Pagnotta at Baker D. Chirico, Melbourne

shiao-ping's picture

I had a lovely day in Melbourne visiting bakeries last week.  I visited all of the best five sourdough bakeries over there plus a few more, but my favourite was Baker D. Chirico on 149 Fitzroy Street, St. Kilda.






I haven’t travelled much around Australia, so I was delightfully surprised to see fallen leaves and different colours of trees in Melbourne.




Pictured below were the two breads that I bought at Baker D. Chirico to enjoy with my coffee:



[b][color=brown]Counter-clockwise from top left:[/color][/b]

[b][color=brown](1) Pagnotta; (2) Casalinga Bianco; and (3) an autumn leave with my flat white[/color][/b]


I stood in front of their bread display, studying for a long while, before I picked these two breads – Pagnotta, because it is a big miche and I am always attracted to old-style big miches; Casalinga Bianco, because it looks like their signature house white.






 [b][color=brown]crumb of Pagnotta[/color][/b]


The crumb was exceptionally moist.  It was flavourful with mild acidity.  I am sure the flavour would further deepen in the next few days.  The crumb was not as open as Sonoma Miche that I wrote about in my previous post because this was a different style of miche.  Both the texture and the mouth-feel were heavier, befitting for a colder climate.



[b][color=brown]The beautiful crumb of Casalinga Bianco[/color][/b]


The best part of my trip was stumbling across an amazing book store called Books for Cooks in Fitzroy, right opposite a bakery named Fatto a Mano.   They are run by cooks and lovers of good food for cooks!  Sourdough baking is quite a specialized area of culinary interest and it is not often that I find in a book store a bread book that I haven’t seen before, let alone one that interests me.  Books for Cooks is one such book store that is, to me, a rare find.  




rossnroller 2010 June 9

Makes me nostalgic - wish I had another visit to Melbourne planned soon. Great city.

Baker D. Chirico has been at the top of my must-check-out list for quite a while now, and looking at those magnificent crumbs - well, just sensational. Now I see what all the fuss is about. I envy you having tasted these loaves! Mmm-HMM!

Did you happen to meet the man? And if so, did you gather any tips on anything he does that might have produced crumbs like those?




robatt 2010 June 9

Who are the other four? I live in Melbourne and have my own favourites. Baker D Chirico I know and love, others that tempt are Dench in North Fitzroy, Babka in Fitzroy, Noisette in South Melbourne.  But who, oh who, is on your list???

And the best sourdough bread/long black coffee combo is my holy grail, do you work on that list as well?

shiao-ping's picture
shiao-ping 2010 June 9

You were the one who recommended me to go visit Baker D. Chirico!   

No, I did not meet Daniel Chirico.  I don't normally bother with anybody during my trip.   I was delightfully surprised to see bags and bags of Laucke unbleached bakers flour sitting in a corner of their small but very lovely bakery.   So, [b]that[/b]'s the white flour they use!   I maintain that choice of flour is very important for artisan baking.  Not all flour is good enough.   

You asked if I'd gathered any tips on anything they do to produce the crumb.  I often think that there is little secret in any trade or craft.  I do not know exactly how or what they use to produce the lovely Pagnotta, but other procedures that we already know about, through the net, produce different but equally lovely (or close to equally lovely) results.

Do you remember the Poilane procedure which uses pate fermente?  After I did Gerard Rubaud’s miche, MC took my photos and showed them to Gerard.  She came back with a valuable comment from Gerard.  He said that if I put salt into the levain at the first couple of stages of elaboration (as he does, which I overlook), it will slow down the speed of fermentation and, in the process, different acids and flavour compounds will develop.  So, that’s what I have been doing lately – Poilane + Gerard Rubaud.  The result has been amazing.  Even in a simple white bread, the flavour is deep.  I make sure that there is some whole grain flour in it, be it Teff, Buckwheat, or Spelt flour, not just Rye and Wholemeal flour, up to 15% but no more than 30%.  

I have no doubt the bread that comes out of your oven is as good as most bread in any bakery.


shiao-ping's picture
shiao-ping 2010 June 9

I visited [b]Brioche by Philip[/b] of Philip Chiang at 208 Commercial Road, Prahran.  Their sourdough baguette has been chosen as the best sourdough baguette in [b][i]the foodies’ guide to Melbourne, 2010[/i][/b].  As I was leaving, I saw a newspaper clipping pasted on their glass door, true to Chinese style, about “the best five sourdough bakeries in Melbourne” of which they are one.  (I can’t exactly remember the article title or which newspaper or, indeed, which date.)  I looked down the list and there was only one that was not on my list to visit.  Again, I can’t exactly remember but I think those five were:  Dench, Baker D Chirico, Brioche by Philip, Phillipa’s, and Irrewarra.  At the time, I didn’t bother to check the credentials of the article because I think these things are subjective at best.  You mentioned Noisette.   I do like Noisette; and I like Il Fornaio, too.

shiao-ping's picture
shiao-ping 2010 June 9

I was looking at my [i]the foodies' guide to Melbourne, 2010[/i], and on page 11, it lists the ingredients of Baker D. Chirico's Pagnotta.  They are unbleached white, wholemeal, rye and spelt (same as for Gerard Rubaud's miche).  They are biodynamic stone-ground flours.

rossnroller 2010 June 10

I did find your version of the Gerard Rubaud bread one of the tastiest - if not the tastiest - of the now many different SD breads I have tried. Way past time to do it again (especially now that you've pointed out that Chirico's pagnotta has the same flour combo). But first, I'll re-acquaint myself with the Polaine procedure you've linked to and apply that to the GR formula, as you've been doing. In the end, flavour and texture is king, queen, and the whole damned empire - at least as far as I'm concerned. That said, I really would LOVE to achieve a crumb as spectacular as the Chirico ones you've photographed. 

