The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Chalala's Felton Miche - Wood-fired baking for a food festival - Part 1

PiPs's picture
PiPs

Chalala's Felton Miche - Wood-fired baking for a food festival - Part 1

It is a stunning Autumn morning – crisp and clear. Outside a container of dough gently rises and for the first time all week I have a chance to sit and write a post for the blog.

I spent last weekend with friends near the small township of Pittsworth helping in their micro-bakery as they prepared for a food festival in a nearby community. Laurie and Rhonda started Chalala Micro-Bakery a few years ago with the vision of producing quality breads in a masonry oven. This has been expanded to include a range of stunning wood-fired mueslis, nuts and gluten free cookies.

I contacted Laurie a year ago with hope of gaining some experience in the operation of a small bakery and the use of a wood-fired oven. From that moment on they opened their home and hearts to me and have given this raggedy home-baker (I love that term Pat) some incredible hands-on experience.

Their bakery is based around an Alan Scott built oven and a recently purchased diving arm mixer affectionately dubbed baby Huey. Previously Laurie was mixing all the dough by hand in plastic tubs and I can tell you this is hard work – needless to say everybody was very grateful for baby Huey’s arrival.

Finishing work early on a Friday afternoon I drove west from Brisbane for two hours. After leaving the close confines of the city you start to notice the horizon and feel distance in all directions. The roads widen and lengthen before you.

I was heading out to assist Laurie with the bake and market stall for the Felton Food Festival. Felton is a farming district on the inner Darling Downs about 30 km south west of Toowoomba and in recent years has seen plenty of conflict between the mining industry and the local community over the development of an open cut coal mine. A month ago it was announced that the newly elected state government would rule out the proposed coal mine. The community had won and now the food festival was a chance to showcase the beauty and productivity of the Felton region.

Preparation for a bake is always a busy time. Flours are scaled and placed in boxes, ingredients are prepped and finally the leavens expanded. Along with this busy activity I milled flour in preparation for a batch of Country breads and Miche. My little mill had its work cut out for it and so did I as I sifted through a few kilograms of flour. This was to be a specialty one off bread for the food festival and Laurie was kind enough to allow me to develop a formula and mill the required flour. By the time I had prepared the flours I looked white as a ghost :) – covered in flour.

The plan was to bake an oven-load of country breads (Campagne) that included 3 x 2kg miche scored with the Felton Food Festival logo. The formula used Laurie’s organic white 100% hydration starter, a mixture of organic plain white flour, milled and sifted wheat flour, whole-grain spelt and whole-grain rye flour. Some final wood was placed in the oven and a draft door set in place until bake time. It was time to try and sleep.

 

Chalala’s Felton Miche 3 x 2kg Miche (Original formula was for 20kg)

Formula

Overview

Weight

%

Makes 3 x 2kg Miche

 

 

Total dough weight

6000g

 

Total flour

3488g

100%

Total water

2512g

72%

Total salt

70g

2%

Prefermented flour

348g

10%

 

 

 

Leaven build – 10 hrs 23°C

 

 

Starter

77g

22%

Organic Plain flour approx 13% protein

348g

100%

Water

348g

100%

 

 

 

Final dough

 

 

Leaven

696g

22%

Organic Plain flour approx 13% protein

1256g

40%

Freshly milled and sifted wheat flour

1256g

40%

Freshly milled whole-grain spelt flour

471g

15%

Freshly milled whole-grain rye flour

157g

5%

Water

2164g

69%

Salt

70g

2%

 

Method

  1. Mix starter and leave to ferment for 10–12 hours at 23°C
  2. Combine Leaven, water, flours and salt and mix on slow for 15-20 minutes
  3. Bulk ferment 2.5–3 hours with two stretch-and-folds 30 mins apart in the first hour.
  4. Divide. Preshape. Bench rest 20 mins. Shape.
  5. Proofing took two and half hours
  6. Bake in woodfired oven for 30 minutes at 250°C

 

On bake day we were a little surprised by cool bakery temperatures but by midway through the bake we had caught up and were back on schedule with the oven performing better than expected. By the end of the bake we had produced 300 loaves made up of 13 varieties of breads – 11 of them sourdoughs.

