really talented chef in a busy high end restaurant. It is there that he gained his passion for creating new ideas and products.

About three years ago Chris rejoined the bakery and after gaining in-depth knowledge of the business was looking for a new challenge. When East Bergholt Bakery became available he jumped at the chance to put his ideas into practise in his own bakery business.

It’s clear that Chris has inherited more than a passion for baking from his parents. He clearly shares the same work ethic, and like his mum and dad, gets enormous satisfaction from seeing goods coming out of the oven each morning and the pleasure it brings to customers.

The dedicated teams at both bakeries have worked hard throughout the lockdown period to meet demand and provide continuity of service. They include Laura Jane, Sharon, Lynn, Maria, Christine and Erin at De’aths Bakery in Manningtree and Barbara, Carol, Lynda, Hermonie and Eddy at East Bergholt Bakery. Meanwhile Steve, a volunteer delivery driver working for David, has enabled home deliveries to self-isolating and vulnerable customers, a service which is continuing at present.

Both David and Chris are driven to achieve more, constantly looking for and introducing new ideas, respecting and committed to using traditional authentic methods but adding creative flair to surprise and delight customers.

 “Our customers inspire us every day but it’s nice to surprise them now and then” says Christopher. “Of course good customer service is critical too, something I learned from an early age. So very many of our customers come in every day, or every other day, and have become good friends. We’ve conscious too of our role in the community and that’s why we support the local library, providing doughnuts and cakes for all their events, schools and councils, hot sausage rolls to the local sailing club for those chilly lift-ins and gift vouchers and raffle prizes to local businesses and community projects.”

Tanya has recently been delivering weekly moral boosting boxes of jam doughnuts to NHS staff at Colchester Hospital as a thank you for their commitment on the front line, and came up with some lovely afternoon cream tea packages for VE Day, which were extremely popular and continue to be so. Heavenly doughnut boxes are popular for birthdays and celebrations (or a well-deserved pick-me-up) and luxury cheese boards and cake treat boxes are in hot demand for Father’s Day.

The idea that people are drawn to professions that fit their name has always amused me but surely if the theory had any credibility at all, this family’s surname would be Baker! I suspect in olden days it would have been. However, Smith it is and while they continue to bake and create as they do, we will happily continue to enjoy the products of their early morning labours.

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