The Fresh Loaf

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Today was a big day ... um ... no, it was so much bigger than that ... um ... i'm not even sure if I can put into words the anticipation I have felt for today.

... and all for a tiny little fire that we allowed to burn for only an hour or so.

The black granite stone has been installed at the mouth of the oven and Dennis has constructed a wonderful door from recycled timber (and a bit of high tech ceramic wool and steel)

For the rest of the week we will light small fires everyday and push them around the interior of the oven to further dry the masonry ... then the real fires will begin ...

... then will come bread ...

myself with Dennis the oven builder 

myself with Daryl (the great chef I work with)


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It has been wonderful seeing some of the great bakes on here at the moment ... wish I had more time to comment ... any how ...

... Shameless promotion time ...

The restaurant I bake for had a review in the Weekend Australian Newspaper ... thought I would share ...


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Waiting ...

Our oven builders have all packed up and left ... and now the oven sits still and quiet except for the faint hum of small fan heater running day and night within its walls ...

... after Easter we hope to have the chimney connected and the granite stone laid at the mouth of the oven ...

... until then I continue to experiment with my sourdough and practice patience ...


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I am completely amazed every time I look up from my bench and to the left and see the oven. I talk to it as I walk past it in the early morning. I feel like I know it already as I have seen it formed from the ground up. We will make great bread together ... will just take time to get to know each other.

Enzymatic Preferment

Most of my efforts have been in the kitchen this week. Extending an autolyse for flavour via increased amino acid build up is something that ars pistorica talks about on his blog ... and it is something he suggested I try.

Ars explains this process with knowledge (much more than me ... that's for sure) and vigour on his blog ... so let me just say it that it baked into some of the most delicious sourdough I have had made in a long time ...

65% Hydration
T80 sifted fresh milled wheat
10% inoculation
aerated 4 times

Final Dough
Autolyse 12 hours 
75% Hydration
Inoculation 18%
Fresh milled wheat 10%
Bulk 4hrs at 25C (1 stretch-and-fold + 1 really, really gentle fold within first hour)
Final proof was  30 mins at room temp and 5hrs in cool room
Baked in very ordinary ovens :) 

YUM! ...


p.s. whew ... my work is finished for the week ... but have to share a pic of the sourdough from this mornings bake ... Shame that I didn't get to taste one ... they all disappeared up to the restaurant before I had the chance :(

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Firstly, thanks to all the comments on my previous posting ... I am sorry I haven't had time to reply and say how much I appreciate the support. Secondly the oven build is going amazingly well. The photos really tell the story ... thank you Dennis, Allan, June and Justin - our hardworking ovenbuilders.

For, me ... I am still spending much of my time wrestling with ovens and experimenting with schedules, ingredients and techniques. Still quite a way to go ...

Thank you to all who have helped me and continue to help and to push me further ...

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Well, I have strung everybody along for long enough ...

It seems my plans are coming to fruition so it's time to share what I have been up too ...

Last year my graphic design position of eight years was made redundant and I found myself unemployed with the uneasy prospect of contemplating my future career. It was one of the hardest, most drawn out and stressful years I have known, but through this change I grew stronger and found an energy lost long ago working in an unchallenging desk job.

I have known in my heart for some time that bread was going to play a part in my future and to cut a long story fairly short after a few months of putting myself and my blog out into the market I have landed on my feet baking for one of Brisbane trendiest restaurants/pubs ...

… and I will soon be baking woodfired sourdoughs in one of their sister ventures …

So how did this come to be? 

Contacts … it seems so much in this this life is interconnected … more than we actually realise sometimes. 

I have blogged previously about my woodfired baking experiences with Laurie Stiller at Chalala Micro-Bakery in a oven that Alan Scott had built. Helping with that build was a bloke named Dennis Benson. Dennis is a bricklayer and was an old friend of Alans who has built many ovens all across Australia. Early last year I contacted Dennis who lives close to Brisbane about the price of building an oven (at the time not knowing he had helped build Lauries oven). Although that oven was never built, Dennis mentioned that he was building another oven for restaurant in town in which they would be roasting whole pigs. I went along to see the build and met the owner briefly. It was about six months after this time that I lost my graphic design job.

When I was finally unemployed I looked into setting up a micro-bakery and subletting space, but the costs and regulations seemed prohibitive in an already uncertain time for me. I emailed the owner of the restaurant to see if I could sublet the woodfired oven when it was not in use … and after some months a reply came through that it probably wasn't possible but they had leased another location and were building another Alan Scott oven if I was interested in baking for them …. um … guess how long it took for me to answer that question!

So here I am … the new oven is halfway through being built. Everyday is an exciting challenge for me in the kitchen and I am working harder and longer than I ever remember ... and loving every single second of it.

Today, on my day off, I spent the morning hemming edges of the new couche that has arrived from France, then popped in and spent some time with Dennis and helped pour some vermiculite around the edges of the concrete hearth, then spent time learning the ins-and-outs of the coffee machine and I am about to sit down and review a couple of bread formulas that need some tweaking for tomorrows bake.

