Inside an air-conditioned shipping container fitted out with commercial cooking equipment in Corowa’s industrial estate, Kylie Ferguson is hard at work in her new business baking artisan sourdough bread.
The Yarrawonga resident did prep work the previous night and has returned to start the baking process, which will result in about 100 loaves by the end of the day.
Towards the back of the kitchen, the humming sound of an industrial mixer is blending the flour, water and salt and Kylie takes a moment to point out that there’s nothing else added to her bread.
“We advertise it as three ingredient bread – flour, salt and water because that’s essentially all it is,” she said.
“I love seeing enjoyment out of a simple food. There’s no yeast, no bread improvers, just simple food.
“It is really what I like to call as back to basics, there are no added sugars, no added fats, oils or preservatives or flavourings.”
While the ingredients may be simple the process is one that took Kylie, who has a background in the food industry, a long time to perfect.
The hunt for the perfect recipe and process was spurred on by her desire to bake bread that was healthy for her son, who is now an adult.
“He used to eat nothing but bread and I was quite conscious about the additives that are in bread and I had always loved bread myself,” Kylie said.
“There were many failed attempts to achieve the perfect loaf.”
Kylie admitted to coming a long way since the day she once broke her kitchen bin with a heavy, overdone loaf.
“The loaf was so heavy and so dense, I slam dunked it into the garbage bin and split the bottom out of the bin,” she said.
From then it became a challenge that Kylie was determined to conquer.
“All I did was bake bread and started giving it away to family and friends and it branched out from there,” she said.
Kylie starts off with flour and water that is left to ferment over time.
“Through the fermentation process it starts to develop little micro-organisms that are helpful to our gut and help our digestive system,” she said.
“It’s along the same lines of yoghurts that have your cultures and all the good bacteria in them.
“Once it has started to develop you keep continuing to feed it flour and water and it is left to ferment over time until you end up with a bubbly mass, which is what is used in the bread instead of yeast.”
While most people were winding down over the Christmas holiday period, Kylie was flat out baking bread to sell at local markets including the Corowa Rotary Market and the Yarrawonga Farmers’ Market.
“The Christmas Eve market we did in Yarrawonga was incredible, we had sold out by about a quarter past 11,” she said.
“Our week before Christmas was massive we baked about 500 plus loaves and it was absolutely phenomenal, over a four-day period I think we got about 10 to 12 hours sleep over that period.”
Kylie’s business, Flourish started up just four months ago and already she supplies Corowa’s Doc Yarrum, Souleiado Cafe in Yarrawonga, Zest Studio in Rutherglen and All Saints Winery in Wahgunyah.
Kylie bakes between two and three days a week and said the Corowa community had been very welcoming.
“Word of mouth has been absolutely huge for our business and being in Corowa we were really unsure of how things were going to go, but we have been so well received here and everyone has supported us,” she said.
But just what is it that makes a loaf of bread an artisan loaf?
“Artisan simply means it is a hand-crafted bread and so what you are seeing now is the only process that is actually mechanically done, after the mixer the bread rests and after that the salt is added and then it goes to sleep again,” Kylie explained.
“It sleeps for two hours with half hourly intervals of stretching and folding the dough which develops the gluten in the dough and strengthens the dough.
“After this process is finished it goes to sleep for another two to three hours, then it gets shaped and then goes to sleep for another hour and then it gets baked.
“I love what I do. It’s a long, long process but it’s a thoroughly enjoyable process.
“And I love seeing enjoyment out of a simple food and that’s what it is essentially, a simple food.”
Among the varieties available include traditional white, seed and grain called vitality loaf, fruit loaf, pumpkin loaf, sundried tomato, spinach and fetta loaf, parmesan and cracked black pepper loaf, as well as an olive loaf, light rye loaf and a regular seed loaf.