Tasmania - a winters journey
I hope to be baking full-time again reasonably soon ... within weeks hopefully, and I can't wait to post a photo of the first loaf coming out of the oven.
... but this has meant some patience and waiting on my part.
So while we were waiting, Nat and I decided to head south to Tasmania for a chilly winters holiday. I am not sure how many of you have heard of Tasmania or know it's history ... but I live in Australia and seemed to know very little of this island tucked beneath the mainland of Australia. With a push from Ian at Ars pistorica we planned a weeks holiday full of road trips, relaxation and good food.
We left Brisbane on a warm 24°C afternoon and landed in Launceston on a wet and cold 10°C evening ... and then the weather proceeded to get even wetter and colder. Tasmania's climate compared to northern states of Australia is very changeable. A clear cold winter morning can quickly change to horizontal rain by mid-morning followed by clear skies and a wicked wind at lunch before dropping to even cooler temperatures by early afternoon and evening. We dressed in layers!
We spent a few days with Ian in Launceston where he proudly showed us through the construction of his new bakery. Launceston is about to be treated to some great bread. It is very apparent that Ian loves this state and that it breaks his heart to see it struggle compared to the mainland. From Launceston we travelled south through the centre of Tasmania. Large forests opened out into clear rolling hills that reminded me of the darling downs where I grew up except that these were super-sized and saturated versions!
Probably the place I was most excited about visiting in Tasmania was a town called Oatlands. For many years I have watched the restoration of the towns windmill, Callington Mill which had been built in 1837. Three years ago the mill was finally complete and once again had begun to produce stone-milled flour from locally grown grains. I also knew of Oatlands as being the home of Companion Bakery which was started by Graham Prichard a few years before the completion of the mill. Graham may be well known to many of you as the founder of sourdough.com.
Graham's bakery has a 6ft x 8ft Alan Scott oven built by Dennis Benson of Chester St fame that fits perfectly within the sandstone buildings that line the streets of Oatlands. Graham very generously invited Nat and I into his bakery and even let me shape a few of his loaves before we rushed over the road to do a tour of the mill. Due to health and safety regulations I was unable to take my camera on the tour as flour is combustable and electrical equipment is a fire hazard. A mill wright from the UK had been flown out to take measurements and over see the restoration of the timber work—the sounds of creaking timber throughout the mill is reminiscent of an old sailing ship—the craftwork is breath taking.
From Oatlands we travelled further South past the capital city of Hobart and caught a ferry across to Bruny Island. Apparently summer is the time that most tourists visit Tasmania and this was most evident on Bruny Island. The environment and quietness were spectacular. At the Bruny Island lighthouse on the very most southern tip we looked out over the southern ocean in horizontal rain and felt a solemn appreciation for the people who manned these stations so many years ago. It must have been rugged for them.
After almost drifting into a relaxing state of nothingness we departed the island and travelled back to Hobart to visit the world class Museum of Old and New Art: MONA. This was almost a mind melting experience. Sheer amazement is the only way to describe the feeling as you descend into the gallery. After three hours of exploring I was exhausted and at the point of being overwhelmed. An amazing experience! As we left MONA I noticed they had a fantastic looking pizza oven finished with a rusted metal enclosure. Stunning!
Actually, we found many wood ovens across Tassie and there were more that I didn't have time to visit and even many, many more that I am sure I have not even heard of ... even now I am discovering stories of ovens that have been lovingly restored. One such oven is in a small village called Ross. The semi scotch oven is the centre of the Ross Village Bakery which may have a connection to many of you that you didn't realise. It is rumoured to be the inspiration for the bakery used in the movie Kiki's Delivery Service. If you have not seen this movie, please do ... it is a beautiful movie for young and old.
After many more road trips full of discovery (and even snow) we finally had to head for home, and as we walked across the tarmac again in horizontal rain, it was hard to believe that in a few hours we would be landing back home in a city that is twice as warm and has almost four times the population of this little state of Australia.
Lucky for me I had a little (actually it was large and heavy) package awaiting my arrival to beat the post holiday blues. I have decided to join the ranks of Proth5 and her band of manual millers. I pondered the purchase of a manual grain mill for quite a while and after much research decided upon the Grainmaker 116. I hope to achieve the control over my flour milling that I am currently unable to develop with the Komo mill. I will be sacrificing speed for quality.
With the Grainmaker I can control the speed of the crank, the fineness and even the flow rate of grain. The first batches of flour have been very impressive with lovely room temperature flour and excellent bran separation. In the coming weeks I hope to find some time to do some whole-grain baking with it and see just how well this flour performs. On a brief side note I knocked up a version of Andy's seeded sourdough ... I will do a post on this bread in the near future ... I highly recommend it!
While at Callington Mill I couldn't help myself but purchase some of the light sifted stoneground flour they produce. I didn't get the chance to talk to the miller about their process but it seems that they are milling the grain in one pass before it is sifted through three grades of mesh to produce this flour. I decided to try this flour in a fairly safe formula that I use quite often.
I mixed a dough at roughly 75% hydration with 25% of the flour pre-fermented in a stiff starter. The dough had a little more strength than I anticipated and after a few minutes of slap-and-folds I left it for two hours in bulk with one fold half way through. The shaped batards were retarded overnight before being baked off in a hot oven. The stoneground flour produced a loaf with a little less volume than with roller milled flour ... but the flavour and crumb texture is to die for. YUM!
... my bag of Callington Mill flour will run out shortly and I think another trip to Tassie is a bit out of the question so I may be back to milling and sifting on a small scale ... and possibly getting very tired arms in the process :)
p.s Nat took some of the more spectacular scenery photos :)