Baking Power

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The Kearney sisters are making a living doing what they know best

Maura and Siobhan Kearney have been baking together since childhood and opened their first bakery together in 1992 at the ages of 20 and 22. Now, over 25 years later their products are famous in Limerick and beyond.

Here Maura talks to Woman’s Way about the courage that youth brings and what a 4am start at the bakery looks like – and don’t forget to check out their delicious autumn pudding recipe below!

 

My mother baked every day, it was second nature to us

That’s how we got started. We always had the luxury of fresh homemade bread every evening and our mother was great to make sponge cakes, they were her speciality. She even made eclairs when no one would have made eclairs at home.

I knew I wanted a career in food or catering or hotels

From the day I started the bakery and production management course in Dublin Institute of Technology I absolutely loved it and two years later Siobhán followed suit. I was 18 when I bought my first oven, we set up a unit at our parent’s house and we baked our products there. We used some of our mother’s recipes and we tried different recipes and products, but in saying that, we were keeping to traditional products as well.

In the late 19880s we began our market research

We both worked part-time in Lir Chocolates in Dublin while at college and during our summer and Christmas break we got into doing a bit of market research. Between 1987 and 1990 Ireland was changing; women were staying in work and going back to work after having their families and that the era of convenience food was starting. Not everyone was baking at home and we discovered that there was a huge demand for our product.

We decided to give going into business together a shot

We purpose built a unit in 1992, which actually looks like a house to keep in line with the home-baking. We were very lucky our father gave us a site to build on and to this day my parents have been a great support to us. By the late 1990s we had begun to outgrow our existing premises so we built on an extension in 1999 and we moved into that in 2000. Initially we started supplying within a very small radius of the bakery but now we supply stores within a 40-mile radius and we have five of our own vans on the road.

Our staff has grown with the business’ popularity

In 1992 it was just ourselves and maybe two or three more employees but we were growing constantly. For the first 10, 12, 15 years even, it was long days, long weeks, it was hard word. Anyone will know that with anything in the food business, you’re always busy. At the moment we have 22 employees and maybe about six seasonal workers to cover holidays and the summer time. We have a great team and I have lots of staff a long time and they’re fantastic.

We’re sisters first and business partners second

We’re very lucky that as sisters, we get on. A problem shared is a problem halved and even when you just talk about it, out in the open, sometimes you nearly have the answer. We were young when we started and we had energy, maybe that was a good thing because we can get more cautious as we get older. We’re very grateful to our parents as well that they allowed us to venture. I have kids myself now and so does Siobhán and my own eldest is about the age that I was when I had my first oven bought and when I look back I think, ‘God how did they [my parents] let me do it?’

Our day starts every morning at 4am  

We could have staff in at 4am and then we would have the first van leaving here at 6.30am and by 8am all the vans are all gone out with the fresh produce. Once four o’clock hits here it’s a hive of activity. It’s busy and it has to work like clockwork because the vans are waiting so every 10 minutes in the morning is vital.

Our fresh wholesome ingredients set our products apart

We don’t add any additives or preservatives or softeners or mould inhibitors, there’s nothing like that. To be able to stand over our products you have to start off initially with good ingredients and quality would be very, very important to us. We pride ourselves on using fresh, wholesome ingredients all the time. When a customer says, ‘It’s just like my mother used to make,’ that’s our aim and you really can’t get a better compliment than that.

For more information on the Kearney sisters and their products, visit www.Kearneyshomebaking.com

 

Make it: autumn pudding

 

 

Serves: 4 to 6 people

Time: 20 minutes plus cooling and overnight chilling

You will need

300g Bramley apples, peeled, cored and diced

300g blackberries

200g raspberries

2 tbsp caster sugar (30g)

8 slices medium sliced white bread, crusts removed (160g)

Method

  1. Cook the apples, blackberries and raspberries in a small saucepan with the sugar and four tablespoons of water, covered for five minutes until apple is just tender but the berries still hold their shape. Drain and reserve the juice, allow to cool slightly.
  2. Dip one slice of bread in the juice and place in the base of a 1.5 litre greased pudding bowl, sauce side down. Repeat with five slices and place around the bowl sides, overlapping slightly so there are no gaps. Fill the bowl with the fruit.
  3. Dip the remaining two slices of breads in the juice and place on top of the fruit, drizzle over any remaining juice. Fold over the edges of the bread around the side, cover with Clingfilm and place a small saucer on top. Weigh it down with a can and place in the fridge for at least four hours, ideally overnight.
  4. Turn out the pudding and serve with cream or ice cream.

Cook’s tip:

Try other berries such as raspberries, strawberries and blueberries and frozen mixed berries can also be used. You can also use wholemeal bread for a healthier alternative.