Nicola (Nikky) Burdekin was presented with an opportunity in 2017 that was too good to pass up on. If she had, her career (and life in general) would look very different.
It all started when the 55-year-old got into a conversation with Gordon Gallacher, the former owner of Strathpeffer Artisan Bread, at a Black Isle Community Market as he was planning on selling the business.
Gordon asked Nikky, who is an engineer by degree, if she would be interested in spending a day baking with him to learn more about the art of breadmaking.
She accepted, and the pair went on to take the bread to a local food group to gauge interest.
Seven years on, Nikky says she has “never looked back”.
Nikky talks rising to the occasion and building business in ‘daughters’ disused playroom’
The mum-of-two, who lives in Jamestown, added: “It was an opportunity that arose, and I couldn’t get the idea out of my mind.
“I loved making bread but only had a little experience, latterly making spelt bread for my daughter who had been diagnosed with food intolerances.
“I was taken by the idea of making ‘real bread’ with organic ingredients that provided excellent nutrition, in contrast to supermarket offerings with an endless ingredients list.”
She officially bought Strathpeffer Artisan Bread in November 2017.
Nikky went on to say: “I moved the equipment into my daughters’ disused playroom and the learning began.
“I started selling bread initially at the Dingwall Academy Food Assembly and now I have a regular customer base and attend local markets and craft fairs.”
Strathpeffer Artisan Bread: a family affair
But it’s not just Nikky who gets her hands on the dough in this business.
She’s also enlished the help of her daughters and husband, who join her and assist with the breadmaking process on occasion.
They also designed the business’ logo, plan bakes and production, and support her “every step of the way”.
“They listen, advise and use their own unique skills to advance the business,” she added.
Strathpeffer Artisan Bread specialises in long fermentation. The process takes around 48 hours for sourdough and up to 18 hours for yeasted breads.
Nikky buys her ingredients (all of which are organic) – ranging from flour and vegetables to seeds, nuts and oil – direct from flour mills or producers.
Knockfarrel Produce in Dingwall is just one example of the local companies she sources her vital ingredients from.
“Their beetroot is the best,” says the entrepreneur.
Hold on, beetroot in bread? Nikki is clearly a world away from making bog-standard plain white loaves…
“I used it in my beetroot and rye bread that achieved a Silver Award at the 2023 Scottish Bread Championships, I can never make enough!
“I prefer to source and sell locally so [I’m] delighted to use UK-based mills, especially Scotland the Bread which is growing grain suited to the Scottish climate in Fife and milling it into flour too.”
Let’s talk more about the products – which also include granola, crackers and stollen
Beetroot and rye bread isn’t the only Strathpeffer Artisan Bread product that has gone down well with the public.
Its pain de campagne – a boule-shaped French country loaf – has also proved popular.
But which one of her many bready creations has proven its worth the most in Nikki’s mind?
“My personal favourite is the Vermont-seeded sourdough with the golden linseeds (that have been soaked overnight), toasted sunflower and sesame seeds and a touch of whole rye flour,” Nikky said.
“It has great texture and flavour and was created by Gordon on a trip to Vermont.
“This is closely followed by my Strathpeffer sour. This is a rye-based starter with a really nutritious, tasty mix of sunflower and linseeds with malted grains and wheat flour.
“It’s a dark, traditional loaf with plenty of flavour and is extremely satisfying.”
Other options include a sourdough sandwich loaf, spelt and maple sourdough, borodinsky sourdough rye bread, and more.
The business also sells granola, crackers and during the festive period, they even make stollen a type of German Christmas bread filled with festive flavours.
‘I may look like a lady in an apron but I am a food activist’
Since taking over the company, Nikky has adored talking about bread to the masses.
She passionately believes that by changing up their loaves to better options for their bodies, the public can even change their lives.
“For someone who would not normally look to speak in public, I love to hear other peoples’ views and opinions on bread,” she went on to say.
“I may look like a lady in an apron but I am a food activist! What we eat is so important and linked closely to our health and wellbeing. Make sure you are eating ‘real bread’.”
Looking to the future, the business owner is planning an event for Real Bread Week with Strathpeffer Station Trading – a newly opened community shop at the Old Station – on Saturday, February 24.
To purchase Strathpeffer Artisan Bread products, you can sign up to Nikky’s bake email – firstname.lastname@example.org – or visit the business at local markets and crafts fairs.
The granola is stocked at Black Isle Dairy, as well.
Nikky added: “I am an engineer by degree, and it is the science involved in breadmaking coupled with the artistic licence that I love.”