The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

PiPs's blog

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Our social media person took this photo ...

... just a snaphot ...

... just one loaf of many ...

... just one slice of many ...

... but it tells the story of today's bake.

Happy baking everyone!

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The weeks literally feel a blur ... I have lost track of when I last posted and although I frequently visit the site and marvel at people's bread I struggle to find time to post comments and answer questions.

We are still probably a month from opening the doors to the public as an eating space but this has not deterred the push to produce bread in the big blue oven ... that's right, the oven is now blue thanks to a fancy tiled make-over.

The test baking produces many, many test loaves ... more than our sister restaurant requires so we have started a 'pop-up bakery' ... we have an honour box system where people can buy the test loaves, chat with the baker and see the oven in operation.

It makes me smile to see my bread going to good homes ... I get an even bigger smile when I am visited by people I know ... Shiao-Ping came along and bought a loaf!!!

Along with the pop-up bakery we also hosted a breakfast for a group of Brisbane food bloggers ... this pushed my comfort level as I had to speak about the oven and the bread I produce ... public speaking is not my forte!

Here are some links to a few of the bloggers:

I have also had other visitors of note to the bakery ... Ian from the ars pistorica project came up from Tasmania with some amazing new peels he had helped facilitate and spent some time with me in the bakery. It was great to talk with a fellow bread nut about bread, bakers and bakeries. I think we both learnt a lot ... I know my shaping and workflow has improved immensely and he pushed me to bake baguettes ... his favourite bread!

Ian's favourite baguette formula uses a combination of firm starter and instant yeast. After a three hour bulk the dough is divided and shaped for the final proof ... the tricky part (other than shaping) is getting the risen bread to perfectly match the woodfired oven's falling temperature ... getting enough steam in the chamber for the thin crackly crust is the bakers last challenge ... These baguettes are dedicated to ars pistorica!

So another week has drawn to a close ... my tired hands are looking forward to the addition of a mixer to the bakery next week ... All the breads so far have been hand mixed and the addition of a mixer will free up a large portion of my time during the day. The pop-up bakery will continue up until when our restaurant opens as I push, push and push myself everyday to make the best bread I possibly can!


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It feels so strange to stop for a minute and think back over the week ... It has been a blur of oven firings, dough mixing, baking and cleaning.

In some ways it has been a week of major milestones ... the FIRST bake!

... but now that I am test baking everyday in the oven it really feels down to business. I have entered into a relationship with this wood burning beast and I need to tame it.

I now often think of something that Chris Bianco said about woodfired ovens - he said they teach you about heat.

Perhaps I understand that a little more now - it's not just the feeling of radiant heat when you stick your arm in a blazing hot oven, its also about heat transfer, how it moves through objects and is stored.

The lesson probably also extends to losing most of the hairs on my right arm and burning off part of my fringe ... I am also drinking a lot more water these days :)



Though we are baking small loads in the oven it is not fully operational. A lot of water is used to build these masonry ovens and for the first few weeks that moisture needs to be pushed out of the oven so it can dry thoroughly - the oven has been literally dripping water. But everyday I see improvements in its heat storing ability and the water patches in the render are slowly drying up ... but it could still take a few more weeks until it "comes good".

As has been said so often, the biggest test is having dough that is ready when the oven is ready ... I have many, many, many more weeks until I have a firing schedule nailed down. This will be my biggest test. We can work the bread schedule around the oven ... but the oven NEEDS to be right.


First Sourdough bake

Bread and basket

Sourdough and Walnut Levain

Sourdough crumb

2kg Miche

2kg Miche

Miche Crumb


So now the test baking phase begins ... over the next few weeks many varities of breads will be baked, tested and improved upon then baked again and again ... the whole time aiming for consisent results that taste delicious.

All the breads in this post have been baked in the woodfired oven. Apart from the ciabatta, all are sourdough and have been hand mixed, plus they contain a proportion of freshly milled grains. The biggest batch I have hand mixed so far has been 30kgs - It is easier than it sounds and is incredibly satisfying.

As Eric Kayser says, "It is a dream!  It is a dream to make the dough by hand, to make the energy with the hand!"


Scoring practice

Restaurant Ciabattas

Boldy baked bread!


Sorry I have been so slack with replies in my previous posts ... I will aim to answer any questions that you have or just say hello :)

Happy baking,


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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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