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Scotland's Larder: Cristina Wood of Naked Sourdough Bakery & Café

We chat to Cristina Wood from The Naked Sourdough Bakery, Jedburgh about rising to the challenge of becoming a full time baker and making Scotland her home.

Published: May 18, 2022
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When Cristina Wood was 21, she boarded a plane to the UK from Romania with only £30 in her pocket.

She travelled to Manchester to work as an au pair, she said, "It was exciting and frightening. It has literally changed my life, it has been a real rollercoaster."

But Scotland is now her home having lived here for 15 years.

"I have memories and family that tie me to Romania but I'm very much Scottish through and through. I love Scotland, everything about it especially the people. They made me feel as if I was never a foreigner. They helped me integrate into the society very well and I will forever be grateful for that."

Cristina Wood of The Naked Sourdough Bakery
Cristina Wood of The Naked Sourdough Bakery & Café in Jedburgh. Photo: Lisa Ferguson

Coming to the UK

In Romania she studied Accountancy, but at that time it was popular for young Romanians to come to the West, as being an au pair was seen as one of the best jobs.

Initially she couldn't speak English but she learned along with one of the children she looked after.

She explains how innocent she was; "I had never been on a plane in my life, or seen an escalator everything seemed so big."

Cristina Wood of The Naked Sourdough Bakery
Cristina Wood of The Naked Sourdough Bakery & Café in Jedburgh. Photo: Lisa Ferguson

Although she lived in a city she has fond memories of spending time with her sister at her grandparents in a small village.

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She said, "Nana had a beautiful garden but her food was out of this world. We just climbed trees and measured puddles after the rain, we were bare footed all the time and it was just the best."

Her grandmother baked in an outside clay oven which she built herself. She baked things like bread, apple pies and pastries made with cottage cheese, flat doughnuts made from sweet dough fried in oil, she adds, "It was just amazing."

Caledonia

After being an au pair for a few years she moved to Edinburgh and then Glasgow where her sister was studying at Glasgow Caledonian University.

She explains, "I felt that I had been on my own up until my sister arrived and it made sense for me to move to Glasgow to help her."

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Cristina Wood of The Naked Sourdough Bakery
Cristina Wood of The Naked Sourdough Bakery & Café in Jedburgh. Photo: Lisa Ferguson

During her time in Glasgow she met her future husband who worked for Bond helicopters, so the couple decided to move to Aberdeen.

She began working in the oil and gas sector, progressing to become an account manager.

Scottish Borders

When their daughter Marie was born, they decided to relocate to the Borders to be closer to her husband's family.

Cristina enjoyed her high pressure oil industry job, because it involved a lot of international travel and she was allowed to work from home otherwise.

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Cristina Wood of The Naked Sourdough Bakery
Cristina Wood of The Naked Sourdough Bakery & Café in Jedburgh. Photo: Lisa Ferguson

But the pandemic changed everything, she recalls working long hours and juggling home schooling with everything flying off the supermarket shelves.

Getting started

So when her sister suggested that she make her own sourdough bread, Cristina was not convinced, "I was working stupid hours barely stopping and enjoying life, so thought I really do not have time for this."

However her sister Andreea in Germany was insistent and kept sending her pictures of amazing bakes, which she continued to ignore.

Her sister even posted some bread starter to Cristina, so to appease her she reluctantly gave it a go.

Cristina Wood of The Naked Sourdough Bakery
Cristina Wood of The Naked Sourdough Bakery & Café in Jedburgh. Photo: Lisa Ferguson

That starter failed to work so Cristina made her own version from scratch and soon it doubled in size. She said, "I thought now I'll just try and make bread."

Baking it look easy

The first loaf she had ever made in her life was a success; "I was absolutely blown away by it. The smell in the house when you bake your own bread at home was really quite satisfying."

Cristina's sister just laughed when she was informed about her sibling's baking success.

So she then started baking some loaves every week and experimenting with different flavours. like jalapeno and cheddar. "I just chucked in together and made beautiful bread."

Cristina Wood of The Naked Sourdough Bakery
Cristina Wood of The Naked Sourdough Bakery & Café in Jedburgh. Photo: Lisa Ferguson

And now she makes, amongst other combinations; brie and cranberry, black sesame with pistachio, charcoal and white sesame, caramelised onion with cheddar.

Covid restrictions then lifted and you were allowed to meet friends outdoors, so they invited friends over and Cristina made some of her tasty bread.

Her friends were amazed and posted a pictures on social media, and suddenly she was being inundated by requests, her hobby then evolved into baking at night in parallel to her full time job.

