Loaves of Excellence

Flour dust floats effortlessly as you step through the unassuming doors of Apiece bakery, to be consumed by the heat and aroma emanating from the bank of ovens that are touching the loaves with golden colour in anticipation of the next day’s market.

Leavening bread is a deliberately slow ritual that relies upon the air we breathe to activate the rising and proving of the dough that after many many hours is transformed into the delicious loaves and delicacies that Apiece bakers bring to the Harvest Launceston Community Farmers’ Market.

Early on a Saturday morning, Jerusha Sandler can be found setting out the loaves with attention to ensuring each is a testament to a way of baking that reminds her of a childhood and a father who home made everything from for the family table. She is always eager to explain what makes Apiece loaves special and what has drawn her to Tasmania and bread.

Jerusha has been many things, a photographer, child carer, but after living in Sydney for the past 11 years she was drawn to Tasmania by circumstance and happened upon Apiece and Ian Lowe.

Jerusha joined the team of three bakers at Apiece, headed by Ian almost a year ago. When Harvest visited the bakery, Sam Beckman was master of the ovens. Wielding a water spray and long wooden paddle he choreographed the placement of each loaf to ensure the optimum amount of heat and moisture. Sam was helping out as Ian was out of town that week. The dough is wet and the ovens hot, producing an intentionally dark bread as this further releases all the flavour.

The rest of the team comprises Pippa Archer and Joey Eng. From Singapore, Joey is learning the art of sourdough and says the excellence of the teaching means she has learned to prize doing what one cares about over and above doing something that “was just good for business”.

Launceston local, Pippa, is described by Jerusha as the one person she would sail to a deserted island with because of her ability make anything taste great.

Working alongside Joey, Pippa is efficiently urging the dough into the shape of loaves ready for the bank of ovens where Sam is ensuring each loaf is being rotated to achieve the perfect crust. Pippa flicks away the dusting of flour that settles on her nose with a laugh as she talks of falling in love with the tradition of sourdough. She started out as an apprentice chef but has embraced the art of leavening bread and water and air into sought after loaves and pastries.

The Apiece team start prepping for the market on Wednesdays, with the mornings getting earlier and earlier as the market days approach. Early on Saturday the loaves for Harvest are loaded as Jerusha and the bakers head to market. But the break for the bakers is short as they are back at the ovens by 10:30 pm on the Saturday night to finish the bread that is again loaded into the van in the wee hours of Sunday for the drive to the Hobart market.

For the “keeper of the starter” there is no time off. The starter known as the “beast” must be fed every day according to a strict schedule. This culture together with freshly milled and carefully sourced flour and captured local yeasts and microbes are the core ingredients that distinguishes Apiece loaves.

There is no commercial yeast, the bakers rely on the wild airborne microbes that flourish in the flour and water base and cause the dough to rise. It is these microorganisms that give the bread unique characteristics that can vary from place to place depending upon the natural occurring yeast in the air – much like the terroir that gives wine its particular regional characteristics. Bacteria then feed on the sugars released by the enzymes in the dough. This creates air pockets within the dough that gives the bread lightness and texture. Although relying upon the wild yeasts in the air that surrounds us produces slightly less predictable loaves, it gives bread complexity, flavour and provides naturally beneficial bacteria for the gut.

The natural fermentation is a long and slow process. The flour, water and microbes are put to work to prove for 36 hours for bread and for 48 hours for the pastries. All dough is leavened at room temperature. Once the fermentation is complete, the dough is cut and shaped by hand to create the array of delectable offerings.

Since Jerusha joined the team about a year ago, she has put the finishing touches to the Apiece loaves by creating new signage that complements the specialist loaves. She says she has loved every second of living in Tasmania, the only hiccup has been vicious ant bite on Bruny island she says with a laugh.