Hi Graham,

Not sure if this message should go here, but I just wanted to say that your website looks
great!! Say...when you visit bakeries in Melbourne next month, any chance you can add
comments to some of the pictures you will post? Also, can you take pictures of the most
popular bread of each bakery...and maybe show the the interior or crumb of the bread?
And maybe while you're at it...any chance you can take a picture of each bakery's sourdough
starter? That would be a gem!!


285 users have voted.


Graham's picture
Graham 2005 August 13

Thanks Doughman. The site is evolving and we are very happy with it and the response so far.

Bakeries will be asked to add comments to gallery photos. It is possible for users to log on and upload comments. My hesitation in requesting this info to date has been an awareness that bakers can find it difficult to find the time to do it.

While in Sydney I took some photos of cross-sections from the many samples that bakeries gave me. However there was very little control in regards to the comparative age of these samples, amongst other issues, so I decided not to include these pics.

But Melbourne is another opportunity. Sydney was spontaneous and there was no way for bakeries to prepare. In Melbourne I will ask bakeries in advance. I share your interest...this would be an exciting series of images!

I have been happily surprised at the openness of the bakeries. It is a very different situation now to what it was 15 - 20 years ago. I think the change is due to a broader availability of the science of sourdough as well as the movement of bakers between bakeries, resulting in a greater pool of shared knowledge.

Photographing starters and leavens is a possibility. This is another case where a cross-section (such as in a glass jar) would be more interesting than a top view. Bakers have been surprisingly tolerant of my photographic requests so far...but I don't want to wear out my welcome! We will see.


doughman 2005 August 16


You're very lucky to get the "behind the scenes" tour of bakeries so far. When I was in
Melbourne last year, one bakery was fortunate enough to give me a quick tour. The rest
were to busy, or the managers weren't there. Yeah...if you show the starters (pictures
permitted of course), that would be really neat. We can probably find out what type of
starters most bakeries used....whether it's a liquid starter, stiff starter, rye starter, whole
wheat starter....etc. I know this is a pushing your luck, but why don't you ask the owners
if you can smell their starters? Now, that would be really interesting.


Graham's picture
Graham 2005 August 16

Hi Doughman

Most bakers I met (in Sydney) were fairly open about their leavens.

French, or stiff leavens (also called French Starters) were more common in bakeries making hybrid (commercial yeast assisted) doughs.

However liquid leavens were more common than stiff in both hybrid and sourdough bakeries in Sydney. It is not an extreme risk for bakers to release this information. The techniques are well known and huge variations will occur depending on the training, skill, motivation and cultural perspectives of the baker.

Keith from Fuel and Wolf from Dallas are bakers that use liquid leavens in their hybrid doughs. Each baker has a very different style and produces very different bread. I wasn't able to see Dallas in operation, but at Fuel they were in full swing and still had time to show me the leavens. See

Smelling the starters / leavens? I have not baked full-time for just over 10 years. My nose is out of condition. And, I agree, that might be pushing it just a bit. But I am working on a device that will give a little more perspective on leavens. It's fairly passive so hopefully I will be permitted to use it.

What we really want is for bakers to describe their leavens and methods in this forum. Please keep these questions up because there is growing interest from working bakers.


doughman 2005 August 17

Hi Doughman,

That's good that the bakeries in Sydney have been kind to you. I hope
you get the same reception at the bakeries in Melbourne. That's
interesting that the bakeries you visited are adding a bit of commerical
yeast along with their bread doughs assisted with liquid or stiff levains.
That technique is somewhat common over here as well as
bakeries in France. When I attempted to visit bakeries in my area,
not one of them would give me a tour. It seems as though they were
pretty secretive, but I envy you....that they welcome you with open arms.

When I talk to other bakers about if they use small amounts of commer-
cial yeasts along with their bread doughs that are assisted with stiff or
liquid levain, some of them get a bit "ancy." They say they don't use
commercial yeast and would like their breads to be pure...meaning just
sourdough (liq or stiff) only. Oh well. There are purists out there.

When you visit the bakeries in Melbourne, and they show you their levain,
just make a small gesture....pointing your finger to your nose and then
pointing to their levain...asking them nicely if you can smell their levain.
Who might work...but I don't want you to get kick out of the
bakery for attempting to smell their levain.


Graham's picture
Graham 2005 August 17

Hi Doughman

Assuming I do get to smell some leavens, do you have any suggestions on how I should be reporting these smells back to this forum? Is there a grading system that I can use to express things such as 'warm' and 'fruity' in less subjective ways? Possibly I should learn the terminology used to describe wine and beer?

Tell me, do you know if bakers in San Fran use PH meters to measure dough acidity of leavens and/or doughs in everyday production?


doughman 2005 August 18

Hi Doughman,

If you do get a chance to smell a bakery's levain, that's great. This is only meant
to be for your see if a levain from one bakery smells or looks the same
from another bakery. I don't intend for you to report it back to the forum, but it's for
your benefit. If you can report it back to the forum, then that's great. I'm sorry I don't
have a grading system to offer to make this easy for the readers of this forum to
comprehend your expeience...if it does happen.

