IF there is one thing that could be argued as being better than the smell of freshly baked bread and pastries, it's the process of making it.
Ask a baker what they love about the job and it's likely they will tell you there is something undeniably therapeutic about working their hands through a big ball of dough.
Petra McLoughlin, operator of Adamstown bakery Pekarna, is one of those kind of bakers. "I love the hands-on nature of it and getting your hands dirty in the flour," says the Czech Republic-born baker who specialises in European pastries and cakes.
If you're looking for bread or pastries made with love, here's five to check out:
277 Brunker Road, Adamstown. Petra McLoughlin started out serving her European-style baked goodies at the markets in Hunter Street Mall before setting up a shop in Adamstown. Using recipes and methods taught by her mother and aunt, Petra's personal favourite is the kolace, a classic Czech pastry filled with ricotta cheese. "It is very popular at the shop, which I was a little bit surprised by because it is quite different," she says. McLoughlin's range is always changing and includes eclairs, scrolls, strudels, and tarts. Open 6am Monday to Friday, from 6.30am on Saturday.
15 Fleming Street, Wickham. If you're sticking with the European theme on the hunt for baked goodies, Bacco's at Wickham is the place for all things Italian. As well as producing wonderful rustic sourdough breads and their famous Bacco's leaves (crispy flatbreads), Luigi and Kristy Papagni and their team also bake cakes and slices, which change daily. Try the rhubarb and ginger cake, lemon ricotta cheesecake, or, if the dolce di caramel e ciocalato (caramel slice) is on the shelf, don't pass it up. Open 7am to 4pm Monday to Friday.
10 James Street, Merewether. Operating only on Fridays and Saturdays, Bootleg Bakery is a hidden gem in the back streets of Merewether (locals in Adamstown could claim it as their own, too) that operates out of a small van parked in a driveway. Look out for the bright red van which serves up some of the best breadsticks, tarts and pastries in Newcastle. Whether it's a croissant, Portuguese tart or quiche, the pastry is melt-in-your-mouth soft and buttery. A slice of their zucchini and ricotta focaccia is not to be missed. Serving from 8am until sold out. Yes, they also serve coffee. There's a playground nearby, if you want to make a morning of it with the kids.
21-25 Downie Street, Maryville. From its humble beginnings at the Newcastle Farmers Market, Baked Uprising has proved itself as at the little bakery that could. Now based in two locations (Maryville and Harris Farm Market in Cooks Hill), they are as famous for sourdough loaves as they are for their delicious pastries and cakes. Their dense, aromatic cardamom cake is a slice of heaven, their savoury hot pies are top-notch. Nigella Lawson spruiked their almond croissant on her instagram stream. Sometimes a line-up, but always worth the wait. Open at Maryville 7am Monday to Friday, from 8.30am on weekends.
TWO BOBS BAKERY
8 Yacaaba Street, Nelson Bay. Two Bobs opened the doors of their bakery in November, finally bringing fresh-baked and hearty sourdough bread to the Bay. As well as baguettes, ciabatta and sourdough loaves, owners Nicky Bowden and Rob Daniels offer daily specials: stoneground rye, beer and maple loaf on Wednesday, spelt and kamut walnut loaf on Thursday, pizzette focaccia on Friday, olive and fresh rosemary on Saturday, and raisin and pecan loaf on Sunday. Open 7.30am to 4pm Tuesday to Sunday.