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  1. Author: Nick Marsden

     Cocoa & Hearts owner Magdalena Marsden

    What’s in a name?

    Every year, many business owners, small and large, spend considerable amounts of time and money, trying to find the right name for their business. Too often this seems to involve spending lots of your own money getting someone else to find a name for your business.

    Ideally, it’s got to be snappy and smart and say something about the product you’re selling. Anything else? Oh yes, I nearly forgot. It’s got to be memorable and stick in people’s minds.

    I was reminded of this last thought all too graphically recently when the name of my own business – Cocoa & Heart –played a key part – in helping nurses at Leicester Glenfield & Royal Infirmary Hospitals track down the next of kin of two patients who had been involved a serious road traffic accident – my mother and father in law!

    To go back to the beginning.

    My husband’s elderly parents had been caught up in a  five car pile up not far from their home in Leicester. Nick’s Dad had been taken to one Hospital with suspected head injuries and his Mum, to another, for treatment for cracked ribs. Two days later and without any forms of ID on them, neither were able to remember much about the accident let alone any contact details to let close family know that they were recovering in hospital. Meanwhile, the car, which was a write off, had been towed away and access was well nigh impossible.

     

    In between the pain killers, my father in law, who has always had a sweet tooth, suddenly remembered that I ran my own chocolate business. ‘What’s it called, Trevor?’ enquired a sharp thinking nurse. He paused for a minute. Then came the name; something to do with Cocoa & a Heart! And it was in Kent. The clever thinking nurse quickly googled the name and sure enough my business came up  - on the first page, I hope!

    Scrolling down the pages she found my surname and address and contact number. So three days after they had been first admitted to Hospital, my husband was informed about their condition and managed to visit them both later that evening.

     

    Needless to say, he came bearing gifts of chocolate from Cocoa & Heart. Not so much for my in laws (although Trevor had recovered sufficiently to start eating again!) but for the nursing staff at the Royal Infirmary and especially, the quick thinking nurse who connected a chance remark back to Cocoa & Heart.

     

    My in-laws are both doing OK. Maria spent a couple of weeks in a rehabilitation centre while her broken bones were healing before she was able to walk again unassisted.  Trevor’s head scans were fine and both are now at home again quite happily eating chocolate. 

    So choosing a name to remember can have a happy ending after all!

    nm author

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  2. Author: Magdalena Marsden

    trueloaf23

    This article was published in True Loaf Magazine by Real Bread Campaign.

    Connecting people through bread baking

    I love my job – starting early when everyone else is still asleep, late nights finishing baking and the beautiful people I’ve met over the 3 years, since I started my little baking business Cocoa & Heart.

    I’ve started to bake my own bread about 16 years ago, when I couldn’t find the bread I liked in normal supermarkets. After few failed attempts (the first bread ended up heavy like a brick!) I managed to bake a decent loaf, good enough that my friends wanted to take one to a dinner party! And so it started…

    I now run bread baking workshops and share my experience and skills with other enthusiastic bakers. It always amazes me that so many people these days are interested in bread making. I’ve had professional musicians, surgeons and members of the armed forces on a break from overseas duty joining me as well as overseas visitors on a UK holiday looking for a chance to brush up on their bread baking skills.

    And, of course, my job’s not been without its lighter moments, too.  When BBC Radio Kent contacted me to take part in a live interview, I wasn’t about to turn them down. Not even if it meant taking the call in the middle of one of my baking classes! After what seemed like an age waiting for a song to finish, I soon found myself answering unscripted questions about making all manner of breads and my courses. The interviewer was most amused when I told him that I was halfway through an actual baking workshop and had just nipped upstairs to chat to him.

    But it’s not just about providing one off courses; it’s about building a bread baking community. I’ve just started ‘refresher’ courses for my previous students, which gives everyone chance to practice particular techniques or a tricky bread recipe.  It’s so rewarding to hear people say that since they’ve been on one of my courses they’ve not purchased any shop bought bread because they now make their own.

