Inside the Suffolk potting shed that's been transformed into a patisserie
- Credit: Sonya Duncan
Rachel Gardiner has always loved baking. She recalls whipping up Victoria sponges as a seven-year-old – something she says she can virtually do “with my eyes closed and one arm behind my back”.
With a career in the foreign office that saw her regularly jetting overseas for trips, or being posted in other climes, Rachel’s passion for cooking only grew.
“I spent a lot of time entertaining,” she says. “And some of that was out of necessity. I was living in Kuwait after the first invasion and there wasn’t a lot there, so I had to be resourceful. I was making my own past and my own gnocchi. But my true love is sweet things.
“When I lived in Europe I quite liked the idea they have there of popping out to buy nice pastries and tarts, particularly in France, for dessert. If you live on the continent and are going to someone’s house for lunch or dinner, guests will generally go to a patisserie, pick something up and take it with them. Or the host will buy in a dessert. And there’s no shame in that.”
Rachel’s been honing her skills for decades, and has been dreaming of opening her own little bakery since buying her home in East Bergholt 15 years ago. She even had an outbuilding at the bottom of the garden, ripe for renovating.
But it took a health scare for her to put her plans into action. Rachel was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2017, had surgery and treatment over the course of a year, and thought “it’s now or never” as she reached the point of remission.
“In late 2019 I was toying with the idea of taking over an actual bakery shop, which I decided was too much. And I thought about selling patisserie at Manningtree Station – something nice for commuters to pick up on their way home- but Covid-19 meant there were no commuters!”
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Work began to transform Rachel’s garden outbuilding into The Potting Shed Bakery in April 2020 – a process put back by the pandemic and building supply issues.
And she has now finally been able to put the finishing touches in place, with the ‘tartery’ up and running.
Everything is made from scratch using premium ingredients, including Fen Farm butter, Pump Street chocolate, Marriage’s flour and even fruit picked by Rachel herself, transformed into jams, preserves and curds.
Constants on the menu (tarts start at £22 and are 23cm, serving 8-10) include a basic chocolate tart finished with chocolate curls, a salted caramel chocolate tart garnished with caramelised nuts, and a lemon tart, topped with meringue and (in season) fresh fruits.
Rachel’s other classic bake is a frangipane tart, filled with homemade preserve and almond frangipane, and topped with toasted flaked almonds.
Then there are the seasonal specials.
“For December I have a tiramisu tart. It’s a pastry base with a layer of almond frangipane infused with espresso, topped with a chocolate espresso cream, mascarpone with double cream, and plenty of cocoa. I also have a cranberry and pistachio tart, which is a cranberry and orange and cinnamon compote, orange infused pistachio frangipane, and orange crème pat.”
Rachel is also happy to discuss bespoke tart fillings.
Orders need to be placed 72 hours before collection from the bakery, (from 10am to 3pm Thursday to Saturday), and can me made via email email@example.com
See the full menu and more of Rachel’s delights on social media @thepottingshedbakery
A taste of The Potting Shed Bakery
Group food and drink editor Charlotte Smith-Jarvis tried the pictured tart: "When Rachel handed me her creation she nervously exclaimed 'if you hate it, throw it away'. Well, there's fat chance of that. I've eaten lots of cakes and tarts in my time, including in patisseries all over Europe, and honestly think the new baking entrepreneur should be rightly proud of her new business. Using Fen Farm butter gives Rachel's pastry a crisp but slightly crumbly, buttery rich finish which can only be achieved when using high quality ingredients. At the bottom is a soft salted caramel infused with toasted nuts - from almonds and hazelnuts to pistachios. This snap of crunch is evened out by a silky smooth, and not overpowering, Pump Street ganache, before the whole thing is crowned with piped, whipped ganache made with Guittard Soleil D'Or milk chocolate. It is heavenly.