Long before everyone was swapping sourdough starters as a pandemic project, Jade Ottway had a keen interest in fermenting foods for nutritional benefits. This eventually gave rise to the creation of Back Beach Bakehouse — a micro bakery specialising in artisan sourdough bread.
Jade — who is originally from the United Kingdom and settled in Cervantes in early 2015 with her partner Mitchell, a fisherman — says, “I’ve always had an interest fermenting foods like yogurt, kefir and kombucha. In 2019 I ended up having some time on my hands, and this led to me creating our sourdough culture — and I had absolutely no experience using a sourdough culture!
“The more I baked, the more mistakes I was making. Something as humble as bread can be so incredibly complex! This drove me to want to understand how a culture thrives in its environment, and how it works with the baker. I also got hooked on researching the nutritional side – how fermented foods are the missing link to diversifying our good gut bacteria.”
After four months of trial and error, Jade was pleased with the loaves she was producing and had become enamoured with the process. “I’d take just three ingredients — flour, water and salt — and turn it into the most delicious bread I’d ever eaten.”
Family, friends and neighbours lucky enough to sample Jade’s wares agreed and within a few weeks word had spread around town. She was able to sell a few loaves at Meraki Café where she was working and, after some further encouragement, Back Beach Bakehouse was born.
Not even the most optimistic of economic forecasters could have predicted the popularity of Back Beach Bakehouse, and although a booming business is hardly cause for complain, it certainly throws up some challenges. Bakers are renowned for their hard work and early starts, but Jade’s gruelling schedule during this rapid growth phase is more the stuff of nightmares than living your dream.
“In the early days I never thought I would make more than 10 loaves a week, so I only purchased a small oven to operate,” she explains. “That quickly turned into 30, 40, 50 loaves — all mixed and made by hand and baked in that tiny oven.
“I’d wake up at midnight just to get everything baked ready for deliveries the next day. And if I was doing a market that weekend, I’d be awake 36 hours straight just to make sure everything was done in time, then attend the market!”
Throw in a pandemic-induced flour shortage and a hold on equipment purchasing, it was a long twelve months before Jade could build in the infrastructure needed to meet demand and ease pressure on herself.
“I am grateful to say nowadays I run two ovens, two mixers, and a huge double door tropical rated fridge which controls the exact temperature of fermentation during the last proof of my products.”
Even with all the right tools, it is still quite the task to produce the quantity and quality of products that Jade does in a micro bakery. A schedule is essential to having days flow with ease, and this has become slightly trickier with Jade and Mitchell recently becoming parents.
“Most days don’t go to plan as such,” laughs Jade. “I always make it through each bake day with a new lesson learnt.”
Bread has become almost demonised in recent years, and though that negative press might rightly apply to the highly-processed, nutritionally-vapid white bread of supermarket shelves, there is definitely a place for good bread in a healthy diet. The Back Beach Bakehouse range changes weekly, offering a variety of ancient grain, wholegrain, seeded, enriched and speciality flavour breads, doughnuts and sweet treats, most leavened with sourdough.
“My main focus is to produce nutritional products using locally-grown produce and organic Australian wheat — whether that be local grain that I’ve milled fresh for the bakery, or using the amazing flour already milled from my supplier in Perth,” said Jade.
“I strive for health over wealth. I know bakery food is not considered healthy as such; however, we can enjoy a balanced diet eating real food made from real ingredients.”
Orders for Jade’s regular Friday bake can be made through their website, www.backbeachbakehouse.com and they welcome wholesale and event orders too.
Back Beach Bakehouse will be at the Jurien Bay Markets down by the foreshore on Sunday 25 September. You can also follow them on Facebook @BackBeachBakehouseCervantes or over on Instagram @thatdoughhoe.