Chalala's wood-fired baking for wholesale - Part 2
... Continued from the previous post - Chalala's Felton Miche - Wood-fired baking for a food festival - Part 1
I have heard a wood-fired oven being likened to a battery. You store energy, use it and then store it again. I still find it completely captivating watching the flames dance across the roof of the oven. Watching the black walls turn clear of soot and start to burn clean. Laurie and I stood in front of its solid heat marvelling at the flames while discussing heat retention and oven management. Laurie still finds it as fascinating today as when he first built it. The night after the food festival we were refiring the oven for Laurie’s wholesale customers. These breads would be delivered to cafes and households in and around the Toowoomba region. It was a modest bake in comparison to the Food Festival bake – approximately 170 loaves.
We were better prepared for the cooler temperatures and thus increased leaven quantities and paid even more care to the dough temperatures. A day of continual dough shaping was beginning to pay off for me. It gave me an increased awareness and I was able to react to subtle differences each dough that came off that wonderful diving arm mixer. Laurie bakes more tin loaves for his wholesale customers and he is obsessive in his quest for lofty bread proofed ever so carefully to the top of a tin. We worked well into the day, shaping and baking and shaping and baking. Towards the end of the day I was shaping and loading the oven by myself with Laurie keeping a careful eye and giving me gentle encouragement on the best order to fill the oven. Loading an oven loaf–by-loaf on a peel really is an art in itself.
As the afternoon approached we spent a few hours giving the bakery a thorough scrub down from top to bottom as the last load of fruit bread baked in the cooling oven. We were finished for the day. Rhonda had a prepared a dinner fit for kings and we slumped into chairs with a glass of red in hand. The following day I floated back to Brisbane and delivered bread for friends on my way home and that night Nat listened patiently to my stories of diving arm mixers, wood-fired ovens and shaping bread.