The Octagon (lower Peter St) Westport, Co Mayo facebook.com/ beccasbakerymayo
Last year, Becca Bissell, a pastry chef originally from Staffordshire in the UK. opened her own bakery. Through the front window, you can see an old-fashioned weighing scales, bunting and the promise of buns. The walls are lined with shelves, weighed down with freshly baked sourdough loaves, baguettes and rolls. There are brownies and loaf cakes, bakewell tarts and birthday cakes, all baked by Becca and her baking team, Karen and Niamh.
This bakery is a takeaway treat store as opposed to a sit-in café. There are two chairs on the pavement outside the front of the shop for customers to rest awhile, which works because the ready-to-eat goods at Becca’s can all be eaten with one hand. I grab a bag of goodies for my train journey, and everything is remarkably well-priced. I go away with a sourdough loaf, a flapjack, a quiche, a turnover and a cup of coffee for ¤10. The coffee is made by a little push-button machine and, though it’s better than I was expecting, it’s a possible area for improvement for Becca, as she has all other bases in this bakery covered.
A delicious spinach and feta turnover is wrapped in golden and flaky filo. The deep pastry case of a mini quiche makes it easy to transport, and its biscuity crumb makes it a great travel companion. I take a loaf of plain sourdough (¤3.50) home to Dublin and it toasts up beautifully over the following days. It’s got an excellent tang, and is somewhere between a hardy farmhouse loaf and a hole-filled sourdough.
“It’s a hybrid,” explains Becca of her sourdough loaf. “We make a sourdough sponge with a bit of Sam, water and a combination of wholemeal and white flour. From there, we make the dough. It ferments overnight, and then we prove it in our sourdough baskets the next day before baking. It tastes different from some people’s sourdough, because it’s our own bread.”
With that, Becca sums up what real bread means. For such a long time, our food stores have been filled with uniform conformity. Real, authentic food doesn’t always fit into a mould. It’s sometimes not the shape we expect, and it may not taste exactly the same as the last time you had it. Sometimes, inconsistency is reassuring.
What’s consistent about everything in Becca’s Bakery is the authentically homemade taste and texture of real bread. AMcE