I HOLD in my hands a small wonder, a loaf of freshly baked bread. Its extraordinary flavour, its moist crumb, and chewy crust, has dragged me from my warm bed and out of the house ridiculously early on a freezing Saturday morning to buy it. So here I am, just one person in a queue where, socially distanced and respectful, we wait, bank card at the ready, outside the old Porsche garage at Edinburgh’s Haymarket.

No-one has to have a fancy, high performance car, but we all need bread, so we rejoice that this building has been repurposed as an artisan bakery. Who would have thought that the simple act of buying a loaf would be the highlight of the week?

Yet it most certainly is.

Edinburgh’s Company Bakery has always been a small miracle. We owe the recipe and the unique sourdough starter that makes it to chef Ben Reade and his partner Sashana Souza Zanella, who set up the bakery at arm’s length from their Edinburgh Food Studio.

The latter became not only one of Scotland’s hottest restaurants, but also, and arguably more important, a citizen’s research centre into real food and the diverse cultural knowledge that sustains it. The studio marked a high point in the development of a bottom-up, progressive food movement in Scotland, but without the post-Covid lockdown financial confidence to take on a new lease, Reade and Zanella had to close it.

Back in March, the bakery’s future also looked rocky. Half of its trade disappeared overnight when the restaurants closed. It felt, as Reade puts it, as if “everything you’ve spent years building is ripped out from beneath you”.

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But with determination the bakery has quickly redefined itself, demonstrating a spirit of resilience and optimism that defies the challenges.

The transformation of the bakery, then based at the Biscuit Factory in Leith, began with the launch of a new home delivery service. “Dropping off the bread during lockdown was a very human moment. People would wave to us, say heartfelt thanks. We were bringing something so fundamental to them. Bread is such a foundational thing. Everything suddenly looked up”

Then the Company Bakery started donating bread to Empty Kitchens, Full Hearts, a volunteer movement responding to the Covid-19 crisis that converts food donations into meal 'day packs' that it delivers free of charge across Edinburgh.

In the current circumstances, the decision to move the bakery to huge new premises was a bold one, but then the Company Bakery is a tenacious, gutsy crew, and positively heroic in its tenacity. The team – 13 full-timers, including seven full-time and one half-time baker – has kept going throughout the last year without furlough, baking its signature bread and delivering it to small outlets throughout the capital.

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“Having lost our routes to market overnight, it took us until September to get back up to pre-Covid levels, but it’s increased ever since” says Reade. “No-one has had a break, but they’re still sticking with it.”

Morale is high at the bakery. Being part of the production and supply of a well-made staple food, one that is so valued, now that’s a job that you can feel good about having.

Last Saturday, at its chilly 9am tabletop bread sale, the bakery sold out – 83 loaves in 45 minutes – an indicator of the public appetite for its product.

What, you might wonder, is its secret? Taste it blind, and I think you’ll agree that it has an X factor. The flour is part of it: 80% of it comes from heritage wheats grown in East Lothian and Fife. A judicious proportion of the grain is freshly stone-milled at the bakery, an extra effort that must surely be a key factor in building this bread’s astonishing flavour and aroma. But then such a unique loaf is the accumulation of multiple layers of effort, patience, and knowledge that no industrial process can ever replicate.

“I feel blessed to have made the decision to get involved with the bakery” says Reade. In my book, it is we customers who are blessed to have it.

The Company Bakery’s pop-up bread stall is held every Saturday morning at 9am in the yard outside the bakery at 5 Devon Place, Edinburgh