Britain's Best Bakeries: author tells us about discovering Scotland's finest pain au chocolat

Bostock tart Pic: Milly Kenny-RyderBostock tart Pic: Milly Kenny-Ryder
Bostock tart Pic: Milly Kenny-Ryder
The new book is released on May 2

From the come-hither smell, to the first bite of something flakey, golden and calorific, there’s nothing like a visit to an excellent bakery.

For a while, it was hard to find a good one, but since lockdown, they’ve sprung up like a well risen dough.

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But where to go first, for the perfect pastry, cinnamon bun, loaf or pizza? Author and photographer Milly Kenny-Ryder breaks it down for us in her new book, Britain’s Best Bakeries, which features 62 of the finest in the UK.

Bostock's window display Pic: Milly Kenny-RyderBostock's window display Pic: Milly Kenny-Ryder
Bostock's window display Pic: Milly Kenny-Ryder

Scotland gets an excellent look-in, with eight businesses, including East Lothian favourite Bostock (North Berwick and East Linton), former Great British Bake Off contestant Flora Shedden’s destination Aran Bakery (Dunkeld), Lannan (Edinburgh), Bandit Bakery (Aberdeen), Outlier (Glasgow), and Two Eight Seven (Glasgow).

How did you research the book?

I have spent my life researching this book! I spend every weekend trekking to a different bakery or two, so I already knew a lot of the bakeries I wanted to feature before the project began. I also spoke to a lot of bakers about their favourite places to get a croissant or a loaf of sourdough, so pretty quickly had a list I was confident with.

Any particularly favourite samples that you ate while researching?

Twelve Triangles window Pic: Milly Kenny-RyderTwelve Triangles window Pic: Milly Kenny-Ryder
Twelve Triangles window Pic: Milly Kenny-Ryder

I sampled so much, and I think I still have a drawer in my freezer stuffed full of sourdough bread off-cuts. The most memorable samples were enjoyed after a long journey to the bakery and were a welcome reward after an early morning shoot. These included fig leaf buns at Dozen, fresh-out-the-oven Pain Suisse at Rye by the Water, the extravagant maritozzi at Outliers and bite-sized caneles from Farro.

We’ve heard that Lannan in Edinburgh was a particular favourite – why?

Owner and head baker Darcie is meticulous in everything she does - from the beautiful design of the bakery counter to the photogenic bakes. It is the perfect combination of visual elegance and flavour satisfaction.

What makes the perfect bakery?

Put simply, somewhere within walking distance from your home, because the freshness of the pastry is the main thing that makes it irresistible. Other factors I considered - using carefully selected suppliers for your butter, flour and chocolate, offering decent coffee to accompany the baked items and the aesthetic or personality of the bakery space, which makes it feel like more of a destination.

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Did you go to any bad ones, or are there any things that put you off?

Luckily I didn’t waste any time with bad bakeries - I was extensive in my research prior to visiting. I did visit a few that didn’t inspire me, so didn’t make it into the final book. There are a lot of fad bakeries offering very sugary inventions that just don’t interest me.

Did any of them have particularly good back stories?

Quite a few of the bakeries came out of the pandemic - one of the silver linings of Covid was that it forced people to prioritise their passions, and gave ambitious creatives the space and time to realise them. Chatsworth Bakery is an example of this, donating bread and sandwiches to those in need during lockdown to now having a hugely successful little bakery which sells some of the best focaccia sandwiches in London.

Are they all contemporary businesses, or are there any oldies in the book?

The bakery boom definitely seems to have occurred predominantly in the last decade but there are definitely a few businesses that have been around longer. For example, Kossoffs is a reinvented family business that first opened in the 1920s and Pump Street Bakery opened in 2010.

What's your usual order?

A pain au chocolat. I truly believe a pastry or Viennoisserie should be consumed as breakfast, ideally before 10am. Pain au chocolats (should) be the perfect combination of savoury buttery dough and sweet chocolate, the ideal morning treat with coffee.

Are savoury options as important as sweet?

I don’t think they are as important but they definitely appeal to a British audience as the Brits are more inclined to have something salty than sweet for breakfast. When they are done well it’s difficult to resist a good savoury pastry - my favourites include cheese and marmite, or ‘nduja, fennel and honey.

Tell us how the Scottish bakeries made the shortlist

Scotland has such an exciting food scene at the moment, Aran and Bostock have been favourites of mine for a few years, Lannan and Kaf Coffee had been recommended by friends, and the others I discovered while visiting other bakeries for the book.

How did you co-ordinate taking all the photos too?

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About 85 per cent of the photos in the book are mine. I am equal parts writer and photographer so I felt quite strongly that I wanted to do both the words and images, although I was quite naive about how much of an undertaking it would be. Photographing the bakeries in the winter season when light is limited in Britain was a challenge, so occasionally I had to rely on other great photographers. But I travelled relentlessly for a few months to capture and experience as many of the bakeries as I could, and the bakers were lovely accommodating me in their (often small and busy) work spaces.

Britain’s Best Bakeries, written and photographed by Milly Kenny-Ryder, £22.95, Hoxton Mini Press, out May 2

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