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Regular customers to the Farm Shop may have noticed our team becoming increasingly enthralled with the idea of the perfect loaf of organic sourdough bread. Over the past 3 years, we have introduced customers to the delights of some of the finest organic bread-making talent in our region. We have also steadily been working our way towards being able to bake and sell our own bread. We still have a lot to learn before we can deliver a steady supply through a fully-fledged on-site Warrah social enterprise, but this month customers have been tasting some of the first experimental Warrah Farm Shop loaves.

For those who are not as obsessed with bread as we are, it may come as a surprise to learn about the long process involved in producing a loaf of artisan sourdough. Unlike regular bread made with commercial baker’s yeast (packaged in suspended animation, as it were), sourdough bread requires a starter culture. This starter takes many days to produce (unless you are lucky enough to be gifted one), and it must be fed and kept alive to be able to perform its magic as a leavening agent. The starter provides incredible flavour to the bread. Breads made with regular yeast often have (not necessarily healthy) ingredients added to them to compensate for their lack of flavour. The natural fermentation process triggered by the cultures in the starter (and ideally taking between 24 and 36 hours), not only gives sourdough bread its lift, but also makes it more nutritious and easier to digest than regular bread.

The skills required to bake the perfect artisan sourdough need to be handed down from a master baker. For us, this is Alex Riviere. Our Enterprise Manager has been welcomed into his bakery – Black Cockatoo – weekly for two months to learn bakery management. Training our own team of shop employees, carers and participants on-site kicked off in November. Pictured above is Chris, Warrah resident and farmer. He is no stranger to baking large quantities of bread here at Warrah, as he used to bake bread for all tour residential houses in his youth. He has not lost his touch! The final day of our training will include a larger group and more of our Warrah Society participants. We aim to launch the new bakery and programs producing a regular supply of loaves in February 2021. The programs will be a coordinated effort with residential, CSS and school participants. In the meantime, the training process produces fresh warm sample loaves to entice customers and cover the cost of ingredients. If you are interested to learn more about artisan bread baking we highly recommend the episode entitled “Air” of Michael Pollan’s documentary series, Cooked” (currently available on Neflix).