Old Aussie baking recipes


Hi Everyone,
These recipes don't exactly fit with the definition of sourdough agreed upon here, but as examples of spontaneous fermentation - designed not to be sour - they're interesting. Their from a book you might know of called "The Book of Bread", one of the most important books on baking in the English language, published around 1900.

Facinating as a bit of history, showing bakers in different countries sharing recipes the old way. Click on the image below to open a larger version in a browser window.



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randyrob's picture
randyrob 2008 May 20
WOW very interesting article! thank you for sharing :-)

what's with the Hops used in the queensland recipe?

Cheers Rob.
danlepard 2008 May 21

Hi Rob,
The hops are in the mix to stop the mixture turning sour, the same reason we have them in beer. So the aim was to get a fermentation by any means available but without too much acidity. Hops have an antibacterial effect and would have inhibited the growth of lactic bacteria.

Commercial yeast, though available, hadn't totally taken from these natural ferments even by the early 1900s and there were many bakers who preferred the complex flavour and very slight acidity you got with this type of wild fermentation.

The bananas in the top one (in the blue box) are interesting. I spoke with a very good sourdough baker in NSW who told me that he would occasionally give his sourdough bananas, and I know of one in Greater Victoria who used to perk his sourdough up with bananas as well. I wont name names, after the great ascorbic acid debate I'd hate to see any bakers attacked, but these guys told me it worked wonders and helped to stimulate a very complex flavour.

Cooked potatoes provide a simple starch that's very easily fermentable. Have no idea why the ground rice would be used. The one from Queensland appears to say that it was better when no malt was used, and it could be that the warmth in the bakery was enough in itself to get the fermentation going, and the sugar in the malt was just too much.

Remember that most of the vessels for doughmaking were wooden and would have been only scraped clean or washed with cold water, so residual yeast and bacteria would have stayed in the tub and helped these recipes to work.


TeckPoh's picture
TeckPoh 2008 May 21
Rob, I bet you didn't bargain on getting such an enlightening answer...but Dan is always wonderful in sharing like that.

Just had time to look at the above bit of bread history. Fascinating! Thanks, Dan. Bananas, eh?
danlepard 2008 May 21

Oh for a time machine! Reading that "the writer has some very extensive information, which is difficult to focus here for the general reader, concerning colonial and foreign breadmaking, which can be supplied on individual application", I wonder what he knew?
Danubian's picture
Danubian 2008 May 22

Remember that most of the vessels for doughmaking were wooden and would have been only scraped clean or washed with cold water, so residual yeast and bacteria would have stayed in the tub and helped these recipes to work.[/quote]

Dan, I question whether the timber actually harbours more bacteria. I can remember the change over to plastic cutting boards in kitchens on the basis of improved hygiene as wood was said to harbour bacteria.

Some years after I read a scientific paper which refuted that rationale; it concluded that the wooden boards were actually more hygienic due to the antibacterial properties of wood and in fact the plastic boards harboured more unless treated after every use. I can't find the article now so I can't quote verbatim, but at the time I was mildly amused at how things worked in 'our' world.

Tracey Clancy 2009 April 20

I recall reading such an article in The Economist maybe a decade ago.

TeckPoh's picture
TeckPoh 2008 May 22

It's a neverending tussle in my kitchen between hubby and I, whenever I feel compelled to buy a wooden board.
danlepard 2008 May 22

Hi Danubian

I don't see where your question of wood harbouring "more" bacteria comes from; not from my words above. I believe the point the scientists you write about were making was that bacteria will be found on any surface, but that the plastic surface is better at encouraging the multiplication of bacteria because it doesn't absorb moisture, so providing in scratches and cuts these "pools" where bacteria can multiply. Whereas an absorbent surface like wood causes the bacteria to desiccate and inhibits growth, and if any resin or wood oils are present these can slow that growth further.

Describing a surface as "anti-bacterial" means that bacteria find it difficult, not impossible, to multiply there and that is the benefit of wood.

The wooden trough you used to make bread in was usually scraped clean (washing a tub was a rare act) and we do have written records to support this; we also know that traces of dough were intentionally left by the bakers in and 19thC books do warn against being too vigorous with trough cleaning as a well-used trough was seen to provide a quicker rise to the dough than one made from new wood.



danlepard 2008 May 22
[quote=Jeremy]What about cloth covered bannetons, why are people so opposed to them?
With regard to health and safety?
Graham's picture
Graham 2008 May 27

Cloth is used often in Australia as general couche and as covers for loosly woven baskets...mostly from China and Indonesia I think. There is no reason to cover a traditional European cane banneton with cloth, except to prevent the possibility of splinters entering the dough (not a common occurance, but possible).

Bacteria is less of an issue because it is killed in the oven or, as Dan mentioned, may even add favourable qualities to the fermenting dough (though early contact in a wooden dough trough would obviously have far greater influence than later contact in a banneton).

Brasserie Bread in Sydney use hair nets in cane bannetons because they do not hide the cane's texture like cloth does. Brasserie is HACCP Certified and any potential risk (no matter how small) is identified and controlled.

Plastic bannetons are an excellent solution if they suit your style of baking. Artisan Baker has imported hundreds of plastic bannetons for bakeries (both with and without breathing slots). But for every 5 bakeries that try plastic, only 1 choses them over the cane bannetons. This is despite the fact that plastic are the same price as cane, should last longer and there is no chance of splintering.

Jeremy's picture
Jeremy 2008 May 27
What a pitch! I was referring to baskets with linen, the typical French kind!

PaddyL 2008 May 27
Beatrice Ojakangas talks about the "crust" left on the inside of bread bowls being used to make sourdough, or the equivalent, in Finland.
Graham's picture
Graham 2008 May 29
What a pitch! I was referring to baskets with linen, the typical French kind!

Oh...I see! Get me some of those so I can flog them as well! I will pay your comission in AUD.

Really though Jeremy I just wanted to keep open the dialog on baking surfaces. When you think about it, bakers have been pretty dull by not experimenting with alternate surfaces for forming our loaves.

The concept of limiting surfaces to stainless and plastic is pathetic. If anyone has had fun with alternate surfaces...please let the forum know about it.
celia's picture
celia 2008 May 29

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I've had great success with the plastic "wicker" baskets they currently sell at kitchenware stores - the round one here cost me $1.50 and the long one $4.50. The long one is a bit too big, but I've bought more round ones, and they've been great. I can dust them with flour, or spray them with oil and then dust them, and when they're done, I can wash and dry them easily. And when they kark it, I can get a new one for $1.50. :)

northwestsourdough's picture
northwestsourdough 2008 June 4

I would think the advantage of cane and wicker over plastic bannetons, would be the absorptive character of the cane/wicker/wood as far as forming a better skin on your dough. I have used plastic bannetons even ones with holes for circulation (which helps) but none get the skin on the crust as well as a material that absorbs moisture. If I need to use a plastic banneton/bowl now, I line it with a proofing cloth to help with the absorption. Also the proofing cloth will give you a loaf without the lines of the regualar bannetons if you wish to show off the crust more. My 2 cents worth :) Teresa

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