To tell you the truth...I really don't know if bakers in SF really use PH meters or not
to gauge the acidity levels of their sourdough starters or levains, and that's because I
haven't been successful in getting a tour of their bakery. But I suspect they don't use
PH meters. There are other ways you can guage the acidity level of your sourdough
starter or levain, and that's with your eyes and nose. When a starter has risen
enough and is about to recede, then it's ready to be use. If you smell a starter that is
very acidic, then you know it has over matured. If bakers from France in the early
20th century could use their eyes and nose to guage when their stater is ready and
when a PH meter wasn't invented (I don't know for sure), then I think anyone can. It's
just a matter of getting your eyes and nose trained.

Even in the very small bakery that I work for, we don't use a PH meter to guage the
acidity level of our starters. It's a matter of feeding your starters consistently, being
on time with the feedings, and using our eyes and noses to guage when it's ready.
For instance, we would feed our starters 2x a day, and we would always feed them at
6am and 6pm...everyday. Another thing that is important is the temperature of your
environment or bakery. That can affect your starter as well. If the temperature is
too warm/hot, the stater can mature too fast. If it's too cold, it can mature at a slower


Graham's picture
Graham 2005 August 18

Yeah, the idea that PH meters could be in greater use is just a fascination/paranoia of mine. We never used one in the bakeries I worked at and I don't know anyone else that uses one. My concept of sourdough in the States is perhaps too grand. Though in some of the larger production houses with their own labs I would expect PH testing to be more likely.

Quite a few Australian bakers have travelled to USA to bake. It would be interesting to hear their stories. Doughman, what is your own experience? This forum is for smaller bakeries too!


doughman 2005 August 18

First of all...I've noticed that I've been addressing myself in the last few posts. Well, I
guess this is what happens when I smell my own starters. *My eyes rolling* Graham,
to be honest, I thinkhaving a PH meter to gauge the acidity of the starters is a waste
of time if you're doing it in a bakery. I mean do you really want to have someone to constantly probe the starters every so often to check the PH level and make sure it's
on target? To me that sounds like a waste of time and resource.

I guess what I mentioned in my last post is to use our own natural senses...eyes
and noses. Temperature plays a role in maintaining the starters as well. Constanly
feeding your starter on time is a key factor. What I'm trying to say is to respect
your starter. This is the key element that is going to give your bread the flavor and
leavening. If you don't respect the starter, well...something in the bread will change,
and maybe your customers will go elsewhere to get better bread.

Hmmm...experiences? Well, I don't have any experience in working in a bakery in
Australia...though I wouldn't mind trying it out. In the U.S....I have only worked at 2 bakeries...including the one I work in right now. I guess what I can say is to respect
your starter. Make sure you have a good manager to work for....a manager that
has a grip on the business and knows what's really going on and attentive...and also
is patient as well. I learn that what you want to make or bake doesn't always mean
the customer will like it or eat it, and the vice versa as well. I think having a good size
workspace is a factor. I'm always bumping into my co-workers at the small bakery
that I work for. It's just like working in a submarine! I think the size of your oven
dictates how much bread you can produce. I mean if you have a small oven, and
you have lots of bread to bake, then it's going to be a problem. Also...try giving out
samples of your bread to customers. Spare one loaf of each type of bread and cut it
into small pieces and put it in a small wicker basket for customers to sample. Try to
educate your customers about your bread...why it's better than the one that comes in
a plastic bag and tastes like cotton. Also, keep your bakery clean...have pride in it.
You never of these days the health inspector might pay an unannounce
visit. Gee...I not sure what else I can say, but that's all I have in my head right now.


gadgettgirl 2005 September 23

Hi Doughman,

I'm new to the board, so apologies if this is something you have already posted (I did have a scout around and couldn't see anything). Do you mind me asking which bakery you work at? (I'll understand if you don't want to be that specific) I was in SF/Berkeley earlier this year, managed to try bread from quite a few bakeries. I was impressed at how easy it is to get your hands on good bread. We do good bread in Melbourne, but it's not quite as widely available as it seemed to be over there.


doughman 2005 September 24

Hi Gadgettgirl,

No apologies needed and welcome. Well, at this point I would rather not say which bakery
I work for. I'm just one of the workers...not the owner of the bakery. Perhaps, when I own
my own bakery (if ever), I might tell. It's just that the bakery I work for is very small and it's
the only bread bakery in town. I hope you had a great time here and eaten some great
artisan breads. Was there any particular bakery in the Bay Area you liked? I've been to
some bakeries in Melbourne as well.


dave 2005 October 17

Hi Graham, I just posted a cd of pics to you, 68 pics by memory, let me know if you "knead" any descriptions.

Graham's picture
Graham 2005 October 17

Thanks Dave. Looking forward to it. We are just about to start loading Melbourne photos on to the site. This is so much fun. Graham

Graham's picture
Graham 2005 October 20

Hi Dave. Your CD arrived this-morning. I will have a chance to look at it later tonight. My 'day job' finishes next week so I will be able to put a lot more time into the site. Graham

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