Earlier this year I spent an afternoon in a sourdough baking class with Gabriella of The Hills Baking School. I love baking and have baked much of our bread, rolls and focaccia over the years but had been attempting – unsuccessfully – to make the leap into sourdough baking. Gabriella is a microbiologist with a Ph.D in probiotics whose unrequited yearning for the distinctive handmade breads of her Sardinian childhood married up with her interest in fermentation and ultimately led to a complete career change. She now runs a successful boutique sourdough bakery whose products are produced in very limited numbers, but are sublime in the extreme – if you’ll excuse my hyperbole.
As part of her business she also conducts popular baking classes for small groups and I was very pleased indeed to finally get into one. Gabriella’s knowledge of fermentations, flour, sourdough baking techniques and the microbiology behind this ancient domestic skill are mind boggling and matched only by her enthusiasm in communicating some small part of this information to as many people as she can reach. The classes are intensive and information-dense, but I came away with some of her starter, a much better understanding of sourdough and the ability to produce a very satisfactory loaf at home – finally.
We met up again after the class and chatted about planning a visit to the source of her and my flour supplies – South Australia’s only remaining industry-founding and traditional family owned/operated flour mill, Laucke‘s. Milling was once a thriving business here in South Australia, with each region or town having it’s own mill and this continued to be the case until as recently as the 1950′s when larger multinational milling companies began to move in, creating the kind of competition that smaller, family owned millers couldn’t match. Laucke’s is the last of the original family owned milling businesses left in Australia.
It took us some time, but yesterday we met up in Strathalbyn, the South Australian home of Laucke’s (they have a mill in Victoria now, too) and were fortunate enough to spend the morning in the company of Mark Laucke, Managing Director of Laucke Flour Milling. Mark is possessed of an astonishing repository of information on all aspects of wheat, it’s properties and how best to extract them and is no less passionate about sharing his knowledge. Mark was enormously generous with his time and, mindful of what a remarkable opportunity this was, I tried to absorb as much as possible from both of these inimitable intellects.
What came across most clearly is what a complex ingredient flour and the wheat it is made of really is. Wheat is rich in protein, complex carbohydrates and nutrients but the quality and amounts of these will vary dependent upon a great many factors. The variety of wheat is not the only factor to consider – as the region in which it is grown, the soil type, the soil additions which are used and the rainfall will all impact significantly on the nutrient level of the grain. The nutrient level of the flour made will be further impacted by the milling methods used, with much commercial flour being produced with quantity more than quality as the over-riding imperative.
Mark is a passionate baker as well as miller and is determined to produce a high quality product for his customers. After blending, cleaning and conditioning the grain (moistening it slightly with water) Laucke’s use a three stage system of sieves and rollers which is designed to reduce the grain, resulting in various flours – depending upon their intended purpose – without damaging the wheat germ or compromising the nutrient content of the flour.
After we had our chat with Mark we went on a tour of the mill which is a thrillingly active and noisy place. It exudes a slight air of danger from the rapidly moving machines and offered a frisson of fear from my recently acquired knowledge that flour dust is more explosive than petrol fumes! As we wandered around the mill, trailing after Mark through a dusty haze, we were able to see the progress of the grain as it passed through the various stages and follow it’s path from the conditioning troughs right through to the packing area. Mark’s is a man who wears his heart on his sleeve and his commitment to his product and his clients is genuine and sincere. I’ve used Laucke’s Wallaby flour for years now and was thrilled to see that my baking outcome is just as important to Mark Laucke as is that of his commercial bakery customers.
Laucke’s have kindly allowed me to include one of the recipes from their website to which my family has become particularly attached – their cinnamon scrolls. These are guaranteed to have everyone falling over themselves in the rush to get to them. I prefer to use butter instead of margarine, though, and sometimes make up a double batch and freeze half for later – if I can claw them away from the starving hordes.
- 400g Laucke Wallaby Flour
- 6g Laucke Bakers Yeast
- 50g White Sugar
- 3g Salt
- 60g Egg
- 40g Softened Margarine
- 90ml Milk
- 65ml Water
- 220g Brown Sugar
- 7g Ground Cinnamon
- 115g Softened Margarine
- Raisins (optional)
- Heat the milk in a small saucepan until it bubbles, and then remove from heat. Mix in margarine, stir until melted. Let cool until lukewarm
- In a large mixing bowl, combine approx 2 ¼ cups of Laucke Flour, the required amount of Laucke Bakers Yeast, sugar and salt then mix well. Add the water, egg and milk and beat well. Add the remaining Laucke Flour, ½ cup at a time, stirring well after each addition.
- When the dough has just come together, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth. Approximately 5 minutes. MIXING AND KNEADING
- Cover the dough with a damp cloth and leave to rest for 10 minutes.
- In a small bowl, mix together brown sugar, cinnamon and softened margarine
- Roll out dough into a 30cm x 20cm rectangle. Spread dough with filling mixture. Sprinkle with raisins if desired
- Roll up dough and pinch seam to seal. Cut into 12 equal size rolls and place cut side up in 12 lightly oiled muffin trays
- Cover and let rise until doubled in size, about 30 minutes. PROOFING
- Bake in a preheated oven 190 ̊C for 20 minutes, or until browned. Remove from the muffin pan to cool.
- Serve warm or top with icing.
For loads of information on Laucke’s, their history, products and more delicious recipes head over to their website here.
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