    One older gentleman recently told me that when he’s baking bread he feels connected to everyone else making bread across the whole globe.  And it’s lovely to see parents and their children on thesame course; lovely to know that in a small way I’m helping to ensure that the passion for making your own bread is being passed down through the generations. Most people are amazed to find that with a bit of good planning they can bake so much bread in a relatively short space of time.

    I do love people visiting my Victorian kitchen where the courses take place. But, with the encouragement of my fellow bakers, I’ll be running a week long residential baking course in a Victorian manor house in South Wales in March 2015. It will be a great week of bread baking, relaxing by the fire, eating homemade food and we will even spend a day milling our own flower in local watermill in Talgarth.

    Visit my website for my favourite recipes, baking techniques and information about my workshops -  www.cocoaandheart.co.uk

    mm author

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  3. Author: Magdalena Marsden

    the bread book cover photo

    For the last year or so I have been thinking of writing a book - a bread baking book that is. And after several months spend in front of computer screen and testing new recipes, I'm really pleased to say, that I'm nearly there!

    The book is now being proofread, formatted and I'm finishing setting up all the technical stuff behind the scenes. Did you know how many things you need to work out and connect if you just want to download a pdf? Not to worry, that's not your job, but what you can do right now, is to read the introduction to the book! And if you are not already on our newsletter, make sure you sign up here, to be the first one to know when the book is out!

    15 March 2015 update: The Bread Book has arrived! Available as immediate download in pdf form and as Kindle version.

     

    'I can clearly remember when I baked my first bread. I was on my own at home and thought I would bake something more useful than just another cake. Don’t get me wrong, cakes are good, but a bit tricky to use as packed lunches for work. (Now, there’s a thought!)

    I had been living in the UK for about a year or so and, even though I was trying to get used to the new environment and food, I was not particularly keen on supermarket bread. In those days, there were no artisan bakeries – certainly not in the part of London where we lived. I was missing our Czech traditional bread – which is based on rye flour and is made with caraway seeds and sourdough starter. The taste is very earthy, slightly tangy and the bread smells absolutely delicious. I wanted to be reminded of my home in Czech Republic.

    So on that, rainy afternoon, I tried to recreate a bread recipe that I cut out from a magazine. It was a basic recipe and there weren’t many instructions, nor did it have any pictures. I had no idea how long I was supposed to knead the bread or how long I should leave it to prove and I didn’t quite understand how to shape the bread either!

    Well, I’m not going to keep you in suspense – it was a disaster!

    The bread was dense with no crust, no lift and no crumbly texture, and whilst it was burnt on the outside, it was still soggy in the middle. The bread was hard like a rock, but the taste was fine and, in the end we actually ate it – partly as a protest for not being defeated by a humble bread and also because I do hate to waste food!

    But what this bread disaster meant was that I became even more determined to get it right next time. Fast forward 16 years and I’m really proud to say that, since that disastrous bread day, I have not bought bread in a supermarket!

    I took it as a personal challenge never to run out of bread. Even when I came home from a day’s work, I would get stuck in and knead a few loaves, enjoying the freshly baked bread later on.

    Although I like cookery books, I find them equally frustrating because, apart from a few exceptions out there, they don’t actually explain why you do things. If you’re anything like me, unless somebody explains to me why I should knead my bread for 10 minutes, I tend to just mix it and stick it in the oven (incidentally that’s exactly what I did all those years ago with my first bread). I need to understand why!

    So, after running my bread baking workshops for over 3 years, I decided to pull together everything that I wished I had known when I started to bake bread – and I hope you find it useful too!

    Happy baking!

    Magdalena

     

    P.S. The main purpose of this book is to share with you all of my knowledge and bread baking techniques, the tricks of the home baking trade and, first and foremost, to give you the understanding of ‘WHY’.

