Baker Harold Byrne of Colemans in Corner Brook holds a tray of hard bread he made. — Photo by Gary Kean/The Western Star
CORNER BROOK —
Master baker Harold Byrne is hoping to wrestle the monopoly on hard bread away from Purity Factories Ltd.
Also known as hard tack, the integral ingredient in a traditional scoff of fish and brewis has become quite scarce on grocery stores in Newfoundland and Labrador since Purity workers were locked out in early September.
Byrne, a professional baker for 30 years who heads up the Colemans at the Gardens bakery in Corner Brook, said customer demand inspired him to try and make the biscuit himself.
The ingredients for the bread renowned for its long shelf life are simple: flour, water and salt.
It’s the actual making of hard tack from scratch that left Byrne scratching his head for a while. He now knows there’s a good reason why families in Newfoundland and Labrador who made their own fresh bread and buns usually bought their hard tack.
“I went online and tried probably five, six, or seven recipes with no success,” he said.
“I went to some Newfoundland cookbooks and found a recipe that was similar to what I was looking for. I tried that recipe 15 or 20 times, with different combinations of baking, mixing and came up with a product that resembles and tastes like traditional Newfoundland hard bread.”
“I went to some Newfoundland cookbooks and found a recipe that was similar to what I was looking for. I tried that recipe 15 or 20 times, with different combinations of baking, mixing and came up with a product that resembles and tastes like traditional Newfoundland hard bread.” Master baker Harold Byrne
The online recipes, he added, were for a product that did not look like the hard bread people in this province are used to seeing and which is what Byrne wanted to make.
He said there’s no chance he’ll give up the technique he finally found that worked.
“I’m not really interested in revealing that,” he said. “It took me quite a many hours to refine it, so.”
All he would say is that he may get a special piece of equipment so he doesn’t have to manually make the bread’s characteristic perforations.
Having kept a list of the customers who wanted hard bread, Byrne gave out some samples for them to try and give him feedback. Within the next week or so, his version of the popular food will be on the shelves at Colemans and he expects it to be a good seller.
“Purity put out a good product, but the opportunity arose and it’s a matter of trying to look after your customers,” said Byrne.
“If we can put a quality product out there, then so be it.”
The Western Star