The ovens I am currently using are not bread ovens and are less than ideal … but I am making do … and each day the woodfired oven is closer to completion.

Stay Tuned :)


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I hope to have news to share with everybody soon ...

I am busy ...

I am going going to get busier ...

I am being challenged ...

I am finally earning a wage ...

Stay tuned ...


p.s. These breads are 80% hydration, 15% Wholegrain, hand mixed, using Kialla organic plain flour and fresh milled Four Leaf Milling Biodynamic Wheat and Spelt ...

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"Life must change from time-to-time, if we are to go forward in our thinking."

Stay tuned ...


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Weekend dawn has surrendered to lazy rain and on our kitchen counter French toast soaks as the remainder of the house sleeps. 

A week ago we spent some time near the beach well away from the routine of our city life. Time spent on beaches and flying kites in the salted seabreeze rejuvenates the soul. During sunset walks we stepped over washed up jellyfish whilst gazing at distant whales breaching on the horizon. But most important of all we relaxed.

Back in Brisbane, I have landed some temp work with a design agency which is keeping my days full and my brain busy. It is nice to be challenged and I think the work will reward both my confidence and skills–which is exactly what I need right now.

Ever since I started baking I have always breadcrumbed my leftover bread, and the tempo of its use in our cooking matches the rate at which we collect stale bread–a perfect equilibrium! When grabbing a few slices of desem bread from the freezer for breakfast I noticed that my collection of stale bread ends had snowballed and contained all sorts of treasures like Tartine's Sesame Bread, Danish Rye, Desem, Miche and some Pain au Levain's with bold baked crusts.

These combined flavours in the breadcrumbs adds an exciting strength of flavour to the ready-made flavours available in caramel crusts. A caraway and cumin loaf is an exquisite addition if available! 

I have found the best time to approach making breadcrumbs is at the close of a weekend bread bake. After switching off the oven, the collection of stale bread is defrosted, cut into small cubes, spread on a baking tray and left on the cooling baking stone for the night. The following morning I check the brittleness of the bread cubes–there should be no softness at all–then in batches reduce them to fine crumbs in a food processor. Ear plugs are a luxury for this!


The flour milled with my Komo mill is used for more than just bread. I have been trialling shortcrust pastries made with freshly milled wheat sifted down to a dark high extraction flour with delicious results. This recipe is one of our favourite meals and has been made all the better by replacing the standard frozen shortcrust pastry the original recipe calls for. I have never seen children so eager to eat pumpkin as they are when presented with a slice of this pie.


Pumpkin and Feta Pie
Serves 6

200g high extraction four chilled (preferably freshly milled)
100g unsalted butter, chilled and cut into cubes
pinch of sea salt
2-3 tablespoons chilled water

Half a butternut pumpkin (squash) peeled and cut into 2cm (3/4 inch) cubes
4 garlic cloves unpeeled
4 tablespoons of olive oil
2 red onions halved and sliced
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon brown sugar
100g (3 1/2oz) crumbled feta cheese
1 tablespoon chopped rosemary 

  1. Put the flour, butter and pinch of salt in a food processor and process for 1 minute. Add the chilled water and process until the mixture comes together. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for a minimum of 2 hours.
  2. Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F). Spread the pumpkin and garlic on a baking tray and drizzle with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and bake for 30 minutes or until tender. Transfer the pumpkin to a large bowl and the garlic to a plate. Leave to cool.
  3. Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a pan. Add the onion and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes stirring occasionally. Add the sugar and vinegar and cook for a further 15 minutes or until the onion is a dark golden colour. Add to the pumpkin and allow to cool completely.
  4. Add the feta and rosemary to the pumpkin mix and squeeze the garlic out the skins into the mixture. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Roll out the pastry to a 35cm (14 inch) circle and place on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Arrange the pumpkin mixture over the top leaving a 4cm (1 1/2 inch) border. Fold over the pastry edges, pleating as you fold.
  6. Bake for 30 minutes or until pastry is crisp and golden.


The rain appears to have really set in and the garden is just soaking it up. So while we are housebound for the time being it seems there is no excuse for not getting stuck into some neglected housework ... before I get into trouble ... eeek!

Happy baking (and milling) everybody.


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I am awake far earlier than I would like to be. As I start to write this it is still dark outside and the cool air carries the feint song of only the earliest of the early birds. I too am an early bird. Yesterday was my final day at work so I am still a mix of emotions. Feelings of relief, apprehension, sadness, excitement and plain old scared stiff flood over me with little notice and catch me completely unaware … but enough about this … from change comes opportunity. Everything will work out!

To take some time to recuperate Nat and I are about to enjoy a small break from the rat race and plan to spend it lazing by a pool and walking on beaches at sunset. It has been so long since we have had any kind of real holiday it may take us a day or two to remember how to relax.

