In for a penny . . .

Bak­ing and ice lol­lies go to­gether at a fam­ily busi­ness in Low­est­oft

EADT Suffolk - - Inside -

IT is eight-thirty in the morn­ing, but at Low­est­oft’s Penny Bun Bake­house, Johnny Spillings has al­ready been hard at work for hours. Dough of ev­ery con­ceiv­able shape and form is ris­ing in vast trays and Johnny and his two bak­ers, Andy Howes and Dar­ren Cope­man, are zip­ping around in a non-stop, care­fully or­ches­trated floury dance to get their breads in the oven for later de­liv­ery to clients all over Suf­folk and Nor­folk. Sour­dough, cia­batta, brioche, fo­cac­cia, rye bread, spelt, hot dogs buns, sand­wich loafs, spe­cial­ity breads, slap, shape, rise, bake. It’s a sort of bak­ers’ pa­vanne and wher­ever you stand, you’re go­ing to be in their way.

Johnny has worked with some of the big­gest names on the Bri­tish restau­rant scene – Raymond Blanc at Le Manoir Au Quat’ Saisons, Michel Roux Snr and his son Alain at The Wa­ter­side in Bray, and nearly next door, with He­ston Blu­men­thal. He also makes yearly trips to Richard Bran­son’s pri­vate Caribbean is­land, Necker, to cook for the billionaire’s guests dur­ing his an­nual ten­nis tour­na­ment.

It is all a long, Miche­lin star-stud­ded way from a bak­ery on a small in­dus­trial es­tate in Low­est­oft, but Johnny, Suf­folk born and bred, wanted to be his own boss. He spent a few thou­sand pounds on equip­ment from a re­tir­ing deli owner and set up Penny Bun. Seven years on it is an es­tab­lished busi­ness, sup­ply­ing bread to around 60 cus­tomers across the re­gion, as well as set­ting up stalls at mar­kets and fes­ti­vals. Johnny’s latest ven­ture is a pop-up shop, The Box, open on Sat­ur­days in Southwold.

“We sup­ply restau­rants, ho­tels, delis, cafes, anywhere that wants to have a bit bet­ter qual­ity of bread, and it’s re­ally taken off,” says 37-year-old Johnny. “And be­cause we’re not busy enough with one busi­ness and a baby, we opened an­other!”

That’s Lickety Ice, run in tan­dem with his wife Bex, a for­mer graphic de­signer and mother of Sa­van­nah, who, at un­der two years old, is al­ready a vet­eran of the Lat­i­tude mu­sic fes­ti­val, where her par­ents had a stall. The two busi­nesses work side by side in his-and­hers units and Lickety Ice looks set to be as suc­cess­ful as Penny Bun.

“Jonny tends to run with these ideas, he gets quite ex­cited, ‘let’s go for it, Suf­folk hasn’t got any­thing like this’, so he re­ally pushed it,” says Bex. “We both worked on it to­gether for

a cou­ple of years. We got the ini­tial idea and then had to do a lot of re­search, find the kit, de­cide the flavours. The idea was to come up with a core range that we could pro­duce and then add to and change with the sea­sons.”

The lol­lies are made with whole fruit, a min­i­mum of sugar, some­times milk, cream or an egg-based cus­tard, us­ing lo­cally-sourced in­gre­di­ents wher­ever pos­si­ble. There is an adult range, some dessert-based, some al­co­holic, which can be made be­spoke for pri­vate events like wed­dings or birth­days, or for cor­po­rate clients. And a chil­dren’s range, be­cause as Bex says: “There’s not much avail­able in a chil­dren’s ice cream that is ac­tu­ally good for them, or low sugar, or nat­u­ral fruit. I give our milk-based lol­lies to my daugh­ter and I’m happy that she can eat them.”

The cou­ple are hop­ing to ex­pand the whole­sale side, get­ting the lol­lies onto restau­rant dessert menus and into out­lets across Suf­folk and Nor­folk. Some­times they com­bine their two busi­nesses – at the re­cent Low­est­oft Chilli Fes­ti­val they had a stand sell­ing chilli-flavoured bread along­side a fruity chilli ice lolly.

“It’s fun work­ing to­gether,” says Bex. “We get on. Jonny is a very, very good leader, and it’s been nice to brand our own con­cept and see it all the way through from the ini­tial idea to get­ting it out to the pub­lic and go­ing to events this year like Lat­i­tude and Jimmy’s Farm Fes­ti­val. We only launched at last year’s Alde­burgh Food and Drink Fes­ti­val, so it’s re­ally taken off.

“For me it’s a com­plete ca­reer change but I en­joy go­ing out and sell­ing and be­ing around the pub­lic. Sa­van­nah has come along to ev­ery­thing with us so far and that doesn’t make it a work thing, it makes it a fun, fam­ily ad­ven­ture that we’re do­ing to­gether and it doesn’t re­ally feel like work. It’s bril­liant and I en­joy ev­ery minute.”

“The idea was to come up with a core range that we could pro­duce and then add to and change with the sea­sons”

Johnny Spillings’ bread.

Hard at work at the Penny Bun Bake­house.

Mak­ing Lickety Ices

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