Ciabatta, miche/country bread, struan multi-grain, sprouted wheat bread, Irish brown/beer bread, olive bread, onion and rosemary bread, flaxseed rye tin loaf, spelt and teff tin loaf, fig and roasted walnut boule, banana sourdough tin loaf, fruit sourdough tin loaf and cinnamon scrolls.

Market day had arrived. We watched the weather with some nervousness and crossed our fingers hoping for a good attendance being it was the inaugural food festival for Felton. The organisers had been hoping for an attendance of 500 people, in fact there were many thousands – possibly 5000 or more.

We were fortunate to have a stall right by the front entrance and thus we didn’t have a moments rest until the last loaf of bread was sold only two hours after the gates had officially opened. Laurie and Rhonda then continued to sell muesli throughout the day.

Celebrity chef and owner of Tank and Bretts Wharf Restaurants in Brisbane, Alastair McLeod provided cooking demonstrations and utilised one of the miche in his dishes. He is a strong supporter of locally produced foods and some of his chefs have even travelled from Brisbane to spend time in the bakery with Laurie.

The festival was held on a property on top of a gentle hill overlooking farming land in all directions. Hay bales were scattered around under trees for people to sit and enjoy the local food while taking in the scenery. Some rain did drop for minute or so during the day but was welcomed happily by the farming community.

At the end of a long but rewarding day we headed back to the bakery to re-fire the oven and prep for Laurie’s Monday wholesale bake. It was time to try and sleep again.

… to be continued.

Comments

Janetcook's picture
Janetcook

Hi Phil,

Wow....you have finally done it....run away from home and joined the circus  a real bakery.  (Here in the states there are many stories of restless kids running away with circuses.....almost like running away with the gypsies never to be seen in their home towns again....) Nat must really trust you to let you do such a thing :-).

So now that you have had the opportunity to do the 'real' thing I am wondering if your life will ever be the same again????  I can see you concocting ways of building your own WFO and then selling your loaves out of your back window :-)

All kidding aside.....Thanks for the lovely post and a tour, via your photos, of your part of this world of ours.  Thanks for the news too.  I am surprised that people were able to defeat the coaling industry in that area. 

Question:  How did you store all those loaves of bread prior to the festival?  Any special handling to keep them from drying out?  I am amazed by both the amount and variety of breads that you were able to produce in one day. 

I eagerly await Part 2 of your blog....

Take Care,

Janet

 

PiPs's picture
PiPs

Hi Janet,

I have baked a few times with Laurie now ... this was the first with the mixer. No, life will probably not be the same. I loved it from the first day I spent there. Coming home was hard ... coming back and sitting at desk was even harder. Nat is very supportive of me and I am getting better at being patient :)

The loaves cooled on racks before being transported in plastic buckets with loose lids so they could breathe. It was a very busy bake ... a real headshift for a pedantic home-baker ... lots to keep track of.

Cheers,
Phil 

Faith in Virginia's picture
Faith in Virginia

What a wonderful adventure.  I am also looking forward to part 2 and part 3.  The bread looks awsome.  I am interested in the Wood fired oven management.  How could they manage to bake 300 loaves on a single firing.   Must be a big oven. 

Once again...So Cool!!!

PiPs's picture
PiPs

Hi Faith,

The oven management is something I still have a lot to learn about. It's your standard sized Alan Scott oven - nothing too big.

Laurie has been working a few different strategies for the oven management. For this bake he had a steady fire going the whole day before. His plan was to store as much heat in the outer masonry as possible. The use of a draft door with the final firing has helped with this also. By the time we started to bake we were in the ballpark temperature wise with a large amount of stored heat which we would call upon to replenish the oven with during a break in the middle. We even lost a bit of heat at the start of the bake waiting for some slow dough.

The oven was getting a little slow by the end of the bake but this gentler heat was used for the fruit loaves and cinnamon scrolls. Laurie also has some really nifty tins. We can fit more loaves in an oven load using them with the only concession being that they drain a lot of heat from the masonry ... its a balancing game.

