The Fabulous Baker Women
STORY AND IMAGES BY RICHARD CORNISH
The aroma of baking bread fills the backyard. Sweet, dark and nutty it rolls around on the breeze. In the kitchen out the back of a home in the heart of Daylesford, two women perform a much-practised dance as the knead, shape and bake beautiful looking sourdough loaves. The space is not expansive, so they have worked ways to move around each other that are almost balletic. They are Katy Bauer and Alison Wilken, the brains, brawn and passion behind Two Fold Bakehouse. They are regular attendees at the Daylesford Sunday Market selling out of their bread and baked goods early. They also have a midweek Community Supported Bakehouse (CSB) scheme in which members subscribe and pay for bread a month in advance.
The two bakers met at RedBeard Bakery in Trentham. Alison was once a professional baker in Melbourne and W.A. before parking that career to be a full-time mum. Still a dough junkie she was dropping in on to see the sourdough operations at RedBeard for her ‘bread shaping fix’, as she puts it. “I really missed the rhythm of making and shaping bread and I was scared I was going to lose my muscle memory,” says Alison. Meanwhile, Katy, a fellow bread tragic and almost half Alison's age, was volunteering at the wood-fired bakery to learn more about the arcane art of sourdough baking. The two women soon established a working friendship. Owner of RedBeard and real food activist John Reid saw possibility in the duo and pushed them into a ‘forced professional marriage’, as the bakers say, laughing. John allowed them to develop their skills and their business at his bakery. But they soon outgrew RedBeard, so they left the nest and set up shop in borrowed kitchens. Meanwhile, Alison renovated her kitchen to create a brand-new home for Two Folds Bakehouse.
“When we started, we did not have a mixer and had to mix by hand,” says Alison. “It was hard work,” says Katy, “But we got to know the dough by feel.” She refers to the way bread dough’s texture changes when kneaded, as the proteins develop into gluten. They are using quite specific flours. They are all stoneground flours. Some are wheat, others are ancient grains like Khorasan. These flours behave very differently to conventional, sifted roller-milled flour. The bran absorbs more water. The proteins can take longer to develop, and because the starch has not been broken down by the milling process, it takes longer for the sourdough culture to break down the starch. Alison brings down their sourdough mother from the shelf. She opens the lid of the container. The mother is a natural mix of flour, water and billions of yeasts and bacteria. It smells nutty and slightly milky.
The dough is fermented, shaped, proved all day, allowing the sourdough to work away at the flour. During that time, a vast swathe of flavours develop in the dough. The loaves when baked have a lovely chewy crust, soft crumb with aromas ranging from wafts of banana to chocolate to roasted nuts.
Katie and Alison also bake a small range of biscuits and fruit pastries, including rhubarb danish when the rhubarb is available. They also bake fruit buns, multi-seed loaves and old-fashioned malt loaf. Their breads are truly excellent. If you're a local and want to become part of their CSB scheme, email firstname.lastname@example.org for more details. If not, get in early at the Daylesford Sunday Market.