The Bush Bakery Tour Down South


Tour Down South

Since my last post alluding to the upcoming trip through the southern states, I've had some great feedback, so I've been fleshing out details of how it's all going to work. So far, the dates and locations and confirmed venues, as well as links for booking, are as follows: (These are being updated each week, so if a venue is not yet confirmed, you will find out about it here. If there is a web page done, the workshop will be going ahead anyway, and people who book will receive an email with details.)

Weekend 2/3 June: Nowra/Berry NSW. Workshop to be held at Berry B&B on Saturday night and Sun morning. This one is now sold out. Keep an eye out for next year!

Weekend 9/10 June Braidwood area NSW. Workshop confirmed to be held at Murrumbateman, on one of our student's farms. Still a couple of spots available, but it's very close to being sold out, so get in quick!

Sunday 17 June: Harcourt/ Bendigo area VIC. One workshop confirmed at the historic and soon to re open Blumes Bakery, Harcourt. Still a few spots available, but word is out and it's filling fast.

Weekend 23/24 June: Melbourne area. Workshop to be held at Knoxfield, about 20 minutes out of the CBD in a really easy to access location. Still some places available, but bookings are coming in from groups so if you want to attend I recommend you get in soon.

Weekend 30/1 June/July: Adelaide. We are running our workshop from Brahma Lodge, in northern Adelaide - about 25 minutes from the city. Still some places available so book now.

Weekend 21/22 July: Wheat Belt, WA. Workshop confirmed for Pingelly on a fellow baker, Ed, The Breadwright's micro bakery. Camp sites available, so come on and make the trip!  

Weekend 28/29/30th July.  Esperance, WA. Two workshops and a demonstration bake confirmed. The first, by invitation only at my fellow baker and keen student's micro bakery, Tiff from Bread Local, and the second workshop at Yirri Grove Olive plantation. There are still places available for the Yirri Grove workshop, but it is almost sold out. Don't miss this one!

Weekend 11/12 August: Mildura area VIC. Workshop at Red Cliffs, just outside Mildura, on the 11th. 

Weekend 25/26 August: Bathurst area NSW. Choosing between a couple of venues. Link will be up soon.

Follow the links on the area near you to our shop, which will enable you to book in directly. If I'm in your area and you know of an event that is being held locally where we can run a demo bake or Community Bake In, please feel free to get in touch! 

The Bush Baking Workshop involves making bread the way it has been made for centuries - using two hands and some very simple tools to make the dough, which will be stored and proofed without electric heating or refrigeration. It's sourdough, unplugged; real bread for real people.

The Bush Bakery; Mark II

The story of the Bush Bakery has been told here, and in a vimeo story, and on the pages of various articles on the web. I won't repeat it here today. We are moving forward! 

This tour is what happens when you take what I named the Gypsy Bakery Trailer back on the road. Of course, those following the story would know that the original Gypsy Bakery Trailer ended up being far too heavy to tow around on a regular basis. It was parked at our premises at Ellalong, where it grew a 'lean to' off the side. This became my classroom, and soon after this grew again to become my Bush Bakery, Mk I. 

The Bush Bakery Mk II is being built as we speak. It comes from a hybridisation of the Gypsy trailer and the mobile shop you might have seen in the Vimeo link earlier.

The original Gypsy Bakery Trailer will be moved back to its birthplace of Wallarobba very soon, where it will undergo a big recycling process. As a prototype, the trailer was useful, and it has paid for itself. However, it also damn near wore me out every time I baked in it.

Craig and I have figured out how to recycle it into a completely new production unit, which indeed will be truly portable. It will also be easier to work. The working title for this project is The Bush Bakery Mk III. But more on that later. Let's roll back to the present - the Bush Bakery Mk II.

Reverse Technology in action

Those of you who have been following my stories for a while would know that I'm heavily into 'third world simple' technology. This phrase was coined when Craig Miller, my oven design partner and I were creating the first of our prototype woodfired baker's ovens, affectionately known collectively as 'the Berthas'. Anyone armed with a spanner, a crowbar and a basic set of tools could repair these ovens. The principle also meant that we were constantly trying to simplify, to remove stuff that wasn't necessary. Our ovens are designed not to break, in essence. Easy to say, of course, but hard to do. We are still diligently working at it, eight years later.

Extending that principle, I've arrived at what I'm calling 'Reverse Technology'. When you come to a Bush Baking workshop while I'm on the road, you will be seeing a lot of applied technologies from the past which are 'fit for purpose' today. My Bush Trailer will demonstrate some new twists on some of these technologies, as they can be applied to my slow fermentation sourdough baking techniques. Kind of a win/win, yes? 

The new trailer, which will have a working title of 'The Bush Bakery Mk II', will be truly 'off grid'. It needs no mains power, but I want to go further than that; there will be no gas either. It will need to plug in to water, and that's about it; I'll mention in my defence that carrying large volumes of water isn't possible on a small trailer.

