The Rise of Emma Shearer’s Lost Loaf

It’s been a rapid rise for Emma Shearer’s bakery The Lost Loaf. Within a few months
of opening, the former Magill Estate pastry chef had to hire staff, take on new wholesale clients as well as two supermarket stockists. This is unsurprising, considering she bakes some of the best bread in town.

Starting out as a one-woman operation was always going to be short lived for Lost Loaf Bakery owner Emma Shearer. Before opening, her bread was already sought after. Customers would often ask, “Where can I buy this?” when they tasted the house bread at Magill Estate, where she previously worked.

“It happened super-fast, even the guys at work were shocked,” Shearer says. “We [Shearer and fiancé Koen Janssens] did so many things: we bought a new house, sold my house, got engaged and did this [The Lost Loaf]. It was awesome.”

In late 2016, an opportunity came up at the Plant 4 Bowden market and Shearer jumped at it. “Jono and Marilyn [Kaitatzis] needed a bakery in there to complete their market and it was a perfect chance to start.”

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The bakery at Plant 4 Bowden is open Wednesdays, Saturdays and Friday mornings. To prepare her signature sourdough bread, Shearer has to start three days in advance.

“The first day I make the levain [a secondary starter], using a percentage of the sourdough culture and extra flour and water. That sits at room temperature overnight, it does its thing and all the yeasts eat the sugars and grow.”

Shearer gathered her culture from a position at French restaurant The Manse (now closed) and has taken it with her to each job since; always leaving a little behind, though. “I’ve always referred to it as ‘The Mother’ because of its ability to give life to something,” she says.

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On the second day, the levain is mixed in to a large batch of dough, with a bit of baker’s yeast added. This gives Shearer’s bread its signature middle ground between tangy, dense sourdough and fluffy white loaf. The dough is then divided up and popped into wooden bread baskets to sit overnight once again.

On the final day, the loaves are turned out, baked and displayed for sale. “I typically make 80 to 100 loaves on a Wednesday and about 50 baguettes. I pretty much sell out every day. Then occasionally I’ll get an order. Duncan [Welgemoed] ordered 40 loaves one Saturday which was a real push [since Saturday is the biggest day].”

Shearer’s loaves are either displayed on her antique bread rack at The Lost Loaf or sent to many places around Adelaide: the Bowden and Gilbert Street IGAs, Lost in a Forest, FIX Speciality Coffee and Monday’s Coffee Store. Monday’s delivery happens on a Friday, and also includes an array of pastries as a treat for their customers. A few loaves of bread make their way around the Bowden market, too.

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With a growing distribution base, Shearer has taken on some extra hands in the bakery. “I have one employee who I worked with at Magill Estate,” she says. “He used to always ask to help me out and eventually I said, ‘Yeah, okay, but you have to start at 3am.’ I didn’t think he’d show up, but he did, unpaid, and kept coming back. After a while I was able to take him on part time.”

She is referencing Oswald Barrett, who’s learning pastries and tarts for the bakery, as well as helping out with bread. Barrett is also a part-time chef at Magill Estate, and splits his time between the two venues.

The extra hands are needed as Plant 4 prepares to open for trading on Sundays. “I love all the croissants and Danishes, I love morning pastries. I still sell them in the evenings but Saturdays are an awesome day because people come down and get their bread and coffee. If I can have that on Sunday as well that would be great,” Shearer says.

The extra hands are needed as Plant 4 prepares to open for trading on Sundays. “I love all the croissants and Danishes, I love morning pastries. I still sell them in the evenings but Saturdays are an awesome day because people come down and get their bread and coffee. If I can have that on Sunday as well that would be great,” Shearer says.

The Lost Loaf
Plant 4 Bowden
facebook.com/thelostloaf

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