Friday, 29 July 2011

Secrets of Sourdough at the Agrarian Kitchen

Last week, I was generously invited back to the Agrarian Kitchen to photograph and participate in the Secrets of Sourdough class.  It was taken by the quietly humorous and gentle Graham Prichard of Companion Bakery, located in Oatlands, Tasmania.  You might have seen some his bread at the Tasmanian Farm Gate market on Sundays.

For two whole days, we had our hands full of flour, as we mixed doughs and made amazing breads.  I love the anticipation of bread baking -- you never quite know how it will turn out until it comes out of the oven.  Oh, the smell of fresh bread!  I want to bottle it up. 

The day began with a sunflower and walnut sourdoughs.  We used spelt flour from the Callington Mill -- a wind powered mill, producing organic, stone ground flour from local grains.  It is also in Oatlands, right next to Graham's bakery.  When I did this course last year, Graham was on the final stretch of the mill's restoration.  I was pretty excited when I saw their flour in the shops and have been using them ever since.  I'm yet to make my way up to Oatlands, but have found this lovely post of the mill from Island Menu (I love this blog!)

We made two more batches of bread before the first day ended, both were to be proved overnight.  A simple country batard dough, and a rich briochoe, with just a little butter...  It was a tag team effort between Graham and Peta to get make the brioche.  It was not for the faint hearted!

The next day, we mixed our final dough, made from freshly milled rye still warm from the grinder.  I was talking to a friend about rye sourdough (poor girl), so this loaf was dedicated to her.  This was my favourite bread from the entire course.  It was a great looking bread with its white floury crust, marked by dark rugged cracks.  By my friend's account, it was pretty tasty too.

Just before lunch, we learnt how to score the bread on our country batards.  The knife must be in motion before it hits the bread, using quick precise movements.  Straight down cuts were a no-no, as it destroys the structure of the bread, and one must cut (almost) horizontally.  The scores guides the bread where to go as it springs open in the oven.  What appears to be decorative and simple can dramatically affect the bread.  I think this is what makes bread making so beautiful.

Did I mention about the delicious lunches we had over the two days?  Fresh mushrooms from Peta, veggies from the garden, dough wrapped pheasant and agrodolce wagyu.  I loved these lunches: fantastic food, great company with lots of time to listen and to talk.

It was amazing to learn about sourdough from Graham -- there's so much to learn!  I came away from the class with greater appreciation of the sourdough, a bag full of warm bread, and a fast friend.

You never know what you'll find at the Agrarian Kitchen :)


  1. Gorgeous Pauline. I really, really love the picture of the guiding hand!

  2. Pauline your photos are a true delight. You'll have to share the secrets of sourdough before you go away on your trip!

  3. Thanks Paulette :) I love that photo too -- that was one of my favourite photo from the day.

    Marian: Sure! I'll bring my booklet from the class to work next week. Just look past the messy handwriting and bits of flour stuck on it!