The Fresh Loaf

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Chalala's wood-fired baking for wholesale - Part 2

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PiPs's picture
PiPs

Chalala's wood-fired baking for wholesale - Part 2

... Continued from the previous postChalala'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.

Cheers,
Phil

Comments

Mebake's picture
Mebake

Happy ending, Phil! excellent breads! are they all naturally leavened? You are very fortunate to have recieved this priceless on hand experience as artisanal baker. People pay money for that stuff!

Very inspiring story, Phil! Thanks for sparing your time to share it with us.

PiPs's picture
PiPs

Thanks Khalid,

Yes all the breads are naturally leavened. Laurie uses a 100% hydration starter that is fed with organic plain flour and a spelt leaven that is kept at 50% hydration. He will sometimes expand the spelt leaven into a rye starter if it is needed. I am very fortunate and lucky that they are such wonderful people.

Cheers,
Phil

Janetcook's picture
Janetcook

Morning Phil,

Thanks for part 2 :-)

I too marvel at the wonder of fire and it is one of the reasons I use wood to hear our home much to the chagrin of my husband.  One of the best descriptions I have ever heard about wood heat is a quote from Buckminster Fuller in which he likens a wood fire to 'sunlight unwinding'.  He describes the life of a tree as a gathering and storing of energy from the sun into its trunk and branches and then, when it is chopped down or dies, that energy is released through fire onto our hearths as sunlight unwinding...which, if fact, it is.  Pretty basic as is the creating of bread from simple grains of wheat and water.  No wonder bread baked in a wood fire oven has such appeal.  

I await to read about your design and construction of your own WFO.  I can't imagine you doing anything else with your talent as a baker and Alan Scott has some exquisite designs.....If only I were 30 years younger :-) 

Take Care,

Janet

PiPs's picture
PiPs

Hi Janet,

The oven is a long, long, long way off :) I have been in contact with a wonderful oven builder who worked with Alan for many, many years who lives just outside of Brisbane. He builds beautiful ovens. Patience :)

Cheers,
Phil

SylviaH's picture
SylviaH

Great photos!  I also love watching the fire in a wfo..it's captivating and photograph's beautifully!  I've even tried my hand and love practicing sliding those loaves off a peel one at a time.  I think sliding pizza's off a peel has helped me a lot to get the loaves to come off the peel in pretty good order..it is fun and I like doing it, even at the risk of messing up..so far so good : ) but I've only done it with 3 boules so far and pretty much I think my limit for average sized loaves and my small wfo.

Happy Baking,

Sylvia

PiPs's picture
PiPs

Thanks Sylvia,

I felt pretty stressed when I had to pack em in ... gently but quickly ... feels contradictory :)

Cheers,
Phil

Syd's picture
Syd

Nice photos Phil!  What wood do they use in their ovens?  There is one piece that looks quite green and another that is very dry. There is also a piece that looks like it has been machined in some way.  Part of an old fence, perhaps. I am guessing they burn anything they can get their hands on so long as it provides heat.  All the coals are scraped out of the oven before the bake.  Am I right?  Having said that, I suppose you would want to avoid wood that had been previously treated or painted in any way. 

Best,

Syd

PiPs's picture
PiPs

Hi Syd,

Laurie is supplied ironbark wood from nearby farmers who are clearing space on their farms. The ironbark burns long and hot ... it is not a brilliant strong heat. Laurie is interested in trying other wood but the ironbark is local and they deliver it to him ... bonus! Yep all the coals and ash are scraped out before it is given a quick mop. I think it would be better for the baker and his surroundings not to use treated wood. I can't imagine it would effect the bread too much by the time the oven is cleaned out ... others may know the answer better to that question.

Cheers,
Phil

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

bake to go with fine story, pictures and bread fit for kings and queens. 

Bake on mate and cheers for the red!

PiPs's picture
PiPs

Cheers to you dabrownman :)

Glad you enjoyed it.

Cheers again,
Phil

hansjoakim's picture
hansjoakim

Thanks for this inspiring two-part story, Phil!

As always, your photos are marvellous. I'm certain the bakery was filled with the most lovely smell of baking and newly baked loaves. Are you going back for more action, you think?

PiPs's picture
PiPs

Your welcome Hans,

It's a wonderful aroma when the first loaves come out of the oven ... even back in Brisbane we have had a bit of a cool spell (its really not cold at all...) and people have started using their fireplaces. As soon as I smell the smoke I picture the oven ...sigh.

Hopefully will be back soon as there are a few more food festivals around the region that Laurie hopes to bake for.

Cheers,
Phil

breadsong's picture
breadsong

Hi Phil,
Your description of your journey home tells me how much you enjoyed making those loaves!
What an opportunity to learn (Laurie sounds like a good teacher) and to get lots of practice in shaping, and managing the oven.
The bread looks marvelous, and once again, I love the photo of those flames.
:^) breadsong

PiPs's picture
PiPs

Thanks breadsong,

I love that feeling when you settle into the shaping and you have a perfect dough to work with. I am hardly fast but I am getting more and more consistent. The oven is the really fascinating part for me ... Would take years to learn its intricacies I think.

Cheers,
Phil

proth5's picture
proth5

like shaping loaf after loaf to get the hand skills going.  Hard to keep up with just home baking.

Loading with a peel is an art in itself.  As my mind drifts to ovens it also plays around with the concept of a loader - something that can't be used in a wood fired oven - but oh so much faster more reliable than a peel.

Yep loading that many loaves by peel is a young persons game...

Great stuff.

Pat

PiPs's picture
PiPs

Hi Pat,

My hands enjoy the shaping ... I used to play the piano for many years so I enjoy the coordinated movements. I have seen some wood-fired ovens with loaders. I think Turtle Rock Masonry build ovens that can be used with a loader ... but your right about the Alan Scott ovens ... tiny door and too many nooks and crannies to peel around. Possibly half the fun right?

Cheers
Phil

FlourChild's picture
FlourChild

Ahhh, I love seeing your posts- the atmospheric and artistic photos, the tale of hard work, lessons learned and the triumphant return home to family.  I feel more fulfilled just having read about it :)

PiPs's picture
PiPs

Thanks FlourChild,

Always many lessons learnt by the time I arrive back home.

Cheers,
Phil

carblicious's picture
carblicious

Great photos, thanks for taking us along on your trip.

PiPs's picture
PiPs

Your welcome carblicious,

Happy to have everyone along :)

Cheers,
Phil

Jeremy's picture
Jeremy

Hi Phil,

I couldn't resist made the Felton miche formula, with a bit of adapting, it turned out to be a batard, with different additions of flour, including buckwheat...fabulous results!

 

PiPs's picture
PiPs

woah the pic came in huge ... miche size :)

Looks great .... I have a hard time convincing Nat about anything that has buckwheat in it ... she is not a fan at all.

Did you mill some of the flours yourself? You still having a hard time controlling those miche urges?

Cheers
phil