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One bite into this snack and I knew Duston Village Bakery has The Joy

I have unfair expectations of many people – the sports teams I support, the politicians I don’t vote for, even Jesus – but perhaps the most unreasonably high expectations I have of anyone are for bakeries.

My expectations are so high I lie to myself about it. I kid myself that I am going into a bakery just because I am hungry when in fact that is the last reason anyone should go to a bakery. If you buy with your stomach in a bakery you will spend and eat way more than our puny human bodies and bank accounts can handle.

The real reason I go into bakeries (and I would argue most of us are the same) is for The Joy. I’m talking about everyday euphoria. Modest ecstacy. Ordinary wow. It’s the uplift of the spirit that comes from ranks of cakes, pies, slices and loaves bejewelled with toppings sweet and savoury and arranged like a gallery of desires for the common man.

We might coquettishly refer to this kind of offering as ‘one of life’s little luxuries’ but that’s not honest. I would be surprised, for instance, if there has been a single week of my life since I was 18 when I have not managed to get my chops round some fresh crusty bread of some sort. The Joy is not (or should not only) be a reward for living in a gentrified hipster hellscape. It should be a planning consideration on any new significant housing development along with all the other essential amenties. We need these places.

A good bakery is the kind of thing you unknowingly yearn for when you haven’t got one near you. And when you find one it hits you from all angles: the visuals, the aromas, the potential… sunny morning strolls to pick up some bread, technically a chore but no-one would deny you a coffee and pastry would they?

The point is, when you make your purchase, there is so much riding on the item you have in your pleasingly crumple-able paper bag it’s an almost impossible ask for any mortal baker to satisfy it. And yet somehow it happens.

This week it happened for me with a Chicken and Leek Pasty from Duston Village Bakery.

Chicken and Leak Pasty
Chicken and Leek Pasty from Duston Village Bakery

You’ve got a sense already of how animated I am about the bakery thing so I have decided to make it a little side quest of mine to seek out and expose the baking excellence that is around us in the Northampton area. The Good Loaf and Magee Street Bakery are the first thoughts but out there just beyond the suburbs in Main Road, Duston, is the gem that is Duston Village Bakery.

Dating back to 1925 it is located in a picturesque stone building on Main Road, Duston, easily distinguishable as the only property with a large Hovis sign on the front it. There is a cafe and a bakery and its displays are crammed with goodies. The bread now comes in from Weetabix Food and Drink Award winning Whittlebury Bakery (silver medal for white sourdough) but the pies, cakes and pastries are crafted in Duston.

The Duston Pasty is the local version of the Cornish classic (you can’t call it a Cornish Pasty, I don’t care why) and they are, by anyone’s standards, large but between them and the Steak Slices was the Chicken and Leek. In a world where pastry enclosed chicken never seems to come without mushrooms in a suspicious looking gelatinous goo it caught my eye straight away. I thought of the famed Pork and Leek pies of Earls Barton which have become their own kind of subculture. Could this be Duston’s answer to that cult pastry dish? I was in.

With a takeaway coffee in one hand and the warmed up Chicken and Leek in the other I headed out to the nearby public bench by the railings where I had locked my bike. Flaky pastry that’s been through a microwave loses its structural integrity and by rights I should have been in trouble. But with a bit of careful handling the excellently constructed pasty held its form perfectly. It didn’t flop over my fingers and drool hot filling, nor did it drop onto my clothing the moment I looked in the other direction. And the filling was so much better than I was expecting, so much fuller, so much tastier. There were ribbons of leek, with their oniony kick intertwined with chicken flesh you actually have to bite, rather than the spongey mass produced commercial pie nonsense that is meat in legal terms only.

I don’t know if it is the best thing they do although if I’m honest, it looks like their cabinets are packed with favourites. Their own website describes their bacon rolls as ‘infamous’ which goes some way to revealing our complicated relationship with culinary pleasure in this country, where it is meaningful to describe something in terms of the food guilt you will get from an item rather than The Joy it brings. That’s what I’m having next time.

Duston Village Bakery will bake cakes to order and also offers Sugarcraft courses. The link to their website is above. Feel free to leave your thoughts and suggestions about bakeries that are worth a try.

I'm the editor and owner of The NeneQuirer.

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