Bread. That humble food, traditionally made with just flour, salt and water, has been naturally fermented and kneaded by hand in homes and village bakeries for millennia. The warm yeasty aroma of baked bread, crusty and fresh from the oven, still triggers something in our souls.
It hasn’t always been a spongy, industrially-scaled product delivered from a factory to line supermarket shelves. Commercial bread is cheap and filling, but it is also made from highly-refined flour, is low in nutrients and comes with a label that can list up to 20 ingredients and additives.
Our love of simpler, healthier food runs deep. During the recent lockdowns it was remarkable to see so many of us experimenting with bread making. Along with the planting of veggie gardens, the stocking of new chicken coops and home baking, we found comfort in taking back some control over what we eat.
Across the Dandenong Ranges and the Yarra Valley there’s a band of devoted artisan bakers who have turned their backs on big cities and big business. Speaking with them reveals a mutual respect and threads of connections. Most are inspired by a desire to live, work and raise their families in this landscape, surrounded by its forested slopes, fertile paddocks and small communities. Here they are reaching back in time and reviving the art of simple, wholesome and healthy bread.