I do have a particular penchant for pâtisserie – though close in spirit to their Euro equivalents, the vernacular bakers of the North are by comparison, sadly now a seldom seen, rare and precious breed.
My dad’s three sisters Alice, Jenny and Lydia all trained as confectioners, and he himself was a van man for Mother’s Pride. In my turn I worked as a van lad at their Old Trafford base.
Flour, eggs, sugar and fat are in my blood.
In their way the growth of the mass-market bakers, along with the motor car and supermarket hegemony sealed the fate of the local bread, cake and pie shop, along with the demise of the associated skills and attendant early morning work patterns. When I visited Cochrane’s in Audenshaw, it was clear that their youngsters no longer wished to take on the family baking business. So the once unremarkable sight of remarkable rows of fancies, growlers and tarts, is now a thing of familiar folk memory, rather than a sweet and savoury reality.
On both of my visits to Leigh I have passed Parker’s – the windows warm from the freshly baked confectionery – including the almost unique Singing Lily – sweet double crust pies, a large circle of shortcrust pastry folded over dried fruit and rolled until the fruit is visible, sugared and baked.
Next time I’ll go in and try one or two treats – get it while you can.
Idly meandering through Cliftonville, along Northdown Road, I chanced upon the most delightful of cake shop windows. Being something of an aficionado of cakes, shops and windows it seemed like an ideal opportunity to snap away, with customary broad-smiling, wide-eyed enthusiasm. Furthermore why not go in? I was met with the most charming of receptions from the patron Stuart Turner and staff – not unreasonably inquisitive regarding my impromptu picture taking, I explained my particular interest in the patisserie. The interior of the 50’s bakery, shop and café is perfectly preserved, with a little sympathetic restorative work. Well upholstered and formica topped the furniture is the finest of its kind, each table graced with fresh flowers, condiments and loving care and attention. An exquisite array of breads, pastries and cakes, resting on delicate doilies, displayed in glass fronted cases. I encourage you to visit, take tea, take cake, take away the fondest of sweet memories.
From being little I’ve always eaten pies and cakes, that’s how you stop being little all your life, broadly speaking.
They taste nice.
They taste nicest from a local bakers and confectioners, where everything is always fresh and baked on the premises. Walk in and it’s warm and welcoming, it smells of baking and love.
So each time I cycle around Greater Manchester, I do my level best to find one, go in and buy a pie.
And eat it.
One such stop off is Cochrane’s, the family have baked here since 1964, Ruth and Roger are charming and helpful – sadly we mourned the passing of most of their fellow bakers’ shops. Bowker’s on Penny Meadow in Ashton having recently shut. Once gone nobody takes them on – the family traditions of employment having long since been broken. Three of my aunties were trained as confectioners, I’m a good for nothing photographer.
They disappear in a puff of flour.
So make the most of those that remain, stop by buy a pie – I did.