Artisan Bread Baking Photo Journal

written by

Wesley Shank

posted on

February 4, 2022

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°. 

Next he lays out McGrath's Original loaves on the oven loader. See how these were rising in baskets? This helps give them a more free-form shape compared to the Pan Bread loaves.

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. :)

If you've never had McGrath's Original Sourdough bread... do yourself a favor and get some now. This truly artisan bread is amazingly delicious and is packed with real sourdough health benefits.

Thank-you for helping us support Kevin & Melinda as they work to bring back wholesome, delicious breads packed with nutrition.

All the best,

Wesley

~5th generation on the farm

YourFamilyFarmer.com

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.

More from the blog

Rodrick & Jeanette are moving to Colombia, South America

Good morning Family Cow friends, Today I have some news that's a bit personal, but it only seems right that you should know. Our oldest son, Rodrick, with his wife, Jeanette, and family are planning to move to Colombia, South America next month. Yes, you heard right. Colombia South America. Just above the equator. We still can hardly believe it either :) Our church conference is starting a new congregation there at the request of local Colombians asking for a Biblical church and faith community. But it's also located on the border with Venezuela, so a big part of their work will be to help relieve the ongoing Venezuelan refugees crisis. This new congregation, "Amigos del Prójimo" (Friends of the Neighbor), is located near the border town of Cúcuta, Colombia. Jeanette grew up in Guatemala, and Rodrick has spent time there so both of them are fluent in Spanish and understand the Latin American culture. For this reason, Dawn and I were really not totally surprised that the mission board thought of them when looking for families to establish the new church plant. Their combination of skills and cross cultural experiences made them seem a natural fit. But that did not exactly make giving them up any easier! We are still working on that process! Here are a few pictures from the area near Cúcuta. Distributing meals to the homeless...   Música, anyone? 😉 I'm not sure what the point of this car was, but Rodrick said they heard it coming from several blocks away...   Checking out the countryside...   Sofia with a new little friend  Exploring a mountain road (part of the Andes mountain range)  After months of prayer and consideration and several visits to Colombia, Rodrick and Jeanette made the tough decision to answer the call to move there for an indefinite length of time. Though it is hard for us to let them go, we do give them our blessing.One comfort is that Rodrick is not abandoning The Family Cow. With today's technology, he'll still be able to do much of the management work and accounting work that he has done before... so this change shouldn't necessarily impact you, but it will represent some definite changes for our family and team.Rodrick plans to work remotely, doing many of the same business administration duties, but he will turn over the General Manager role to his younger brother Wesley. Rodrick also plans to continue giving management support to the Olde Tyme Meats butcher shop team.The other four brothers tell Dawn and I not to worry about the farm and business management, but I know there will be changes. We'll just need to find our way one step at a time.Dawn and I are not sure who's making the greatest sacrifice—the ones staying or the ones moving. :) I guess it is all of us. And that's ok.As far as Rodrick and Jeanette's Amen Acres farm, if all goes as planned, we'll have one of the other brothers live on that farm to manage the care of the grass-fed beef and pastured pork.There is no doubt about it... we will greatly miss having Rodrick and Jeanette, Andre, Clara, Sofia and Leo nearby. But they remind us that airplanes fly both ways, that they will return a few times a year for visits, and that we of course can come down to visit them too.Who knows—maybe someday Rodrick and Jeanette can grow cacao beans and make single origin organic specialty chocolate for our Family Cow tribe. How neat would that be? Don't think it's impossible. Just last week we introduced single origin organic coffee straight from Jeanette's family in Guatemala. :)In spite of unknowns, some things never change. We do know that "all things work together for good to those who love God." (Romans 8:28) So... we'll just focus on loving God and we'll trust Him to work out the good that only He knows! Faith, Hope and Love,Your farmer - Edwin for Dawn too

NEW: Organic Coffee direct from family in Guatemala!

Good morning Family Cow tribe! I have exciting news: Organic Coffee direct from Rodrick & Jeanette's family in Guatemala! Yes, this dream is finally happening. 😊 Know your farmer, know your food... taken to a whole new level! This single origin coffee is Chemical-Free, Shade-Grown, Hand Picked, and Small Batch Roasted to create a premium brew. It is a Medium-Dark roast to highlight the delicate coffee notes without the strong "burnt" flavor of many cheap brands. Coffee is often dark roasted to burn away undesirable flavors of low-grade coffee... Definitely not the case with these specialty beans! :) Taste the difference and enjoy with confidence. It's fresh organic coffee direct from a single source you can trace and trust. This specialty organic coffee is always: Single Origin from family in Guatemala (pictured below)Shade-Grown and Bird FriendlyRegeneratively FarmedSmall Batch RoastedChemical-FreeHand PickedSun Dried100% Arabic2,200 foot ElevationRetalhuleu RegionMedium / Dark RoastWhole Bean so you can fresh grind for optimum flavor! :) Meet your coffee farmers: Virgil & Jolene along with Sheldon & Dianna carefully manage each step of the process to bring you the best coffee possible without any chemical contamination. Know your coffee source and enjoy fresh brew with confidence. Coffee farmers: Virgil & Jolene with Sheldon & Dianna   Stay tuned for coffee updates in the future!We plan to share more photos of their regenerative farm along with details of how they use "good bugs to fight off the coffee pests" instead of relying on harsh chemicals the way most coffee is raised.I'll do my best to show the Hand Picking, Sun Drying and Small Batch Roasting in action! :) Blessings on your day,Wesley~5th generation on the farm P.S. If our coffee is sold out when you are ready to purchase, please check back in a few days. We fresh roast a small batch every week or two coffee so it won't be sold out long! :)

Pastured Chicken is here!

Soy & Corn-FREE chicken parts & whole birds in stock! :) All limits have been removed... stock up as much as you want! If we do sell out of whole birds it will only be briefly between our weekly harvesting throughout this summer and fall pasture season.