All Fired Up

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Ah, the romance of watching the flames in a masonry oven! Just yeast, salt, flour, and fire. A loaf of bread straight from the château’s old four à pain.

The scene trundles me back to another age when bread would have been baked here for the family of the house. I imagine staff sitting at a table, chewing the thick crust, and sharing gossip along with the warmth. A simpler life perhaps.

At first, we paid little to no attention to the bakehouse with the rose-pink bricks around its doors and windows. We hardly realised that this outbuilding was of value. A former owner stalled horses here and tacked extra stables onto one side of the house. With a half-collapsed roof over tons of junk the entire site was an eyesore.

Over the years, we demolished, cleaned, repaired, and restored. We conducted structural repairs to the roof and the exterior walls, and cleared the grounds. We love the stucco on the oven façade, and our greatest achievement is the restoration of the exterior brick dome that houses the oven. A vestige of past times brought to life again.

Reading my old blog posts about this part of the estate (Four A Pain and Debris Dreams) brought a smile to my face as the dream I kept referring to has come true. The bakehouse now also boasts a very simple outdoor kitchen. Wooden paddles, iron hooks that belong in a blacksmith shop.  An antique bakery table, a large zinc bucket that serves as a sink.  And some pieces from the van Praag family’s first home; a handmade table and chairs straight out of Thomas’s childhood. No heirloom stress here.


In the 19th century, every day a wood fire would be lit inside the dome and the day’s loaves put in. Today, we only start the fire when we have friends or retreat guests staying. Freshly baked pizza is a favourite and everybody always claims to have the best tomato sauce recipe. There’s a wild boar roast on occasion and of course, fresh bread. Nothing is better than sharing bread with friends. After all, the word copain or companion literally means someone you share bread with. It’s love and happiness, baked in brick.




  1. Wondering when Thomas is going to ditch the yeast in favour of sourdough 😉

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