Culture File: Joe Fitzmaurice of Cloughjordan Wood-fired Bakery
Joe Fitzmaurice, from the family behind Blazing Salads in Dublin, runs the Cloughjordan Wood-fired Bakery in North Tipperary. The bread he makes there is a thing of beauty, meant to nourish and feed in the most elemental way.
I got addicted to great bread when I lived in New Zealand. Around the corner from my favourite library, before it was destroyed in the 2011 earthquake, was the city centre branch of Ma and Pa’s Bakery. I gloried in deeply sour Californian sourdoughs, complex Pain au Levain and, my favourite (even though it did try to kill me), a chewy Maori rewana sourdough, made with a potato starter.
When I returned to Ireland, the only thing that could fill that boule-shaped hole were the delicious sourdough loaves from Blazing Salads which, although I didn’t know it at the time, were made by Joe Fitzmaurice.
It was cool outside on the day that I met Joe in Cloughjordan but the bakery was warm and peaceful and calm. His wood-fired oven – built to a design by the legendary Alan Scott – is a retained heat masonry oven. Basically this means that he lights the fire, using fuel from a nearby wood, the day before he wants to bake. As it burns, it releases the sun’s stored energy into the surrounding 9″ bricks and Joe uses that heat the following day to bake his slow fermented loaves, full of flavour and goodness and with the most incredible crust.
These are loaves that taste as if they are doing you good.
Meet the Bakers: Hear Joe Fitzmaurice talk about #RealBread, along with with Declan Ryan of Cork’s Arbutus Bakery and Josephine Plettenberg of Spelt Bakers in Kilkenny, on Saturday 25 January. The event – which just costs €5 – has been put together by Keith Bohanna, one of the hard working organisers behind Foodcamp, and takes place at Highbank Orchard.