June 21, 2024 1:16 AM

Hooked on the aroma of freshly baked bread



With a pretty intense background in the world of food, different aromas – both weird and wild – form a huge part of that. But for me, there is something more at play than just the smell.

Smells that I adore include:

     Fresh coffee beans. Of course.  It’s like a drug to me.

     Gardenias.  It gives me a hit of those Christmas holiday feels, only kids get.

     My next-door neighbour’s house about 6pm because their dinner always smells so good!

     Bleach. Strange but true.  It’s the rewarding smell of hard work and cleanliness.

     My Issey Miyake perfume as it instantly transports me back to my escapades in France.  Don’t ask me why, as I only discovered the fragrance after I returned from that incredible experience.  But still to this day the smell has magical powers over my memory (and there have been quite a few years inbetween…)  

But nothing compares to the intoxicating aroma of freshly baked bread. I am unashamedly drawn to that smell, like rats to the Pied Piper.  To me it is the aroma of warmth and love and the sweet promise of deliciousness.  Not once has it let me down.  I remember getting up early during family holidays at Avoca beach, to be at the bakery when it just opened for the best, still warm bread, fruit loaves and hot cross buns I have ever eaten, while being able to watch the bakers still at work in the background.  Oh, the smell! I remember the many long road trips we made from Sydney to south east Queensland, by the small towns and bakeries we stopped at along the way for a hot meat pie or the biggest, freshest salad roll. And while I have dabbled in the art of bread making to try and satisfy that need, I now humbly leave that in the very capable hands of our bakers.

And more than capable they are!  This week I went on a bakery mission in Singleton to briefly shine a spotlight on these amazing, sometimes unassuming, yet quintessentially Australian shops. With simple décor, friendly staff and displays with all the usual suspects, they really did not disappoint!

Singleton Heights Bakery, at two locations within Singleton, while almost sold out of everything baked that day, sent me home with freshly baked banana bread, sourdough rolls and an unsliced high-topped fruit loaf.  The hoard of kids had a great breakfast the next morning.

 Cox’s Bakery, just off the main drag enticed me just at the right time with the most perfect square meat pie and the squishiest of soft sliced white bread I could have hoped for. Bakers of Singleton gave Miss S a post-netball oval pie and sauce, as well as a super floury cob loaf for Sunday sandwiches. And don’t forget there is the Fortune Café and Bakery and even a Bakers Delight.

I just love the familiarity of these bakeries – fresh breads, sausage rolls and hot pies in at least a dozen flavours (each made just slightly differently from the next bakery ) and a cabinet full of vanilla slices, decorated cupcakes, caramel and custard tarts, apple pies and lamingtons to name but a few.  However, the small shop is merely a front for what goes on behind the scenes. Bakeries also provide their fresh breads and hand baked pies and treats to local corner stores, cafes, restaurants, schools and sporting events for us all to enjoy.  They also create bespoke birthday cakes and do catering to local businesses as well.

But honourable mention must go to the bakers that have ridiculously early starts so that people like me can get their daily bread fix. You have a profession I truly admire from a healthy distance.

Now I would not even dream of putting in a bread recipe or pie recipe here! It is not my place, and besides, we have all these local owned bakeries to do that for us.  I was itching to do my bread and butter pudding recipe, but today I am going to use the floury unsliced loaf to create something else that is also quintessentially Australian.  A really good toastie. With bacon. You’re welcome. 

Bacon, Cheese and Mustard Toastie

6 slices of rindless streaky bacon                               Seeded mustard

4 thick slices of fresh bread                                        100gm coarsely grated aged cheddar

Butter                                                                          100gm coarsely grated swiss cheese 

Ripe tomatoes thinly sliced                                        Finely sliced shallots

Onion jam

Method                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   Grill the bacon for 5 minutes until golden then drain on paper towel.  Butter each slice of bread then turn over.  On two slices spread generously with seeded mustard then top with 3 slices of bacon and the sliced tomato.  Mix the two cheese and shallots together in a bowl and spoon over the bacon.  Spread the onion jam on the other two slices of bread and join the sandwich together.  Place sandwiches buttered side down on the hot sandwich press, close and cook for 5 minutes until the cheese has melted.  Eat immediately!  

And while the humble toastie doesn’t crack my list of favourite smells, it does make it to my list of most loved comfort foods… and that’s a whole other story.