Am Bratach No. 224
June 2010

Porridge bread’s on the menu at Melness bakery

German born, Gert Steinbrueck, a resident of Talmine, Melness, is no stranger to rising early, writes FIONA BURNETT. Since he recently created "Cornhill Artisan Bakery" most days he is in his kitchen - from five in the morning - making bread and rolls which he currently supplies to the local post office and shop.

Gert, who works from home, along with his Bavarian partner, Juliane Lingner, a former IT programmer, and owner of "The Old Shop Arts and Crafts" in Talmine which opened last month, moved to the village from Bavaria in November 2009.
Originally from East Berlin, Gert moved to Bavaria, in his early twenties, after the Berlin Wall came down, in 1989. His company at that time rented out an office to a company from the opposite side who were looking for workers prepared to move to Bavaria to work and it was here that he met Juliane, who worked for the same company.

Gert developed his baking skills several years ago, as a hobby. It got to the stage where friends and family were asking him to bake bread for them too. If the couple visited friends they were always asked to take some of Gert's freshly baked bread with them.

Since moving to Melness, Gert has further experimented, adapting various bread recipes, changing or adding ingredients until he is satisfied with the flavour and texture.

"I have start with a bread-maker and after this broke we bought a bigger one and when this broke I said I can do this with my hand!" said Gert, who now uses his conventional oven for baking his bread.

There are many different types of bread and rolls on the market today but Gert has invented some additions of his own to the list such as porridge bread, Legionnaires bread, consisting of onion and honey, originally known as Roman bread, sunny seed rolls, containing sunflower seeds, and cottage rolls, a recipe he invented when his original recipe required cream cheese and as the local shop had none he improvised by using cottage cheese.

Initially Gert gave the local shop a free sample of his porridge bread, "my own creation", to see how it would fare with customers. Shopkeeper Tommy Mackay said: "Very good bread!" So far the porridge variety is a firm favourite along with cottage rolls which according to Juliane are, "a bit like scones with raisins in them." "This is an old East German recipe and this is a breakfast roll," said Gert. "It's made from soft cheese and Tommy hasn't soft cheese. He has cottage cheese and so I use this. It's not the same, so then I change recipe. I use single cream too."

At present, Gert makes one type of bread each day, "but he makes a different one each day, so he makes a list and gives it to Tommy so people will know what they can get during the week and then they can leave orders or just come in and buy," said Juliane.

Plans for the future include cakes. "Oh I have a lot of plans for the future," said Gert, who hopes to expand his customer base although logistics may hinder the area he can cover.

Juliane's business "The Old Shop Arts and Crafts", aims to offer crafts made purely in Scotland. There are a variety of crafts exhibited, some which she has made herself, like the handmade felt jewellery in bright colours, which Juliane makes from wool, soap and water. Other gifts include tartan cushions, soaps, cards, stone card holders, framed mirrors and printed silk scarves. The shop at present is open all week but will reduce their hours over the winter months, allowing a full fortnight's opening shorly before Christmas.

"I went to the trade show in Aviemore," said Juliane, "because they only have things made in Scotland. Because I think there's a wealth of creativity and of tradition as well, of making things and I want to concentrate on things made in Scotland. It's starting to come back but for a long time I find a lot of the gift shops have had the same things. It's just coming back like with the Caithness Horizons [Old Town Hall, Thurso] where you can get things locally or made in Scotland, like Timespan [Museum and Arts, Helmsdale]."

The shop, previously known as Bammas and vacant for a few years, was originally owned by Messrs Peter Burr of Tongue and was the only shop in the village at the time. While considering the name for her new business, Juliane found it fitting to include "The Old Shop" in the title as many of the locals remembered its history.

"Lots of people in the village have memories about it when they were children, like when they got their first freezers and icecreams. So they always call it the old shop and I've been racking my brain for a name and I thought I'll take this!" said Juliane, who has always enjoyed crafts, and is particularly interested in Celtic patterns.

The couple have attended various courses held by Business Gateway. "They've taken over this bit from Highlands and Islands Enterprise," said Juliane, who found the experience rewarding as well as meeting a couple of her current suppliers.

Juliane is no stranger to the local area as, from the age of sixteen, she regularly spent holidays with her parents at their holiday home in the village, quickly developing an affinity with the place. Today she lives next door, in the house which she built twelve years ago as her holiday home, a decision she made when the company they were working for went bankrupt, and knowing that her son Benjamin's schooling was complete, it seemed like a convenient time to move.

On moving to the area, Juliane said, "We were from a town so it was very different really. I always loved it here and I always wanted to come and live here, eventually."

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