Hope Farm Bakery started from a request for some sourdough bread at a small farmers market in Drouin some 4 years ago. Initially this was baked by Ric in the small wood fired oven in Neerim Sth. A baker for over 30 years in conventional bakeries Ric had decided to leave the baking business and became involved in landscape gardening.
During his time in Melbourne he worked with John Downes in the early days of the Natural Tucker Bakery in Carlton. Here Ric came to understand that the culture of bread making that was practiced for hundred of years has been largely forgotten in today’s baking world.
A number of glaring changes have changed the face of breadmaking. One of these was the change to growing mainly wheat crops at the start of the Industrial age where the driving force was mechanising the harvesting process to produce the cheapest flour. Without any rotation of crops extra fertilizers and phosphates were needed to maintain the output. To change the way we consumed the grains wheat was held as the miracle grain at the expense of rye, barley, millet, spelt and a host of other nutritious grains.
Next part of the process was to change from stone to steel rollers in milling the wheat. The steel rollers produced much greater heat killing off many nutrients and the modern process was designed to produce highly refined white flour with little nutrition. To cover the basic nutrition requirements for wheat, riboflavin, niacin and thiamin then had to be added back in the final process.
We now have a product that only faintly resembles the original product. On top of this machines have designed to produce bread in the quickest fashion using the least number of human hands.To make this process possible commercial yeasts, yeast foods, oils, emulsifiers and a whole host of additives to make a loaf of bread.
As customers we have been duped by the smell of bread baking with no idea of what was happening to our digestive process. Baking bread had become an opportunity to make money. If you were clever enough you could franchise the idea. As this contined so did our allergies to wheat, yeast, milk and many other highly processed foods.
The culture of early breadmaking was always a hands on process. Flour had to handled,smelt,felt and worked with to understand the amazing changes that happen in fermentation.There was never the uniformity that is demanded today in our supermarket style culture.
Different regions produce different yeasts, different climates produce different methods of fermentations and even different bakers hands and breathing can have a effect on the dough. Flours can vary with climatic changes, transport and milling methods. Bread for hundreds of years has been our basic food and building foundation of our diet (the "staff of life").
The most important quality with good bread is its ability to be digested and lack of any additives. With this interest in discovering more of this ancient craft Ric travelled to SanFrancisco, Austria and Italy and started to realise that the simpler the ingredients used the more complex flavours in fermentation could be achieved. Using only organic flour, sea salt and filtered water good quality breads that were also good for you could be made.
As the farmers markets became more popular the taste for sourdough breads becoame more popular. To maintain a hands on approach Ric took on a friend, Chris as an apprentice and a few family friends to help in the packaging etc. They only bake twice a week as the bread has as longer shelf life. The bread is actually easier to digest the next day and traditionally in parts of Europe was not eaten fresh. The quantities that they make is what they can comfortably hand mould in days work.
A usual production routine would be to feed the leavens (rye, spelt and wheat) the night before a bake. The Hope farm leavens are all made from only flour and water and once fed with flour sit overnight for 12- 18 hours. A the height of their activity we make them into various doughs and let them bulk ferment for 2-5 hours.
We then mould,prove (2-5hrs) and bake in a stone oven. Once the breads are cooled they are bagged and off they go to farmers markets all over the countryside. The family also do a second bake on a Tuesday night for deliveries Wednesady morning.
Our heart is to bake the bread we enjoy making. It has to be good quality food (without food numbers)and made by craftsman using their heart and hands.
Hope Farm Bakery