Cristina Wood of The Naked Sourdough Bakery
Cristina Wood of The Naked Sourdough Bakery & Café in Jedburgh. Photo: Lisa Ferguson

Hobby

Cristina never planned to be a baker full time it just grew arms and legs, when the local butcher shop Briggsy's, asked for a weekly supply.

As a self taught baker she has learned by experimenting, which means things haven't always gone smoothly.

Initially she used raw garlic in her sundried tomato garlic and mozzarella loaf but it's anti microbial qualities killed the starter so it didn't rise, so she quickly learned to cook the garlic first and to use block mozzarella.

Initially she would bake only two loaves at a time at home at night while trying not to disturb the rest of the household.

Cristina Wood of The Naked Sourdough Bakery
Cristina Wood of The Naked Sourdough Bakery & Café in Jedburgh. Photo: Lisa Ferguson

However orders snowballed at Christmas 2020, fortunately her parents were visiting her so were put to work helping.

She said "there were not enough hours in the day we baked no stop for 24 hours in my tiny kitchen. We had no mixer so everything was mixed by hand."

At one point she was so tired it took six attempts to count the loaves to see if she had enough.

Cristina realised she was getting more satisfaction from baking than from her day job; "I used to love my job but my heart wasn't in it anymore, baking made me really happy."

Opening the bakery

So then decided it was the right time to stop her full time job and open Naked Sourdough bakery in Jedburgh.

The priority was finding a property and she found one on Bridge Street

The bakery has a cafe, and a shop and upstairs is the production room, where she makes everything that they sell on the premises.

Cristina Wood of The Naked Sourdough Bakery
Cristina Wood of The Naked Sourdough Bakery & Café in Jedburgh. Photo: Lisa Ferguson

To begin with she only opened on Saturday, but word soon spread and there was a queue around the block.

"There have been moments in my life when I need to pinch myself because it doesn't feel real, and that was one of them. I feel overwhelmed and incredibly grateful that this is happening it is so surreal I cannot even put it into words."

Running a bakery is really hard work but she feels that it is definitely worth it, she said, "This is my little baby and the sense of joy at what I make is the best feeling in the world. I'm really passionate about baking and what I serve in the cafe, so I hope people will continue to enjoy what I create."

Her extended family are based all over Europe, and she said, "a lot of things I do at the moment as a baker are influenced by my family who live in so many different places."

Sweet success

From just baking bread she has expanded her range and now makes croissants and pastries, as well as running courses teaching how to make simple sourdough.

Cristina also uses a recipe for French croissants and pastries courtesy of Darcie Maher from the Palmerston with butter supplied by the Edinburgh butter company.

Cristina Wood of The Naked Sourdough Bakery
Cristina Wood of The Naked Sourdough Bakery & Café in Jedburgh. Photo: Lisa Ferguson

Now she even dreams about baking, "I'm always thinking about developing new products, and what could I do to make them more exciting. I just love what I do."

But where ever possible she tries to use locally sourced ingredients, fresh herbs and organic flour.

Family fortunes

Sadly her sister has not been able to come to see Cristina's bakery in person but the tables have been turned and Cristina is now the one sharing images of her bakes, although her sister is rightly very proud.

Locals have also been very supportive of her venture and have offered advice and help. and to meet the demand she hopes to grow and potentially open up another branch in the Scottish Borders.

She never dreamed of running a bakery, but has learned from her varied life, to embrace the unknown and go with the flow and make it work.

Cristina Wood of The Naked Sourdough Bakery
Cristina Wood of The Naked Sourdough Bakery & Café in Jedburgh. Photo: Lisa Ferguson

She said, "the hours are long I get up at 2am, but when I take my loaves out of the oven I'm very happy."

Starter for ten

So happy in fact she admits to speaking to her loaves, when I ask what do they say back? she laughs, "They don't say anything back right now but hopefully they will learn a few words."

When I ask about her bread starter, she jokes, "It is an absolute beast and it might start talking back to me before my loaves do."

Her starter is exactly like Cristina, always happy and bubbly.

Cristina Wood of The Naked Sourdough Bakery
Cristina Wood of The Naked Sourdough Bakery & Café in Jedburgh. Photo: Lisa Ferguson

Naked Sourdough Bakery & Café

2 Bridge St
Jedburgh
TD8 6DW

07447 482 013
www.facebook.com/nakedsourdough

Catriona is based in the Scottish Borders and works as part of the audiovisual team at the Scotsman but she reviews restaurants for Scotland on Sunday and writes for Scotsman Food and Drink in her spare time.

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