A little slice of heaven is fighting back in Miami’s eclectic commercial district, with sourdough fresh from the woodfired oven seven-days-a-week. Australian Baking Business strolls through Paddock Bakery’s picket fence to catch up with owner Ben Watts.
Paddock Bakery is all about keeping it real – so real in fact, you’d be excused for kicking off your shoes and forgetting you weren’t in your own backyard.
There’s a good reason why it feels so much like home. Rebelling against the sleek, glitzy offerings of the Gold Coast, Paddock Bakery is based in an old weatherboard house, renovated with the owners’ very own hands.
A carpenter by trade, Ben Watts took on the project with his wife Ursula about two years ago. Keeping the bones and the soul of the 75-year-old house, Ben and his friends gave the premises a much-needed facelift, including a small extension out the back. Now home to a woodfired oven, the add-on has become Paddock Bakery’s A carpenter by trade, Ben Watts took on the project with his wife Ursula about two years ago. Keeping the bones and the soul of the 75-year-old house, Ben and his friends gave the premises a much-needed facelift, including a small extension out the back. Now home to a woodfired oven, the add-on has become Paddock Bakery’s
The passion for real, traditionally-made bread came from 12-months of travel around remote Australia, where the young and in-love couple was forced to make their own bread. For Ben, the oven epitomises his very straightforward and honest ethos: keep it simple and do it well.
“We’re all about real food we can grow and make ourselves. It’s the stuff you remember from being a kid… food that’s fresh and delicious,” he says.
“In this sort of setting you treat everything and everyone with respect.”
The team delivers fresh sourdough every morning, with the simple-but-perfected offering consisting of a seven grain, a wholemeal, a fully organic white, a fruit and nut, and an olive and rosemary loaf on weekends.
“We don’t bake a lot of bread, but what we do bake, we want it to be really good. It can be tricky to get the temperatures right with the woodfired oven, and if we did a lot more bread, the overall product wouldn’t be as memorable,” he says.
“Half the bread is used in the café and the other half is sold off the shelves. So when you get a sandwich at our place, it’s always on bread fresh out of the oven.”
It’s not all about the bread at Paddock Bakery, however. The team’s brioche doughnuts have been a hit since day one, with up to 15 batches baked daily. While the smell alone is enough to draw a crowd, Ben and Ursula have taken to experimenting with different flavours, just to keep things interesting.
“If you put Nutella on anything, people go crazy, so we decided to put out a Nutella doughnut. Personally, I’m not a fan of Nutella, but our customers have gone mental for them!” Ben says.
“We cut out the middles of the doughnuts, cut them in half and fill them with Nutella. We try to put them out really fresh as well. Paddock Bakery also does a salted caramel version, which is topped with fresh pretzel cookie crumble.”
Cakes are baked seven-days-a-week and pastries are done from Thursday through to Sunday. Among the most popular is a gluten-free brownie with a gooey salted caramel topping, and a lumberjack-style cake with dates, apples and a coconut crumbs – typical old-school crowd pleasers that even Nana would be happy to serve up.
“We try and bake pastries in the woodfired oven if it’s not too hot, otherwise we have a little oven we bake them through,” Ben says.
“There are also cruffins, which have been a bit of a thing with the customers lately, and plain croissants. Again, it’s not about the quantity – we’re simply concerned with the quality and getting everything right.”
You can certainly taste the difference. The croissants, for example, have a flake and mouth-feel only achievable by laboursome rolling, while the bread has just the right crust and ash to know it hasn’t come out of a conventional oven.
The woodfired oven may require the bakers to stay on their toes, but, as Ben says, “if you’re going to something, you might as well do it right.”
“People have been baking bread in woodfired ovens forever, but on the Gold Coast, it’s a real point of difference. We light the fire the day before so we can bake bread the next morning. There’s something special about the entire thing – it really connects you to the whole bread-making process.
“You’re dealing with a different temperature everyday and you’ve got different amounts of steam in there, so it’s not a job where you can just rock up and stand there. But this is why Ursula and I really fell in love with making bread and why we still try to perfect it every day.”
Ben and Ursula recently welcomed a new member of the family to Paddock Bakery, baby Owen. With two-year-old Bob already on the scene and a close knit team of bakers, chefs and dishies, the business is truly a family affair. In fact, Ben says he’s been busy building his eldest son a chicken coop in the backyard, which customers will no doubt get a kick out of.
“We’ve got a veggie garden out the back and every time I go outside there is someone pointing things out to their child or grandchild, getting them to smell the different herbs and explaining the various plants,” he says, clearly proud of the space he’s helped create.
Making a house a viable commercial premises wasn’t an afterthought. It took months to cut through red tape, with the local council struggling to conceptualise Ben’s out-of-the-box business plan.
Nonetheless the Watts are convinced it was worth the money and the grey hair. After all, you can’t buy character.
“The house, which is an old sort of Queenslander, was originally built in 1936. From what we have been able to find out, it had been moved from the Redlands to the Gold Coast in the 1960s, with the same guy living in it for at least 25 years. Apparently he was the kind of guy who just sat on the couch with a few beers!” Ben says.
“The place has a lot of history and a lot of soul, and hopefully our customers feel like they are part of this home’s new chapter.”