Bread as it should be

By Michael Harden
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Phillippa's Breads, Pastries and Provisions

Phillippa's Breads, Pastries and Provisions [©Phillippa's]

Phillippa's Breads, Pastries and Provisions
Phillippa's Breads, Pastries and Provisions

Phillippa Grogan has some hardcore attitudes when it comes to making bread. Her uncompromising stance on technique and flavour caused many of the bakers she interviewed for her brand new bakery to walk out on the interview the moment they understood how she wanted her bread made.

“I have some very firm ideas about what is “cheating” when it comes to bread,” says Phillippa. “If you add sugar, malt, Vitamin C or soy flour to bread then I consider that cheating. More than one or two percent yeast in the bread is cheating too. We use only flour, water, salt and yeast. It is harder to make bread the way we do, but we know it will taste better.”

Before opening her Armadale shopfront business in 1994, Phillippa worked in London for nine years, mainly at Sally Clarke’s where she not only discovered the traditional baking methods used in all Phillippa’s bread today but also found Andrew O’Hara, a New Zealand baker equally interested in artisan bread-making techniques. Phillippa’s original plan was to open her own business in London but too many difficulties led to a return to Melbourne where she opened her bakery just six months after her plane touched down.

Andrew O’Hara had gone home to New Zealand and was planning a return to London but came via Melbourne on the ruse of doing some stopgap work at Phillippa’s. Phillippa says that once Andrew started producing the bread at Phillippa’s it “took off” and because “it is very hard to keep a good baker” she married him.

Phillippa’s bread has become one of the best-known brands in Melbourne and is stocked in small and large food stores, supermarkets and gourmet joints across the state. The original shopfront remains in Armadale but the bakery moved to a larger warehouse space in Richmond several years ago to cope with ever increasing demand. Despite the move, rising demand and an increased range of goods (including spiced nuts, jams and preserves, tarts, biscuits and pastries), Phillippa and Andrew still won’t “cheat” and continue making the bread in the same, labour intensive and time-consuming way they have always done. All the Phillippa’s range - made from rye, spelt, white and organic flour – has low amounts of yeast that mean the dough takes longer to prove, resulting in more intense flavours and better textures. It is amazing that despite the quantity in which Phillippa’s bread is now made, it still tastes and looks so handmade.

Phillippa’s addiction to the artisan life is perhaps best demonstrated by her regular stalls at two of Melbourne’s Farmer’s Markets. She says she loves the markets (“I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t”) and being able to rise to the challenge of putting her product before a crowd that is “specific and fussy about what they eat”. She likes to test out any of her new products on the people who are most particular about the new products they buy. It is nice to see that over a decade after she opened her bakery, Phillippa still enjoys the challenge of making things difficult for herself.


© Michael Harden 2006
First printed in Food and Wine Lovers’ Guide to Melbourne and Surrounds (2006)

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  • Melbourne (VIC)

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