Sourdough Bread – Companion Bakery.
Some time ago, Brunyfire bought some spelt organic flour at a common ground…….. ……..a little shop under the stairs in Hobart’s Salamanca Arts Centre, that showcases some of the versatile food produce of Tasmania.
The shop was started by Matthew Evans and Nick Haddow, who, along with Ross O’Meara are of Gourmet Farmer fame. Between them, they produce cheese and pork products as well as stocking the produce which they think defines Tasmania… incredible olive oil, seasonal preserves, windmill-ground flour, sustainably raised salmon, artisan chocolates, single malt whiskey, barrel-aged cider vinegar, rare-breed lamb. The range changes constantly with the seasons.Brunyfire purchased a bag of their windmill ground, organic spelt flour, and made a basic pizza dough for the woodfired oven at our Bruny shack. Spelt is an ancient grain that is the root of our hybrid wheats. It is high in gluten and has a somewhat nuttier and slightly sweeter flavor than whole wheat flour and contains protein, iron, fiber, potassium, zinc and B vitamins.The dough was rolled out to create thin based pizzas……..…….and topped with a variety of cheese, tomatoes, red onions, olives……..……and despite the flour’s slightly coarse texture (due to the bran present in the wholemeal) it produced several tasty pizzas from the wood oven.So when the opportunity arose to use this unique product again in the form of a sourdough bread, Brunyfire and a Sydney mate jumped at the chance to do a sourdough workshop at the Companion Bakery in Oatlands. Oatlands is a quaint Georgian heritage village that has the largest collection of sandstone buildings in Australia……………. including the Callington Mill – a fully restored, working wind powered mill.Originally built in 1832 the Callington Mill was producing 5-7 tons of flour a day by 1850 with the introduction of a steam mill. By 1862 the property comprised a two storey flour mill driven by steam and wind, a two roomed cottage for the miller with a large store, a three stall stable, a house, a baker’s shop and two cottages fronting the main street with stable and coach house.
The mill continued to operate until 1892 until a storm blew the sails away in 1909 and in 1912 it was gutted by fire.
The mill is the only one of its kind in the Southern hemisphere, and was restored into a fully working flour mill by late 2010, producing organic flour and specialising in ancient grains such as Rye, Spelt and Quinoa.Companion Bakery is situated opposite the mill, and the resident baker, Graham Pritchard, uses the freshly ground flour in the bread that is baked on a daily basis.The three of us that made up the sour dough baking class were introduced to the secret of any good sourdough bread – the ‘starter’……… ……that magical beery, yeasty substance that is the basis of all good sourdough bread. Graham introduced us to his starter and explained the natural, but exacting science of how wild yeast and bacteria ferments (without the addition of commercial yeast) to create a natural prover in a good sourdough bread. (check out Sourdough Companion). Time and temperature are also important factors in obtaining a good bread dough, as is the very physical nature of combining it altogether in the kneading process.
Making bread in this traditional manner was of particular interest, especially when it also involved using the elegant willow Banneton proofing baskets (an important function of these being their capability to ‘wick’ moisture from the crust as well as to maintain the shape)…….
……..and baking the final product in an Alan Scott wood fired oven.
A round banneton is called a boule, and a couche is typically used for the longer loaves such as baguettes – in this instance, it is the latter that Graham has turned out onto the wooden peel, and illustrated the use of the wicked looking lame to score the bread’s surface before placing it in the oven.Part of the ingenuity of the Alan Scott oven is not only in its capacity to store heat in the mass of its brickwork – the oven temperature was a steady 235 when we started making bread at about 10am, only dropping about 10-15 degrees by the end of the day – but also included an ingenious automatic door flap. Alan Scott was an Australian who spent most of his life in the United States, who introduced the traditional art of woodfired baking to the contemporary world.Along with Daniel Wing, he authored the well known book The Bread Builders: Hearth Loaves and Masonry Ovens – the bible of all would be woodfiring oven builders and bread bakers.
So it was really interesting to see this oven in action – it didn’t disappoint. The hollow sound of a well baked loaf………….……and some of the loaves we’d all baked during the course of the day.During the final stages of proving, we were encouraged to run amok with our flavours – Brunyfire made a cheese and olive, as well as this walnut and fruit loaf. Whilst a little on the dense side……..……..there weren’t too many complaints.