You're quite right about my bread being up with most bread available commercially (and I don't count the non-SD bread bakeries...makes sense to compare apples with apples). I've thought the same for a long time, but never dared to articulate that conclusion publicly - it sounds boastful, if not delusional! Now let me hastily add a couple of qualifiers.

It ain't MY bread that is anything special - anyone's properly made home SD bread can be fantastic! And I am fully aware that the point you were making is that gorgeous home-baked bread is simply a matter of technique, good formulae, quality ingredients, a properly functioning oven, and some experience. With those factors operating, the door to the wonderful world of home artisan bread baking will yield to anyone who knocks on it. It's a matter of unending joy and gratitude for me that home-baked bread, and especially sourdough bread, can smell, look and taste so beeyootiful, and that the joy of it is accessible to just about anyone.

I absolutely agree with you on the crucial part flour plays in turning out quality artisan breads. As you know, I am very happy with my usual biodynamic/organic stoneground Eden Valley flours - their bakers flour, whole-grain wholemeal and whole-grain rye are all great. On occasions, though, I have tried others, including the cheap stuff from the supermarket (always unbleached - you gotta have some basic standards!)...and yes, there really is a difference in the bread produced. There is no doubt that you need quality flour to make quality bread.

I've often seen Lauche bakers flour in 5kg bags in the supermarket, and wondered what it is like. Been meaning to give it a go for a long time, but now that I know that both you and Daniel Chirico use it, I will pick some up as soon as my current stock runs out!

Thanks a lot for your most interesting responses.


shiao-ping's picture
shiao-ping 2010 June 10

I love your “king, queen, and the whole [color=red]damned[/color] empire” comment.  Quite right.  I am currently reading European history.   

You said you “would LOVE to achieve a crumb as spectacular as the Chirico ones” that I photographed.  Do you often photograph?  Asians often do, and I am one of them.  I am constantly amazed how photographs make something look better than it actually is.  (That goes with all my home baking that I show on the net.)  I often wonder why home breads taste better than bakery breads.  I think we home bakers have one advantage and that is our bread is consumed at the most optimal time.  Have you ever had one bad teppanyaki?   When the ingredients are fresh, and are freshly cooked, how can they be bad?


I can’t remember in which post I talked about aleurone; maybe it’s in my Poilane post. It’s a shame that it is a very long-winded post.  You have to cut through the crap to get a good point.  Aleurone is something home bakers don’t look into, but the pros are serious about.  The vitamin- and mineral-rich aleurone layer is also the main source of flavour compounds.  That is why it is good to add a small portion of good stoneground wholemeal flour, or other whole grain flours.       


On a separate note, when I was having Pagnotta, you know what it reminded me of?  Hamelman’s Five-Grain Levain ([i][b]Bread[/b][/i], page 174)!   Even though there were no visible “grains” in the Pagnotta crumb as in Five-Grain Levain, both breads were exceptionally moist.  There is some very useful technique in Hamelman’s Five-Grain Levain.  Have you ever tried making it?  I am thinking to use the technique in a miche style of bread. 

rossnroller 2010 June 11

That's something I'll need to look up - never heard the term until now. So, stoneground whole grain flours have an effect on this thingo, huh? There's no doubt adding quality whole grain flour to bread enhances flavour - but the science behind that I've never considered.

I can't really think of anything else but the freshness aspect that could explain why home-baked SD bread tastes so good - you've probably nailed it, Shiao-Ping. I have wondered whether it could be that the premium quality flours we use are not commercially viable for most bakeries. I'm sure the top SD places like Chiricos don't compromise on quality flours, though - these guys are always going to do whatever it takes to turn out the fantastic produce their reputations have been built on.

Ta for the alert on Hamelman's Five-Grain Levain. Will haul out my copy of his tome of bread wisdom and check that out. I've under-explored all my books by the bread gurus, mostly because I come across too many enticing recipes from great home bakers like you, and these go straight on to my must-try list. Apart from an initial flurry of trying their recipes when I first received their books, Hamelman and co don't usually get a look in!

Just two questions re pâte fermenté, s'il vous plaît:

  • How do you mix it into the dough? Do you cut it up and stir into water, or something like that? Is it necessary to completely dissolve it?
  • How long can you keep it in the fridge before using it?


shiao-ping's picture
shiao-ping 2010 June 14

(1) I can't exactly remember how I did it, but I think I dissolved the pate fermente slowly with recipe water.  I think as my pate fermente had a fairly high hydration (75%), it would have been airy and bubbly once it was properly fermented, so I couldn't have cut it up.   If the hydration were lower (or if it were under-fermented), you could have cut it up into small pieces and add them into your final dough ingredients.   That said, if you find that your fermented pate fermente could be cut up, there would be nothing wrong to cut it up, instead of painstakingly trying to dissove it in water.

(2) I would not leave it longer than 3 days.  If you know that you won't be able to use it straight away, why not put it into the fridge way before it's fully fermented.  In fact, I would remove it after a couple of hours at room temperature.


rossnroller 2010 June 15

After posting my queries, I decided not to be so lazy and consulted Hamelman and Reinhart (duh). Their instructions on pâte fermenté coincide with yours re not leaving it too long before using, and allowing it to rest for 2 hours after taking it out of the fridge prior to mixing into a dough.

Got one in the fridge right now and will give it a try tomorrow, using your Gerard Rubaud recipe. Thanks for the tip on this - looking forward to seeing how the bread turns out compared with using a starter.


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