13 May 2021

Ross Bakery is a wholesale bakery in Ballasalla. Our business is split into two. The first part is what I call the receptacle business. We make tasty things for chefs to place their creations into. Our mission is to help make their food look and taste amazing. The second is our retail business which is made up of small but absolutely mighty retailers all across the Island. We love these guys and we love all the people that buy our bread there.

I’m Simon Ross, owner and founder of Ross Bakery. We bake through the night and this is a night in our life. Specifically, last Friday night.

3PM I’m nocturnal so wake at around 3pm feeling like absolute rubbish thinking why am I doing this nighttime stuff, then remember that I used to work in an office and wake up at 7am feeling like absolute rubbish wondering why am I doing this office stuff. So it’s all relative. The whole world wakes up and feels like absolute rubbish until….

4PM …Breakfast is an omelette with yesterdays sourdough or a bagel, a smoothie and an espresso. Feeling a good 50% perkier than an hour ago, I do the orders and see what the next 12 or so hours holds for us.

Baking is this lovely mix of creativity and spreadsheets. We get to think up new products or tweak existing ones. Ultimately they all go into a formula on a spreadsheet with ingredients expressed as a ratio to flour. You can see patterns between your formulas and you can apply those patterns to new formulas. I’m not going to lie, I get an absolute kick out of spreadsheets.

5PM  Arrive at the bakery. Spreadsheets are done, the ovens are turned up full blast and the first mix goes on. Friday is a busy day for challah so we do that one first.

MUSIC - French radio FIP, honestly the best radio station on Earth.

530PM The oven is at full blast and the sourdoughs get scored and baked. This is a process that started at 5am on Wednesday and we’ve been growing a colony of wild yeasts since. Millions of the poor blighters hit the hot hearth at 270c and quickly get to their thermal death point. I send them thanks and wonder if there’s a bakers death metal band called Thermal Death Point.

630PM The team arrives. Andy and Gabriel get tins and trays onto racks, feed the sourdough, make ganache. Stephanie starts organising ingredients.  Steve takes over the mixer duty and we make a plan for the night’s doughs and start taking care of business.

730PM Dough table! Everyone comes together for a good two hours of rolling buns and poking holes in bagels. On a busy night we’re making around 800 challah buns and 400 bagels. Every one of them shaped by hand. One day we’ll make a bread shaping workout film. Double hand roll while working on your core, like a cross between ‘wax on and wax off’ and Mr Motivator.

10PM Our challah is egg washed and proving, our bagels will be in the fridge waiting to be boiled later (You might be thinking baking is just finding different ways of killing yeast) On the dough table we’ll be shaping sourdough and tin loaves, making rolls and that Manx favourite, The Bap.

1030PM Oven duty for Gabriel. 800 challah to bake, they need egg washed and sesame seeds. Five oven decks, 45 buns per oven. They take 14 minutes each. Need to get them done before the tin loaves come along and the temp needs to go way hotter. Go!

Hot, sweaty and a bit of a buzz, you definitely don’t want to use someone else’s oven gloves after this.

MUSIC - SWEATY DANCEFLOOR - Modeselektor, Berlin/ Laid Back, White Horse / The Aztec Mystic, Knights of the Jaguar

0000 The first intense part of the night is done. Everyone can have a decompress, a coffee, several hob nobs. This is usually the point in the night when someone says ‘we’re smashing this night, home early!’ which is met with a chorus of ‘noooo!’ as we reckon they’ve jinxed it.

We usually have around 2-250 pastel de nata’s to make. Nicoleta from the day team will have pushed pastry into about 170 tins. We send her thanks and push pastry into the remaining. This job is great because you can sit down doing it.

Nightly I ask if there are any requests (meaning for music) and nightly Andy asks for a gin & tonic. Although it should be comatose by now, this joke doesn’t get old.

MUSIC - LAID BACK, WAY BACK Midlife, The Magnificent Moon / Surprise Chef, New Ferrari / Marvin Gaye “T” Plays it Cool

0100 Cinnamon and babka buns, challah loaves, tea cakes, brioche, focaccia. Someone heads to the ‘bungeon’ to start packing up challah buns to give us some space.

0200 Bagel bay gets set up. Andy is our resident Lord Bagel and has taken us from 100 bagels a night to 400 whilst keeping them consistent, with a very basic refrigeration set up. 

0300 - 0500 2nd big oven push as we’re baking bagels, more loaves, tarts, baps, the babka and focaccia. We’ll also be chopping the ciabatta which is like cutting a big, billowy pillow and is probably my favourite bread. If you’re ever walking around Balthane at 4am and you’re not a serial killer, feel free to pop in to try one.

0500 - 0700 All going well, most of the bake team can finish. The morning team come in led by Nicoleta who is the genius who somehow gets all this stuff we’ve made sliced,  packed and into the vans.

MUSIC - GET ON THE GOOD FOOT Shirley Bassey, Jezahel / Lyn Collins, Think (about it) / Patti Jo, Make me Believe in You

0800 Vans on the road. One Douglas and the North, one South and the other to Market with Molly. Kermode & Mayo’s film Podcast on the way home.

Baking is about a group of people coming together and working towards a goal. There’s nothing quite like starting the night with empty shelves and 12 hours later looking at room full of things a group of hands have molded into existence from a few simple ingredients. You’re knackered, but you’re happy.

We couldn’t help but feel like 15 again and made a spotify playlist to go along with the night. Enjoy. https://open.spotify.com/playlist/5EkGCrrS10CfqzZqjQIk3t?si=d62164cd3b07416c