Artisan Bread Baking Photo Journal
Today you'll get a virtual tour of McGraths' Brick Oven Bakehouse, run by Kevin & Melinda McGrath.
He crafts truly artisan bread using traditional methods few other bakers still practice. McGrath's naturally-leavened breads start with organic grains and a decades old sourdough starter. After much hands-on-attention, each loaf is baked in a wood-fired brick oven.
The work to produce this high quality artisan bread starts long before the bake day.
Kevin has to collect and split wood a year ahead of time so it can dry completely. If he doesn't plan ahead it will be much more difficult to build a fire!
Two days before baking, Kevin feeds his sourdough starters by taking a small portion of mature starter and adding fresh flour and water and giving it time to mature. This prepares the wild yeast, enzymes and good bacteria for their upcoming fermentation job.
One day before baking, he lights a fire inside the brick oven and carefully controls it to burn clean and hot. Those bricks need to hold enough heat to bake up to 200 loaves the next day.
While the fire burns merrily away, Kevin mixes flour, sourdough starter, water, and a little salt to make the dough. Each portion is weighed to keep the loaf size consistent. Next they are pre-shaped and left to rise for a little.
Then he rolls them to give each loaf its final shape before it goes into the refrigerator for the rest of the 24 hour sourdough fermentation process.
The Pan Bread is starting its last rise in the bake pan...
Bake day morning, the first step is to thoroughly clean all ash from the oven. The fire had these bricks heated up to over 1,000° the day before and they're still above 600° now. Before he can get started baking, Kevin usually needs to use pans of water to cool the oven down to 575°.
Just one more step before they go in to bake – each loaf gets three slashes on top to give the bread plenty of room to spring. Without a cut, it would split randomly and mess up the beautiful artisan look.
In they go with the help of his nifty oven loader!
As soon as heat hits the dough, the enzymes begin activating immediately. Notice the rapid expansion only a few minutes later.
Kevin is keeping a close eye on these loaves... After coming this far he can't let anything go wrong now!
Edge loaves are pulled out and rotated to keep them baking evenly in spite of the side oven wall heat.
The crust is browning nicely... Don't they look beautiful?
Finished loaves cooling on the rack before they're packaged up for delivery to you.
Wow, this bread is making me hungry! I can almost taste the fresh sourdough flavor topped with a layer of Grass-fed Butter... and maybe a sprinkling of garlic salt. :)
And if you want an artisan sourdough loaf for sandwiches we also carry McGrath's Whole Wheat Pan Bread. But I must tell you, the Original is far more popular.
Thank-you for helping us support Kevin & Melinda as they work to bring back wholesome, delicious breads packed with nutrition.
All the best,
~5th generation on the farm
God Designed it. We Respect it. That Explains it!
P.S. Keep this artisan bread frozen if you aren't ready to eat it for a few days. Then thaw it at room temperature and pop it in the oven at 350° for 15 minutes to fully refresh the loaf. Read Kevin's freezing recommendations here.