Making sourdough bread is an ancient practice that’s been around since the days of the Pharaohs. For thousands of years, it was how bread was made.

It was a slow, labour intensive process, and flavours and textures varied from region to region.

It’s only in recent times that things have changed.

Industrialisation has seen bread become standardised and mass-produced. It’s quick, easy and cheap, but has also lost much of its flavour, character and goodness.

Fortunately, our region is home to a few bakers keen to keep the art and tradition of bread making alive, including Byron Bay couple Simon Ivanac and Rachel Pearson, who founded their own home bakery, Heart Breads, almost a decade ago.

Simon and Rachel are all about creating authentic sourdough in the traditional way, using only the freshest organic and biodynamic ingredients available.

Everything is done by hand, from kneading the dough, to shaping the loaves and cutting the wood for their homemade wood fired oven.

Each loaf is proved in the slow, old-fashioned way.

“A lot of bakeries they use yeast or a proving oven to speed things up, whereas we make it and it sits for at least six hours,” said Simon.

“It’s a long prove and the gluten starts to break down…so it’s a lot easier on your stomach and a lot easier on your digestive system.”

The method they use takes more time and hard work than conventional bread making, but the result makes it all worthwhile, according to Simon: “It’s rewarding…it’s fulfilling for us. Were not pumping out something that’s going to make us lots of money… it’s something that’s good for people. We feel proud of what we’re doing.”

Simon and Rachel have found an appreciative audience for their bread amongst the local foodie community, and are suppliers for restaurants including Fins, Mavis’ Kitchen and The Gaia Retreat. Their biggest fans, however, can be found at the local farmers’ markets, where they have been selling their bread since day one.

“I met an Austrian guy who tells me: ‘the breads are like chocolate. It’s just like my grandmother used to make,” said Simon.

“And you know, that’s big from a guy whose country has got such a history in bread. It’s really lovely to hear that sort of stuff.”

• Story and photos by Kate O’Neill

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