TV chef brothers, Tom and Henry Herbert, are back to share their knowledge of baking and butchery
They're known locally in their hometown of Chipping Sodbury, Bristol, for running the Hobbs House Bakery: Tom (left) runs the bakery and Henry (right) owns the butcher’s next door. However, non-Bristol residents will know the pair from the Channel 4 cooking programme, The Fabulous Baker Brothers, and their cookbooks.
These fifth generation bakers seem to have bread in their genes: they know good food. So, we caught up with them and gave them a grilling …
It's nearly barbecue weather. What are your top tips?
Henry: “Firstly, you need the right piece of equipment. I use a Weber grill because the 'lid-on' cooking method allows you to cook a range of great tasting food and they're really durable.
“Then use good charcoal or good fuel – either sustainable charcoal or briquettes – as this makes all the difference. Lastly, be creative. There are so many great things you can cook on a barbecue and you should be adventurous. Some of our favourite recipes include German pizza breads and cakes using the pizza stone.
“Good music and good company are really important. We always invite our friends, family and neighbours to come over. If you’re with the right people, you know it'll be a great barbecue.”
What music do you listen to while you’re cooking at home?
Henry: “Anything upbeat with a bit of rhythm. Genre wise, it can be anything from hip-hop, to country or rock. I think you want it to be jubilant, particularly when it comes to barbecuing.”
Tom: “It’s got to be upbeat for me, too. Some head-nodding, toe-tapping, knife-chopping kind of music!”
Henry, what led you away from baking and into butchery?
Henry: “I think a love for all things meat and the want for a better understanding were key. I want to help preserve a craft that is dying out, particularly on our high streets. That said, baking is in my blood so I’m still very much involved in that, too.”
Tom, what are your top tips for the perfect bread dough?
Tom: “You have to start with a foolproof recipe and then find a good breadmaking flour. Once you've found it, stick with it for increased consistency. Then it's important to knead it long enough to ensure it’s super stretchy – that way you can make pizzas, pittas, pretty much anything. Most importantly, bread is best when shared.”
What do you think are the biggest mistakes people make when it comes to baking?
Henry: “I would say the three classic mistakes are not leaving the dough long enough, over-proving it and not having your oven hot enough. They are all simple things but make a big difference.”
Tom: “Over-proved dough means that it will collapse in the oven and nobody wants that. As Henry said, not having the oven hot enough is another key error as it results in dull, heavy bread. Lastly, I would say under-seasoned bread is a big mistake as it leads to a boring result when it could have been full of flavour.”
What’s the best cooking tip you’ve ever been given?
Henry: “I think taste as you go along – that always helps. The ‘lid-on’ cooking style is a winner, allowing you to easily cook more than one course – like baking a dessert while you enjoy your grilled main. When I was taught this, it totally changed my barbecuing style.”
Tom: “Delegate! For example, if you’re having a barbecue and everyone brings a different component, it allows everyone to be involved. There is less stress, more fun and lots of good food.”
Does sibling rivalry ever rear its head?
Henry: “Obviously, yes, but mainly because we are vying for our mothers affection [laughs]. It’s always resolved relatively quickly though and it’s of a light-hearted nature.”
Tom: “Ha, yes there is but as Henry said, it is always light-hearted.”
Do you hope your children will take over the Hobbs House Bakery one day?
Tom: “For Henry, myself and our brothers, the important thing is to not screw it up for the sixth generation. If our children want to go into it later down the line then that's great, but there's no pressure for them to do so.”
The quick fire questions …
Tea or coffee?
What's always in your fridge?
Henry: “Beer, yogurt, some sort of veggies and bacon.”
Tom: “Milk and butter – they are key basics. Oh, and beer.”
Describe your kitchen at home
Henry: “Mine is light and open. We love having people over and I barbecue a lot so it provides a great space for this. I’d like to think it's welcoming and as it goes into the garden, it makes hosting inside and outside nice and easy.”
Tom: “Mine is open and great for having people over. Given the fact I have four children and a dog, it can be quite hectic.”
What childhood meal do you still crave?
Henry: “Probably my mum's roast brisket.”
Tom: “Marefield pie, which my grandad used to make. We still have it on special occasions. Also my gran's mac 'n' cheese and my mum's ‘chocolate what a mess’, which is this amazing gooey chocolate cake-thing.”
Favourite junk food?
Henry: “Chicken shawarma kebab.”
Tom: “It’s got to be deep fried chicken. Hattie B’s Hot Chicken in Nashville takes some beating.”
Most unusual thing you’ve eaten?
Henry: “Probably a century egg from Taiwan, that was quite bizarre.”
Tom: “Some strange tofu when we were filming in Taiwan last autumn. It’s hard to describe it but I doubt I will eat it again."
What restaurant dish would you ban?
Henry: “It'd have to be chicken terrine. If I had to ban any dish in general, it would be a tuna pasta bake – the whole concept is just not for me.”
Tom: “Over-cooked and microwaved lasagne without a doubt.”
What would your last supper be?
Henry: “I’d want to go out with a bang so it would have to be an 'all you can eat international buffet'.”
Tom: “Dippy eggs and soldiers form Hobbs House Bakery.”
What are you useless at cooking?
Henry: “Rice to have with my curries. I never bother cooking it. To get it just right you need a steamer, and I always resort to just cooking it in a pan. If I make a curry at home I would just make a chapati instead.”
Tom: “Anything that has a lot of steps and processes as the more there is to it, the more there is to go wrong.”
Favourite kitchen gadget?
Henry: “I love my Weber chimney starter. It removes all of the difficulty of lighting – even in bad weather – and ensures a nice even heat.”
Tom: “Mine would have to be my block knife and Hobbs House Bakery dough scraper.”
Who is your favourite chef?
What’s your most-read cookbook?
Henry: “To be honest, I don’t really use them. I just like to read them but my wife has been using A Modern Way to Eat by Anna Jones (hardcover, RRP £25, Fourth Estate) a lot recently. It’s a vegetarian book and when I’m cooking a veggie dish, it's good to have a bit of help as I’m always drawn to meat dishes."
Who would play you in a film?
Henry: “Probably someone like Hugh Jackman.”
Tom: “Brad Pitt. Or someone like Steve Coogan.”