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Producer To Plate: Get Baked

written by Samuel Gebre 25th October 2016

We visit the new Bella Luna kitchen to get a peek into their bagel and English muffin processes and learn about the history of this delicious brand.

We visit the new Bella Luna Kitchen to get a peek into their famous bagels and English Muffins processes and learn about the history of this delicious brand.

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Bella Luna Kitchen, tucked away near Limuru off Naivasha road, is home to Kenya’s best bagels, English muffins and burger buns—well at least according to its charming owners Capucine Dayen and Richie Barrow. The bakery, now nearly a decade old, was started when Lenora Folly, an American woman living in Kenya, couldn’t find any bagels in Nairobi so she started baking her own.

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“The business started off targeting the expat market,” says Capucine, Director at Bella Luna Kitchen. “However, the local Kenyan market has really began to pick up over the years”.

In 2014, Richie Barrow and Capucine Dayen bought the business from the then Managing Director and owner, Sarah Jane Russell. “I had just moved back to Kenya and we were looking for business ideas,” says Richie Barrow.

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“I have always been passionate about food. I have been working in hospitality in some shape or form since I was 16 years old: from bars, restaurant kitchens and hotels,” says the half Kenyan, half Irish Richie. He originally trained at the famous Ballymaloe Cookery School in Ireland before pursuing a degree in hospitality in Dublin followed by years of experience with Starwood Hotels and Resorts.

“He is the hands-on guy,” Capucine adds, a former French journalist.

“The excitement of building the brand and taking it to the next level is what keeps us motivated,” Richie says “and we have come a long way from the company that we stepped into in Loresho”.

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Their business is two fold and they deal with restaurants and hotels around the city as well as Supermarkets and shops “One of our strengths has been our ability and will to work very closely with the restaurant’s wants and needs and coming up with unique requirements based on these needs” says Richie.

We try to be as natural and sustainable as possible and wherever possible use Kenyan ingredients first. We bake everything to order to reduce waste”. With over 30 products some of their specialties are in bagels, English muffins and burger buns give them a competitive advantage in the Nairobi niche high-end market. For that reason, Bella Luna keeps their recipes a close secret. “It is a technical process as well, because you have to take a lot of things into consideration including the weather and the milling process” states Capucine.

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On average, Bella Luna uses a ton of flour, 1200 eggs, nearly 40 liters of milk and 20kgs of butter every week in their small baking haven. After mixing the ingredients to make the dough for the bagels: the mix is divided into 120g size portions that are shaped by hand, explains Richie. They are then slowly proofed in a cold environment for a minimum of 10-12 hours, which allows for the yeast and dough to mix homogeneously. Once removed the portions are reshaped to undo any deflation that may have occurred.

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“The reshaped dough is then boiled in water and a selection of secret ingredients. The boiling process gives the bagels a nice crust on the outside and keeps it chewy in the middle,” Richie says. Just before putting them in the oven, the boiled bagels are then sprinkled with toppings ranging from sesame, cinnamon and raisin, poppy seeds and cumin depending on the specific variety.

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“The business has grown from originally employing five staff to now having a dedicated staff of 23 employees. We recently moved from Loresho,” Richie notes. “I am looking forward to having my own chickens for eggs here and putting up a few bee-hives,” he says referring to their new acre of land.

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“Both bagels and English muffins are a must-have for a real brunch,” Richie says. Anything you can make a sandwich with, you can make a bagel with. I think a bagel just takes it up a notch”.

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The English muffin is a slightly different process starting with a hard and dense dough. The mixture is then left to relax and bulk proof in a controlled temperature before being “knocked back” to remove all the air. After this it is then hand rolled, cut into rounds and left to proof or rise. “We all know English muffins are best for eggs Benedicts. They are lightly toasted on both sides by flipping them on a hot plate before putting them in the oven,” Richie says. Other baked products the Bella Luna Kitchen makes are bagel chips, crispbreads, cookies wraps, puff pastry and the list goes on.

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Bella Luna products are becoming a mainstay at the brunch table from restaurants around the city to homes. This looks like it’s just the beginning for the team who are looking forward to continuing to grow the brand. Keep an eye out for them on Facebook for recipes ideas and updates that will make your brunch a success!

The Yummy Editorial team would like to apologize for a misprint of the Bella Luna article in the “Let’s Brunch” edition of the Yummy Magazine. The above article reflects the corrections of the misrepresented facts.

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