Cheers,
Phil

Mebake's picture
Mebake

Very Inspiring Tale, and Trip, Phil. Seems to me like the perfect runaway from the constrains of the city.

Covered as a ghost with flour, eh? I'am a ragged baker too, with flour on my eye brows and eye lashes trying to make some high extraction flour for a Miche. Oh boy, we share common grounds :)

Anyway, lovely writeup, as usual, Beautifully crafted breads, and excellent Photos, Phil!

Waiting for the sequel :)

PiPs's picture
PiPs

We have a beautiful country here.

I think Rhonda had the shock of her life when I walked back into the house covered in flour. 'You've only been here a few hours', she said.

Have fun with your miche :) I think I milled and sifted about 5kgs of wheat for the miche formula at the bakery. My poor little mill didn't know what hit it.

Cheers,
Phil 

Salilah's picture
Salilah

Lovely story, great photos...
Looking forward to hearing Part 2 etc!

 

PiPs's picture
PiPs

Thanks Salilah,

Glad you enjoyed it :)

Cheers,
Phil 

proth5's picture
proth5

Sounds like a great time.  I've always wanted to work with a diving arm mixer - they seem insanely ingenious to me :>)

Pat

PiPs's picture
PiPs

Hi Pat,

It was a great time ... I do miss it.

Oh the mixer! I am ruined for life now. It was beautiful -  so quiet and so elegant. It hypnotised two tired bakers on many occasions. We would pour in the water and stand there just lost in it's gentle movements. I could picture the old-time bakers that the movments were based on.

Cheers,
Phil

proth5's picture
proth5

I've been conducting a very successful "giving away bread" marketing campaign.  I have been told from people who are given bread  - that they wish to buy the bread - but it is quite illegal for me to sell it.

But the thought experiment (or the work experiment) I have been running is to bake bread on a schedule - even when I "don't feel like it" and to bake in ever large quantities.  I find that once I step up to the task - I start to "feel like doing it" and I really love working through a large quantity of dough.  Hmm.  I'm still a raggedy home baker, though - that's my job title and I'm sticking with it.

When I did my internship, the whole issue of obsessive perfectionism reared its head and was resolved in the way you described.

Again, hmmm.

Looking forward to further installments!

 

PiPs's picture
PiPs

I can see how that would be a very popular campaign :)

I find baking bread to a schedule very rewarding as well ... It has helped my understanding of fermentation immensely. I think 'obsessive perfectionism' runs in my family's blood somewhat. Can be a wonderful thing when kept in check :)

I like your job title ... Possibly needs a job description written up?

Raggedy Homebaker
conditions: Full-time 24hrs, 7 days a week

  1. Display high level obsessive thinking related to bread and its production, including starter maintenance, pre-ferment use, flour protein and hydration levels.
  2. Provide day-to-day supervision and support for a sourdough levain/starter with twice-a-day feedings.
  3. Develop and implement formula-after-formula for various breads of all shapes and sizes to satisfy internal and external key stakeholders.
  4. Experience in home milling and all aspects of covering bakers and kitchens in a layer of fresh flour.
  5. Coordinate strategies for the baking and distribution of large quantities of bread in a home kitchen environment.
  6. Demonstrated ability to clean up after oneself.

hmmm?

cheers,
Phil


 

proth5's picture
proth5

What more can I say?  I'll try to live up to it!

Pat

thomaschacon's picture
thomaschacon (not verified)

300 loaves, PiPs?!

That's more in a single day than I make in a two years

"White as a ghost" made me laugh. That reminded me of the time I shook my streudel cloth against the wind. I was covered head to toe in flour. I even had some in my ears.

Your photography, as usual, is inspiring. If I could take photos half as good, I'd be more than happy. (It would help if I had a decent camera, but some skill would do too.)

Thomas

PiPs's picture
PiPs

Hi Thomas

300 is the most Laurie has put through the oven in one day I believe. Funny thing is that even after this amount I am more keen than ever to bake - keep trying to find excuses at home to bake bread for people.

