I just can’t help myself. Cindy and I were having a relaxing time in the warm sunshine of Victoria BC in January but the urge to be in the back of a bakery was overwhelming. So I called my friend Byron Fry of Fry’s Red Wheat Bakery and asked if I could spend a Saturday morning with him to see his operation.
Byron baked for many years at his parent’s farm in Metchosin, BC and selling at farmers markets, until opening his bakery on Craigflower Road in Victoria two years ago. Since he came to town he’s built up a large following of loyal customers who love his long fermentation sourdough loaves, his delicious pastries and his amazing wood fired pizzas (Sunday’s only!)
All his dough is either mixed by hand or in an ancient ‘hockey stick’ mixer. Cookie dough and scone batter gets mixed in there too. It’s a beast of a mixer that can mix a very large amount of dough, but has a very gentle and refined mixing motion.
Once again, the nature of the brick oven means that Byron’s schedule is pretty much the opposite of mine at Orange Boot Bakery. He bakes his flatbreads and baguettes first, while the oven is seriously hot, then the main loaves, then the pastries. Finally, as the oven cools down in the afternoon, it’s finally time for the heavy rye loaves and cookies, before the oven is finally fired for the next day’s baking. It’s a lot of work but he’s got his schedule grooved and makes it look easy (but it’s not!)
Similar to Night Oven Bakery, Byron shapes all his dough before he starts baking any of the bread. This means some of the loaves will sit out and proof for a very long time. I was amazed at how long Byron’s dough could hold before baking, even with his massive brick oven radiating heat into the bakery. It takes a special bit of skill to manage his sourdough starters so all that bread is properly proofed when there is room in the oven.
Of course, one of the big advantages Byron has over me, at least in winter, is that it’s still a balmy +6C outside when he’s baking. Just throw the front door open and the bakery can cool off a bit. When I do that at Orange Boot in winter I need to close the door within a minute or two or we all freeze!
I really enjoyed my visit and I enjoyed his baked goods even more. Byron’s baguette has a goodly amount of whole grains (fresh milled at the bakery) which gives it a complex flavour. His pastries are light, delicate and baked dark, the way I like it. And his sandwiches and savoury hand pies had me pining for lunch even when I really needed breakfast!
If you’re out to Vancouver Island, you won’t be disappointed with a stop at Byron Fry’s bakery. I’m so glad I got to see the bakery in action and taste some of their delicious, hand crafted bread. Thanks Byron!