    Once you have this understanding, you’ll be able to pick any bread baking recipe and follow it with a success. If the recipe is not right, you will understand why and be confident to follow your instinct as a baker, correct it and make it work for you.

    Because of that you won’t find that many recipes in this book. I have included about 35 of my favourites, but they are really not that important in the overall scheme of this book. What is important though, is that you learn the techniques – and then you will be able to bake any recipe that you already have at home successfully.

    As you read through the first few pages, you might perhaps think that I’m approaching bread baking very seriously, but as you will find out, there is a lot of leeway with bread baking, so just have a fun with it.

    What’s the worst thing that can happen, anyway? Even my bread didn’t end up in a bin all those years ago!

    And finally I’d love to know how you get on, so feel free connect with me on social media, post a picture of your latest bread bake or just to ask any questions. You will find all my contact details at the end of the book'

    Any good? I hope so and I promise the rest of the book will live up to your expectations. You can already find the The Bread Book in our shop and I'll be letting everyone know when it's out!

    Have friends that like baking? Why not share this page with them!

    mm author

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  4. Author: Magdalena Marsden

    Wales Fix

     

    Over the last 17 years I've become very fond of Wales. It's not just because I like walking and the countryside and my brother in-law lives there, but because it reminds me of home. This might seem strange, as I'm from a landlocked country (Czech Republic) and we have no sea, but the type of countryside, not too many main roads and perhaps a simpler way of living is exactly why in my heart Wales is like a home to me.

     

    We always go on holiday to Wales, to walk, to clear our heads, eat good food and meet great people. Over the years we met some fabulous people - the reclusive artist that escaped from London to hide in the Welsh borders to create, the music studio owner, who was given the task to record with a certain very famous young pop group, because his studio is the highest and most remote in the whole UK and apparently it's really difficult to sneak out to buy drugs (I kid you not!) and an English film producer that spends most of his time working on films in the renowned Barandov Film Studios in Prague.

     

    I'm getting slightly side tracked here, but this is just to give you an idea why I'm so fond of Wales.

    Anyway, last year I was lucky enough to spend a day milling my own flour in Talgarth Mill. I've written about my experience in one of my previous posts, if you want to read it. I enjoyed it so much that I wanted to share it with other budding bread bakers, so this year after 4 years of running bread baking workshops and after being nudged by my lovely students, I'm taking my bread baking on holiday!

     

    Well, a sort of very special bread baking holiday - 5 day Bread Baking Course, 14 - 19 March 2015 - held in the beautiful setting of an old Victorian house with a kitchen the size of my house and no less than 6 Aga ovens! And we will be only 40 minutes away from Talgarth Mill, so the Milling Experience, together with baking bread in a wood fired oven will be part of the holiday. On top of that we are going to cover everything there is about bread baking - the basic techniques, recipes and what to do when things go wrong. I wanted the course to be suitable for all abilities, so if you are more advanced, there will be other techniques that you can practice. The best thing, is that even though the house is absolutely huge (and comfortable) we will only have a small group of 8 bakers, which, I think, will make everything more personal and everyone will have plenty of space to practice their own bread baking, relax with a glass of wine in front of a roaring fire or just read a book in a privacy of your own room. And if your friend or partner fancies coming along with you, just for a break, they are welcome too. As most of the rooms are either twin or a large double, we have spaces for 'non- bakers' - friends who are welcome to join us for all the meals, but do as they please during day. There is plenty to explore nearby and Cardiff is only 30 minutes away.

     

    I also thought (you can tell I've been doing a lot of thinking, can't  you....) that it might be nice to do something different in the evening. So, we will have a topical talk & tasting of local cheeses, healthy eating talk from a nutricionist Claire Stone (who is not your traditional type of nutricionist and definitelly knows her stuff) and chocolate mini workshop are prepared for everyone staying with us.

    I'm really looking forward to taking my bread baking workshops on the tour and you are welcome to join us too.

    Happy Baking!

    Magdalena

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