Cheers,
Phil

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

No wonder you didn't have time to blog.  Just fanstastic, bread, story and photographs, Thanks for you're recipies as usual.  Amazing how good looking and tasting bread, made with fine ingredients, sells itself so easily.

Bake On

PiPs's picture
PiPs

Yeah my world has been pretty busy,

Bread is still being baked here ... more for others than ourselves lately :)

There is no-one really baking bread like Laurie in that part of Queensland. All the miche sold easily, and interestingly to customers with european backgrounds. They didn't bat an eyelid ... was perfectly normal for them and reminded them of bread from 'home' or what their 'grand-mother' used to make. That was really nice to hear.

cheers,
Phil

sweetbird's picture
sweetbird

...because reading this and looking at the wonderful photos I have travelled far. What a fantastic experience you've had, Phil, and you've let the rest of us 'raggedy home-bakers' tag along with you. Thank you! Your passion for bread has opened up some interesting doors for you.

So much fun to read . . .  I'm eager to read part 2 and any other sequels that come along. 

All the best to you, Janie

PiPs's picture
PiPs

Hi Janie,

... and thanks so much. So glad you enjoyed the posting.

Do things, tell people :)

Cheers,
Phil

Vicki F's picture
Vicki F

Retired from baking 10 years ago and just bake at home now. Your fantastic post makes me nostalgic for the need of oven management, dough timing, bulk baking and so on. I had to laugh about you getting covered in flour - at the end of the day my front was an essay on all I had mixed and baked that day. :-) Really looking forward to your next installment. Thanks so much for the gorgeous pictures and telling your tale.

 

PiPs's picture
PiPs

Hi Vicki,

When I first met Laurie we were mixing by hand - It felt like I was picking dough of my skin for days afterwards :) ... now with the mixer I kept relatively clean ... but when things got busy ... your right ... an essay :)

I find it hard coming home and just baking two loaves at a time now. I love the feeling of stretching and folding a tub of dough ... slipping into the rhythm of shaping a batch of loaves ... the feeling of urgency as you unload while preparing for the next load ... it was great for this pedantic home-baker to lose a little bit of 'perfectionism' and 'fussiness'... when I wasn't happy with a slash and would mutter under my breath, Laurie would say 'find me that loaf after we unload' ... and he was right, I couldn't ... they would all look great together ... like they told a story.

cheers,
Phil

rossnroller's picture
rossnroller

Lovely pics and bakes, as always Phil. Don't need no crystal ball to see a career change up ahead for you! If you decide to take the leap, I have no doubt you'll earn yourself a big reputation soon enough. You're no "raggedy baker" - your talent with bread is extraordinary. Just a matter of timing and inclination...

I've been toying with a baking-related commercial possibility for some time (not baker per se), but find myself pondering over whether such a move would detract from the enjoyment I derive from home baking. Always a dilemma - in my experience, the amateur and professional worlds are further apart than might be anticipated. Going by your obvious excitement over your adventure at Chalala, though, my "dilemma" might be your compulsion to act on a calling.

Watching on with interest...

Cheers!
Ross

PiPs's picture
PiPs

Hi Ross,

Thanks for the very kind words ... i'm still a raggedy home-baker though :) I have being toying with these questions as well and I am aware that to succeed you need to make money ... and with that comes pressures and the drive to run a business. For me it's a question on how far I want to push it ... lots to work over ... or just dive in ...

The enjoyment I had baking with Laurie was certainly different to baking at home ... To be honest I think I probably enjoyed it more. (... but it is new and novel) I think I also thrived on the challenge. The fruits of our labour were cooling on the racks at the end of the bake. To be involved in all the processes including selling to customers was a big thrill. Very rewarding.

... still mulling it over.
Phil

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

I love your narrative, and your photo skills are stellar!

It's thrilling for a home baker to share in the special atmosphere of a higher-volume, high quality bakery. I've not been tempted to change careers. Bakers work way to hard for my lazy bones. But, if you hear the call, it clearly has its rewards.

David

PiPs's picture
PiPs

Thanks David,

I am very fortunate to be able to share in Lauries adventure.

