SOS = Single Origin Sourdough

I’ve drunk ‘single origin’ coffee and indulged in ‘single origin’ chocolate, but I have to say that ‘single origin sourdough’ was a new one for me. We’d decided to indulge ourselves and have breakfast out at the markets this morning so headed off to Bean & Grain for some Eggs Benedict.10Nov2017

I was startled to see the SOS sign, but intrigued when I read further. It turns out that the single origin flour is an idea of farmers in northern New South Wales, trying to improve their returns by moving out of the bulk grains commodity markets. Looks like they are gaining some traction both in Canberra and Sydney. You can find out more here. If you are a keen baker you can also buy the flour to have a try yourself.

Turns out the extremely yummy toast we had with our breakfast, along with all the current batches of bread, was made from the single origin Lancer flour (a wheat strain introduced in 2011). I was forced to buy some multigrain bread to bring home.

** Just in case you want to know I have no connection with the growers or the sellers of this product. All the views expressed here are my own.


Bruny Island

If you had to pick one place that provided a good cross-section of Tassie in one day then Bruny Island could well be it. Bruny Island is a combination of farmland and national park, along with some tiny settlements. The short ferry ride across the D’Entrecastaux Channel was very relaxing compared to the dissembarkation off the ferry which ressembled the start of the Indie 500.

It was all we could do to get our van safely off the road and into the carpark of our first destination – the Bruny Island Smokehouse, or Bish for short. Thankfully tranquility returned once we were inside. A fine platter of smoked fish, fish pates and chutneys was put out for us to taste. There were also a wider range of smoked products available (but not on the tasting platter), and some additional local products available for purchase. In the end we settled on some smoked Atlantic Salmon, smoked mussels, a smoked  Otto cheese (Bruny Island Cheese Co. makes the cheese Bish smokes it) and a bottle of pomegranate molasses.


By this stage we were desperate for a coffee so we set off for the Bruny Island Cheese Company (you will probably have seen the company’s owner, Nick Haddow, on The Gourmet Farmer on SBS) which is just a bit further down the road and hoped that they had the coffee pot on. We pretty much had the place to ourselves for our cheese tasting which consisted of two platters.The first platter was of several soft and washed rind cheeses and the second a selection of their hard cheeses.The c ulmination of the tasting was their C2 raw milk cheese, which was just wonderful.


We decided to settle back and have a coffee and a bit of cake before we made our final decision on what to buy. We were also lucky that it was a baking day so we were tantalised by the aroma of wood-fired bread coming out of the oven.
There were several books for visitors to browse, including Matthew Evan’s latest book Winter on the Farm (autographed of course). TB went straight for the well-thumbed cheese-making textbook – he knew he was onto a good thing when he noticed that the name written inside the cover was that of one W. Studd, who I understand was a mentor of Nick Haddow’s. In the end there was no going past the C2 and for good measure we also bought several rounds of the OEN cheese which is washed in pinot noir then wrapped in grape leaves to mature.

Cutting the C2 is a serious business – I think we can all agree ‘THAT is a knife!’

OK don’t drool. Bruny Island Cheese can be bought at the Saturday Salamanca Market or you can join the company’s cheese club or order the cheeses online. A few of their freshly baked baguettes made it into the stash and we picked up a loaf of their sourdough later in the day when we were returning to the ferry.

We drove south across the narrow neck between the north and south parts of the island. A rather nice national park campground at the southern end of the neck gave us access to the ocean side of the island. As we walked along the beach we noticed that there was no shortage of pippis in the sand – although they were rather too small for eating (notwithstanding that we were in a National Park).
The next order of the day was more food, of course. We’d taken the precaution of making a reservation at the very aptly named Hothouse Cafe, which is actually housed in a double width polytunnel. We felt right at home! This cafe is run from a private property, which also has accomodation (one for next time I’m thinking!)


We had to wait a bit for lunch, not a problem with a great view all the way back up the neck and on to Mt Wellington. What we were waiting for was this beautiful steak and guinness pie, one of the greatest pies I can ever recall eating. The meat was completely succulent and flavourful and  was delivered straight from the oven of the lady of the house to our table.


BTW that is a dinner plate it is sitting on! so there was no need for anything other than a refreshing drink to go with this meal. I’ve also heard and read good things about the Hothouse Cafe dinners as well. This lunch certainly bodes well for people dining here in the evening.

After lunch we made a dash down to the far end of Bruny Island to see the lighthouse, which was built in 1836. The second oldest in Australia (South Head lighthouse in Sydney claims the honour of being first, built in 1818).


For once I was pleased to see that the lighthouse was surrounded by a heathland that was full of flowering native plants – a far cry from the devastated weed infested paddocks that surround many of our lighthouses.

But we couldn’t linger, well not too long. We had to get back for our final food encounter back on the northern end of the island. Get Shucked oysters may be rustic in appearance but don’t be fooled, these are great oysters at a really good price, a dozen oysters for $12. With an iced bottle of chilli ginger beer to wash them down it was a fitting finale for our Bruny Island food frenzy. Of course I couldn’t leave without getting my own ‘Frequent Shuckers’ card!


