Richard O'Connell owns Mueller & O'Connell's Bakery in Abbeyleix, not far from his family home in Cullahill, County Laois. The midlands artisan bakery sells real bread and baked goods, available in their stylish café/shop, but also in various locations around Laois and Offaly.
Richard's mum would bake bread every day at home, so it is no surprise perhaps to his siblings and family that he has found himself opening this business. However, Richard followed a career in accounting and it is only since retiring that he has followed his passion for food and opened the bakery with his business partner.
His ethos is to make real bread and pastries in the bakery fresh every day, use as many local ingredients as possible and to create a cosy space for customers to enjoy it in. They even serve their own coffee which is roasted locally, but it's his sourdough bread that brings customers back to the shop again and again. Now that sourdough has seemingly taken over the world, we decided to check in on Richard's sourdough tips to make sure we're baking perfect bread.
READ MORE: Darina's lemon tart
Richard's top sourdough tips for making perfect bread:
- If you are starting out on your sourdough journey, then visit your nearest artisan bakery and ask them for some sourdough starter. A jam jar full will be enough to get you going. This will get you up and running quickly. You can always try to get your own starter going at a later stage.
- Patience is important – good sourdough bread needs lots of time (36 hours plus for good
properly fermented loaves). It usually does not take kindly to being rushed.
- Because it takes so long, you need to fit the making of sourdough bread into your life. This is one of my most important sourdough tips. Before we opened the bakery, I used to make my sourdough bread weekly to be ready for baking on Saturday morning. My schedule was: first feed the starter on Thursday evening, second, feed on Friday morning before going to work; mix the dough, knead, rest and into bannetons on Friday night; into the fridge overnight and then bake on Saturday morning.
- Making sourdough bread, especially at home, is not an exact science, so don’t be too hard on yourself if your loaves do not look or taste exactly the same as the one in your local bakery, or the one you made last week, or the week before! Every loaf is a unique creation and will taste amazing.
READ MORE: Black pudding sandwich with blue cheese
Read more The O'Connell Family Story
Visit the Mueller & O'Connell Bakery website here.