Cheers,
Phil

breadsong's picture
breadsong

Hi Phil,
The food festival must have been a wonderful thing to be part of, and how fortunate you are able to get such
good experience, working with your friends.
The breads you baked for the festival all sound really amazing...as does the wood-fired muesli.
I really like the photo of baby Huey at work and I imagine it would be hypnotizing watching the mixer do its work.
Your photo of the fire alight is just super - I can almost smell the smoke and hear the crackle!
The pictures of the countryside and fields are so pretty...it looks like nice country for wheat?
:^) breadsong

PiPs's picture
PiPs

Hi breadsong,

I think the thing that struck me the most was the silence of the oven. Beautiful silence. Could hear the ciabattas sizzling inside. Lots of sunflower, sorghum, cotton and corn crops. Some wheat as well I imagine. The museli they produce is really fantastic ... I have been having it for breakfast every day this week ...yum, yum, yum.

Cheers,
Phil

Syd's picture
Syd

Great post Phil!  Your pics document the weekend so well and could almost tell the whole story all by themselves.  It must have been an excellent learning experience. From now on you shall be the ragged baker.  :)

Syd

PiPs's picture
PiPs

Thanks Syd,

I always come home having learnt so much ... brain is busy processing it all.

oh no, Proth5 is THE 'raggedy homebaker' ... I have just opened the Australian office :)

cheers,
Phil

FlourChild's picture
FlourChild

I love getting to see your pictures, so glad you share with us!  What a great experience, to put your (baking) head in a different place.  Looking forward to more :)

PiPs's picture
PiPs

Thanks flourchild,

It is a big step out of my comfort zone where I know my kitchen and starter really well. Glad you liked the posting.

cheers,
Phil 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

I even sneezed when you came home covered in flour!  Lol  

Watch that stuff!  We won't want you catching baker's lung!  Wow what a work out!  What a wonderful time!  

In my visit to the Bilbao airport, your style of photography came to mind, the quality and capturing would blend perfectly.   They have a slide show tourist display of large lit screens several meter high (looks like free standing walls enclosing a space) welcoming and prompting visitors to enjoy the wonders and scenic views of Cantabria.  Your photos could do the same for your part of Queensland.  Size doesn't seem to be a limit as sometimes two or three screens are combined and sometimes the pictures are broken up.  It would be a great way to convey the wonders going on about you that you so easily capture.

PiPs's picture
PiPs

Ha Ha,

I think if I was covered in flour on a daily basis I would were a mask :)

Queensland has some beautiful scenery ... being from the country I am rather biased towards that, instead of the coast and beaches which seems to be be the big tourist draw card.

Cheers,
Phil 

Franko's picture
Franko

Another super post Phil, thanks so much for sharing you're adventure and stunning photos with us.
I'm not surprised all the breads sold out so quickly at the festival, I would have bought 6 or 7 seven myself if I'd been in the neighbourhood, but I'm happy to settle for the visuals as they all look excellent. These are truly well crafted breads the three of you made, and to have kept the quality as high as you did with the volume of production tells me a good deal of talent and skill went into this effort. Kudos to you, Laurie and Rhonda!
I'm curious to know how many loaves were you able to bake at a time in the oven, and do you have any other photos of the oven itself. WFOs' have a lot of my attention these days with my own build hopefully coming up this summer, so I'm trying to get as much info from different sources as possible. Anything you could pass on in terms of hearth size, outside dimensions, etc. would be greatly appreciated. Cheers Phil, your posts are always such a pleasure to read and view.
Many thanks for this post!
Franko

PiPs's picture
PiPs

Thanks so much Franko,

How exciting that an oven could be on the way for you. 

We were able to fit roughly 24 batards @750g per oven load. With the tins we could fit over 30 but they tend to draw a lot of heat from the masonry so its a bit of a balancing game. At the start of the bake Laurie usually puts through a few trays of ciabattas to take the inital sting out of the floor of the oven.

I will message you some more details of the oven but I will have a chat with Laurie first so I get them right :)

Cheers,
Phil