Motoko McNulty is the founder of the London-based Happy Sky Bakery, a West London institution specialising in handmade, additive-free Japanese bread.
Hailing from Yokohama, Motoko's journey to London and becoming a baker came about after meeting her British husband. She describes getting married and moving to the UK as a bolt out of the blue. Her career spanning fashion and advertising was left in Asia and an alternative job that would allow for her lack of English needed to be found.
As Motoko describes it, "What followed was a hard time with a lot of digging deep to find what I could do in the UK, and that's when baking bread came to mind.
My mother, a housewife, made homemade sweets and bread daily and prepared meals using vegetables she had grown without pesticides.
We never bought store-bought bread because of its additives, and I helped by kneading the dough by hand every day, this was before home bread machines were available on the market, so it was a very serious business. I started baking bread by hand with her even before I started kindergarten.
Before I came to the UK, I thought there would be more bakeries in western towns, and I was surprised to see barely any. People were chomping on crusty bread or cold sandwiches from the supermarket.
This was the only way to go; I would become a baker who bakes fluffy Japanese bread. I thought it was a great idea; a bakery would allow me to raise children at the same time. So, seventeen years ago, I started selling and delivering bread, and in my tenth year, I opened a shop which continues to this day."
The bread is baked in-store daily and has a menu boasting 50 different types, including sweet bread like the red bean buns called Anpan, melon bread, and their award-winning Tokyo Milk Loaf.
With a business motto of 'safe and secure bread that can be used for baby food,' their bakes are supplied to local Japanese kindergartens for lunch, hotels, cafés and restaurants across London.
94 Askew Rd, London, UK W12 9BL
Here Motoko shares a festive recipe for the Happy Sky's Christmas Matcha Stollen, a Christmas stalwart, updated with Japanese flavours and a rich history going back 700 years.
400g strong flour
1 egg yolk
60ml warm water
40ml warm whole milk
60g matcha (Japanese green tea powder)
300g raisins (pre-soak in red wine, we soak ours in a Cabernet Sauvignon for one year, but for this recipe overnight is fine).
100g whole almonds
Melted butter for brushing 50g
50g Icing sugar for decorating
Oven roast the almonds at 180C/160C fan/gas 4 for approximately 15 minutes, set aside.
Make the yeast solution by sprinkling the yeast into warm water and mix well with a fork until dissolved, set aside.
Put the butter (90g), sugar and salt in a bowl and pour in the warm milk then stir to blend all together. Add the eggs and beat well with a whisk.
Sift in one third of the flour at a time, mixing before adding the next third, add the matcha powder, then whisk until smooth and lump-free.
Add the yeast solution and knead the dough with a spatula until the flour is no longer visible and the dough comes together.
Start kneading the mixture by hand in the bowl. At first the dough will be sticky on your hands, continue kneading and the dough will eventually come cleanly away from the bowl.
Add the raisins, almonds and cranberries and knead into the dough.
Turn the bread dough out onto a table. Continue to knead and work the dough with both hands as if squeezing a rag. Continue this process until the ingredients are uniform throughout and it comes together in one piece.
Place in a plastic bag, seal and leave to ferment slowly overnight in the refrigerator.
Divide the dough into two equal parts, roll out into a 25 x 30 cm oval, fold each oval in two and press down firmly. Place the two Stollens on a baking sheet for their final fermentation and cover with a wet tea towel.
When the dough has doubled in size bake in a preheated oven at 180°C for 25 minutes, rotate the baking sheet 180° during baking and bake for a further 10 minutes.
Remove from the oven and place onto a grid and, while it’s still hot, brush evenly with melted butter until its absorbed into the stollen.
Finally, before it cools down dust generously all over with plenty of powdered sugar for a white finish.