At the end of the day we met up with our travelling companions who’d also spent their day at Bruny Island. Unlike us they had donned red plastic wet weather gear and spent the day careening around the island enjoyed the scenery and wildlife on their boat trip. For dinner we had a ‘grazing’ meal that pretty much summed up our days’ adventure (with a bit of help from nearby farms as well):


From the top left: Basil flavoured sheeps curd and just below it Friesland Fog ash-coated cheese (both Grand Ewe Cheeses); baguettes, plain and with cheese topping and sourdough (Bruny Island Cheese Company); OEN pinot-washed soft rind cheese in vine leaves (Bruny Island Cheese Company);and smoked Atlantic salmon (Bruny Island Smokehouse).

Brioche with a bang! and a whimper

I didn’t really expect the bang and bright flash as I tried to get the dough hook down into my brioche mix. I know, I should have checked to see whether there was a problem before I forced the top half of the mixer down, right through the power cord which had become caught between the base and top section of the stand! TB came to my rescue, whisking the mixer off to the shed to replace the cord while I reverted to person power to mix the 300gms of butter into the mix. I did manage to do this and about half an hour later the mixer was back in action.

I became a fan of brioche while travelling in Japan a few years ago. Unlikely as it may seem, one of the things that the Japanese do really well is French-inspired pastries and bread. French culture and cuisine is very popular in Japan and patisseries abound. We were stocking up on food prior to a weekend away in a thatch-roofed farmhouse in the mountains. A loaf of brioche seemed a good choice for breakfast.


Here it is looking plain but tasty, topped it with cream cheese from what must be the camp-est cheese brand in the world.


… Quite worrying really.

But back to the brioche, things did not proceed as planned. My dough just wouldn’t rise even in the warmest room of the house. 


I can think of many possible causes for this lack of action including the gap between my hand kneading and the final beating in the machine, the room was just not warm enough, tea towel too wet etc etc. After two hours it was stubbornly refusing to do anything. The plan had been to take the brioche to a friend’s house, but this baby wasn’t going anywhere. Plan B was to shape the brioche into a plait as per the recipe and see whether that would rise while we were out. We returned home fully expecting to cook the brioche while settling in for the first mountain stage of the Tour de France, but no. It was still as flat as when we left it. Thank heavens Cadel Evans was doing better than we were.

Alright, we decided to let it rise overnight. The question was would it rise in an unheated room? Then I remembered we have that heater pad we use to get our seedlings started. Doh! the next morning we woke to a risen batch of brioche swimming in a pool of butter,


not including the large amount of butter that was absorbed into the covering tea towel.


It’s OK that really is an image of the late Jennifer Patterson (one of the Two Fat Ladies) swimming up through the butter, but it is printed on the tea towel – I’m sure Jennifer would at least approve of the use of butter.

We decided to go for broke and cooked the brioche as it was. It smelled divine and did, well, OK. The cooked brioche turned out more like a biscotti, definitely not how it was supposed to work out.


On the other hand it still tastes great, proving that any combination of excessive amounts of butter and sugar can’t be all bad!



From the sublime to the ridiculously easy

I know it was just two posts back but we were so impressed by A’s No-knead bread at winter solstice that we just had to try it for ourselves. I’m speaking here in the “royal” we as it is TB who has been doing all the actual work (well I did at least print out the recipe!).

The secret, such as it is, is to leave the bread to rise for a long period of time, 18 hours to be roughly exact. It is interesting that this long rise is one of the key techniques employed by Jean Luc Poujauran (as seen in the second episode of French Food Safari). However, unlike Jean Luc, we do not have a 74 year old sourdough starter so we just had to stick to the rest of the recipe as written.

The basic bread components, yeast, flour and water, are pretty much thrown together in the bowl and just left, so even a novice bread maker shouldn’t be intimidated by this recipe. TB started his loaf Thursday evening before going to bed. Somehow I don’t think leaving it sitting in the unheated kitchen overnight when the outside temperature dropped to – 5 degrees was quite what was anticipated, however I moved it into the loungeroom when I got up and it did quite well in the warmer room.


What you are looking for is lots of big bubbles in the surface of the dough.


Again the next stage of taking it out and folding the dough over on itself twice, is very easy (particularly compared to the old knock back and knead technique).


After folding the dough is placed in a floured tea towel and left for its second rise, just two hours this time.


Next the bread is placed in a heavy casserole dish which has been pre-heated in the oven. It is through cooking the loaf in an enclosed container that the development of the fantastic crust on this loaf takes place.


After the initial cooking period of 30 minutes the lid is removed and the bread is baked for a further 15-30 minutes.


Et voila!  Our first loaf of no-knead bread.


What to do with it? Further inspiration from Maeve and Guillaume, using our own homemade bacon and cheddar cheese.


We couldn’t resist a second try with a mix of 80% white flour and 20% wholemeal flour.


If you still have a serious passion for Jean Luc’s bread you might like to visit the Fresh Loaf where someone who has tasted the real thing has their own go at recreating it. Be warned this is real serious foodie stuff!