Before we head away I like to make sure we have a few loaves stocked in the freezer to make the transition from holiday bliss back to reality a little easier—something wholesome to return home to. The whole-wheat 'desem' (100% whole-wheat sourdough) I baked this week was inspired from a few different sources and incorporates some new processes for me. 

Janet Cook and I often discuss our desem starter maintenance and one of the techniques that Janet uses with her whole-grain baking is retarding the dough during bulk fermentation. Now I have always been a bit of a 'retarding shaped loaves' kind of guy as I am normally a bit of a control freak during a dough's bulk ferment period, so it was going to be a big step for me to change this habit.

The push to try this new method came with some email correspondence I had with Dave Miller of Miller's Bakehouse regarding the schedule he uses with his whole-grain baking. Dave bakes with freshly milled flour and uses it when 'it's wriggling with life' so I was curious how he incorporated this into his schedule. The answer is by utilising a long cold bulk ferment. This way Dave can split the bake over two days. The first day is spent milling and mixing and the second is shaping and baking. A highly hydrated dough that is kept cool also makes shaping easier and the final proofing is less likely to run away from him on warmer days.

So I formulated my timelines and set about tempering some biodynamic wheat grains from Four Leaf Milling. Just a word of warning to those who want to temper their wheat in a plastic tub by shaking around the added water. HOLD THE LID ON TIGHT! … dear oh dear, I am still finding wheat grains in corners of our kitchen from a little tempering accident that may have occurred.

I milled the flour in one pass with a slightly coarser setting than I normally use, all the while stirring the new flour to cool it as quickly as possible. I then set about mixing. Since I was going to use a long cold bulk ferment I couldn't see any benefit using a extended autolyse so I kept that within an hour before I added the desem starter and mixed the dough thoroughly. I allowed the dough an hour on the bench before giving it a stretch-and-fold and placing it in the fridge overnight for 12 hours.

One part of this I have neglected to mention so far is the starter builds. I am using the same time and temperatures for the starter builds as in my previous miche bake. Namely two very short warm builds—the starter was doubling in three hours.

Two day whole-wheat desem (4 x 1000g)





Total dough weight



Total flour



Total water



Total salt



Prefermented flour






Final desem starter build – 3 hrs 25-26°C






Freshly milled organic wheat flour









Final dough - 25°C



Desem starter



Freshly milled organic wheat flour











  1. Mix final desem starter and leave to ferment for 3 hours at 26°C
  2. Mill flour and allow to cool to room temperature before mixing with water (hold back 100 grams of water) and autolyse for a one hour.
  3. Add starter to autolyse then knead (French fold) 5 mins. Return the dough to a bowl and add salt and remaining 100 grams of water and squeeze through bread to incorporate (dough will separate then come back together smoothly) then knead a further 10 mins.
  4. Bulk ferment for one hour at room temperature. Stretch-and-fold after one hour and place in a fridge at 4°C for 12 hours.
  5. Remove from fridge and allow an hour at room temperature.
  6. Divide. Preshape. Bench rest 30 mins. Shape.
  7. Final proof was for 1.5 hours at 24°C
  8. Bake in a preheated oven at 250°C for 10 mins with steam then reduce temperature to 200°C and bake for a further 30 mins. 



I won't lie to you, I was a little apprehensive about what state I would find the dough in the following morning. But during the night the dough had developed nicely and had not skinned or over-proofed. The dough then spent some time on the kitchen bench while we enjoyed our breakfast. Shaping the cool dough was effortless and it wasn't to long before it was ready for baking.

The first thing I was surprised about was the sweetness to this bread. I had imagined that after an extended fermentation albeit at cool temperatures, that the bread would have had more unwanted tang than was present. This was a revelation to me. The second thing I noticed was the warm caramel flavours in the crust. The bread was packed with deep full flavours. The coarse flour inhibited the crumb a little but it was not gummy or heavy. Perfect for morning toast or a bed for scrambled eggs.

Fresh flour hybrid sandwich loaf = Fail

I have spent some time reading Owen Simmons 'Book of bread' and have enjoyed learning about the intricacies of the English and Scottish bread traditions. So much so that I have been experimenting with the idea of a hybrid sandwich loaf. I have a picture in my mind of a soft yeasted high top bread with the added complexity of some sourdough.  After some tasty success using white flour I tried a version using freshly milled flour sifted down to a creamy soft colour … and made some of the yuckiest, awful bread I have made in a long, long time :)

I didn't like the flavour, the texture, the crumb or the aroma. I am still trying to piece together how a yeasted straight dough with a small amount of added sourdough using a short process created such a foul beast of a loaf. The final loaf looks great, and the dough felt really nice but when it came time to slice I could tell the rubbery crumb was not going to be pleasant eating. Sour, chewy and rubbery. A completely different bread to a version I made earlier in the week using white flour. Perhaps I am just to accustomed to eating highly flavoured french style hearth breads using high extraction flours and was disappointed with this. I am still unsure, but at least it will be good enough for toast.


Anyhow, I have bags to fill, chores to finish and a car to pack. I'll see you all in a few days!



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