The idea is it will be robust, super simple, adaptible and useful for life on the road. Some examples of these Reverse Technologies you are likely to see and use in the trailer are as follows:

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The Baker's Trough

Making dough in bulk by hand

When I started out, I couldn't afford to buy a mixer, so I developed a kneading technique which enabled me to make good quality dough in 30 kg batches completely by hand. I utilised this technique again many years later in our Hunter Street co-op style bakery, and was able to quite easily make up to 180 kg of dough each day. It was slow work, but very easy once you got into the swing of it.

Recently, I discovered the Baker's Trough, which has been a revelation. This simple trough amplifies the baker's mechanical effort (two human arms) many times, thereby being able to create dough very efficiently by hand. Such a deceptively simple tool, and yet this is how bakers around the world made dough right up till the mid 20th Century. Gradually, electricity became more widely available and mixers began to be installed in most bakeries in the western world. I do remember seeing a bakery when I was a kid which still had a series of stone baker's troughs in use, alongside a huge two arm mixer. These troughs looked a lot like those old cement laundry sinks most houses had before the washing machine became a household appliance. Now I'm showing my age; my grandma had a pair of them, and they are remarkably similar to those used by the bakery I mentioned here. 

I'm in the process of building my own baker's trough from timber. It will form the backbone of my traveling doughmaking equipment. I'm currently experimenting with designs, but I'm attracted to using a tree trunk hollowed out with a small chainsaw, and then being carved, chiselled and sanded smooth. 

Note: At the beginning of the tour, the baker's trough is still unfinished. I plan on making time to build it somewhere along the way when the opportunity presents itself. Stay tuned!

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The Bush Baker'sOven

The Bush Baker's Oven

The dough will be baked in a very basic woodfired oven which will be set up at each site. The oven should be able to bake about 16 loaves at a time, can be lifted by one person, and can be powered using a variety of fuels, including charcoal, sticks and twigs, briquettes or even biochar.

It's a revolutionary take on an old, old design I came across at a market stall a few years back. As usual, mine will be a prototype, and we will see what happens. Watch this blog for details as I write them.

Naked Refrigeration and Proofing

While there are perfectly workable off grid fridges available which are powered by gas, these didn't qualify as 'reverse technology'. Indeed, they have an ongoing dependency on gas, which in turn generates a dependency on exploration and mining and so on.

Solar fridges exist, and could become commonplace, but for this trip, I have been aiming for super simple and cheap - 'third world simple' has been my catch phrase, and so solar systems were just too elaborate and expensive for what I need. 

I have been looking into things which utilise evaporative cooling - things like 'Zeer pots' and 'Coolgardie safes'. Evaporation requires heat and/or airflow, both of which are available in abundance when you are outdoors in Australia. At Ellalong, I used ice filled PVC tubes and small fans to cool an insulated space. Eventually, I found that simply placing a bunch of large ice filled bottles in the coolroom space and blowing air at them cooled things by about 10 to 15 degrees below the ambient temperature. This was enough for my needs, most of the time - but on this trip, I wanted to go further with less.

Low Tech Retarder Proofer

Low Tech Cooler/Proofer

I liked the idea of using clay to keep things cold, but the problem with my trailer is weight and movement. Clay is relatively fragile, and to work well as a fridge, it needs a bit of weight.

I've arrived at the Coolgardie principle as a very good solution for mobile cooling. The evaporative power generated by slowly wetting hessian or calico or old towel is what cools a Coolgardie safe. You can bring the temperature of the 'safe' 10 to 15 degrees below the external temperature in the right conditions. 

So far. my version utilises two screens, filled with clay pellets from an old aquaponics setup, wrapped up with hessian and shade cloth. It is moistened by a drip feed hose, and evaporation is provided by a battery powered fan, as well as ambient ventilation while the trailer is moving. Early testing is providing reasonable cooling; it's still a work in progress, lets say. We are not there yet!

I'm also using candle power and terracotta pots to warm the same unit when I need to proof dough. So I have a super low tech version of what is known in bakery circles as a 'retarder / proofer'. I've used it a few times now, and I'm learning some tricks. I think eventually I will move to either a spirit burner type to get things really hot. 

So why not connect with me on the way?

For me, the trip will be something very special; I will finally get to meet many of you who I've spent much time with either on the phone or via email. I'll get to meet people who read what I write as well. It's a bit strange being a writer - lots of you know of me through my stories, yet I don't know you at all. It will be nice to actually meet you!

I will also be able to see some of the places in the Australian bush I've always wanted to see.

I'm totally fascinated by how Australian bakers managed to create the daily bread a hundred years ago, when there was no refrigeration, no electricity, very few vehicles, and often very little pure flour! On this trip, I want to drop in to a few bakeries still using Scotch ovens, and talk shop with bakers, learning as we do from each other. 

It's going to be a very full and hopefully rewarding trip. When I first wrote this post, there were 72 sleeps till I hit the road. At the time of this edit, there are only about 5 sleeps to go! Much is finished, but there is still so much to do!

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The Bush Bakery Mk II