Wood Frog Bakery

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By Mantis Kane (www.zantidote.com)

The Wood Frog is a rare species native to the French region of Bordeaux. It secretes a sweet serum from its facial gland that’s harvested by elite pastry chefs for high-end patisserie products.

You’re unfamiliar with this miraculous trait because I made it up.  Pondering why an artisan bakery would head down the amphibious branding route brought up a few scenarios – this the most interesting, but sadly untrue. Sometimes nature just doesn’t live up to expectations.

We caught up with the Wood Frog head honcho, Jarrod Hack, to look under the hood of St Kilda’s hottest bakery, and dish the dough on some trade secrets.

 

Firstly, explain the name and why base yourselves in St Kilda? 

The Woodfrog is a nod to the little creatures that survive and thrive against adversity. The actual frog has developed a curious mechanism to sit out long cold winters in a frozen state. I’m not under any illusion that it enjoys it, but it deals. We thought the name poses several advantages over “Barkly Street Bakers,” maybe we were wrong.

The property in St Kilda gave us access to square meterage that we never thought we could use, until we needed more..! Also, being central we are easily accessible to locals that appreciate our process and our bread. Given that we live around here it’s the perfect spot – you can never be far from the dough.

What bread are you most proud of? 

The baguette came about in a moment of inspiration as I attempted to apply the same principles of long (sourdough) fermentation to a slightly yeasted dough. The results are high moisture retention, challenging crust and lots of flavour. It’s proof to me that bread doesn’t need to be sour to be good.

 Your French stick is reputably a labour of love – visually quite different and fluffier than the normal baton. Is this authentic or something you have fused? 

Time is the main difference, and how it is manipulated using temperature and muscle memory! Customers are often curious only about ingredients, about a recipe. The difference between bread and most other commodities is that the exact same ingredients can yield incomparable results.

Are the French the best bakers?  

The French have the best attitude in the world to respecting the baking tradition. They see good bread as a cultural heritage and in this country, which for so long has subsisted on sliced white premix doughs, they appreciate the effort required to make it.

Your fruit loaf goes beyond the normal remit – discuss?

Fruit must be soaked if you want to create a succulent loaf. Also, you need loads of it, but not too much or it will collapse under the weight. We soak ours with a little orange blossom water and a touch of spice.

I hear you globe-trot searching for machinery – where’s the most interesting place you have been? 

The right machines are those that mimic the human hands without degassing or tearing the all-important gluten matrix that allows leavening. Also they have less severe hangovers.

Actually the moment we discovered mechanical mixing we grew ever more ingenious; the cheap got cheaper and the best got a little more delightful. Surprisingly, the Japanese are world leaders in dough processing technology.

What’s the most ambitious product on offer? 

Our spelt loaf is perhaps our most ambitious product. We have achieved a open crumb and crispy crust not typical of the grain with its soft temperamental gluten. I like to toast it, or fry it when its really fresh.

What other bakeries do you rate in Melbourne?

I can’t wait to try Kate Reid’s pastry from her new place in Fitzroy. Her obsession with a crescent of butter laminated dough demands respect!

 

 Wood Frog Bakery108 Barkly St, St Kilda VIC 3182(03) 9077 5440

 

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