Early rise in the bread shed

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It’s a baker’s dozen of working hours for David Mirus, perfecting his sourdough before Wimborne awakes. Tracie Beardsley reports in A Country Living
David Mirus spends Tuesdays prepping in the bread shed.
All Images: Courtenay Hitchcock

As a self-confessed insomniac, ridiculously early starts and a punishing work regime don’t bother David Mirus. His alarm goes off at 12.30am in the week and midnight at weekends. He works through the night to make dough and prepare pastry for delicious bakewell tarts, scones and quiches. At 5am his wife Ann joins him to start on the fillings and the bakery opens at 9am. Before most of us have even got to work, David has already clocked up an eight-hour day – and doesn’t finish until 2pm.
Despite the 13-hour shifts, he has finally found his vocation at the age of 55. “This is what I was supposed to be doing all my life,” says the man who arrived from Australia as a 23-year-old with nothing more than a backpack.
A former film and TV cameraman – his claim to fame is that two films he crewed on were voted the worst ever by film critic Barry Norman – he’s worked as a linen porter for the NHS (where he met his wife) and as a chef in numerous restaurants, pubs and clubs in Australia and London. He also has a degree in art.

Artisan baker David Mirus

To the bread shed
David now owns his artisan bakery – a family affair along with Ann and son Stefan. It’s tucked away down Mill Lane in Wimborne Minster, in a 260-year-old building that has seen many incarnations, from a mechanic’s garage to a furniture restorer’s workshop. With its roaring open wood oven, it’s now nicknamed the ‘bread shed’, and I defy anyone to walk past without being tempted to indulge.
Its success in just three years has been phenomenal. Starting as a pop-up shop during the Wimborne Folk Festival, The Old Malthouse Bakery now has queues snaking around the block for its superb sourdough (250 loaves sold every Saturday) and renowned jam doughnuts – 120 sold daily, some partly responsible for my expanding waistline!

David Mirus starts his working day at midnight


“The alarm going off doesn’t bother me,” says David. “I go to bed about six in the evening but often still can’t sleep. I do get bad nights and if the bread suffers then I have to start again from scratch. Pastry is a devil – it will punish you if you try and make it when you’re in a bad mood. You’ve got to relax and be in the right mind-set for baking.”
Music helps, and David makes pastry to loud German punk or the more mellow Elbow. The World Service is often his night-time companion. Having a Ukrainian father, he still has relations in Lviv so the news is of huge importance to him, as is the Ukrainian flag flying outside his bakery.

The family bakery started as a pop-up shop during the Wimborne Folk Festival

A family business
“Food has always been a big part of our family life,” David recalls. “My dad was a real foodie. Being Ukrainian, he’d come home with such delights as pig’s trotters and smoked eel for us to eat!”
David’s 27-year-old son, Stefan, is responsible for breakfast baps, cinnamon rolls, teacakes and those legendary jam doughnuts. Natasha, his youngest daughter, is also a talented baker but has chosen other paths. His other daughter Bryony didn’t seem to get the baking gene but she lived in Japan for two years and has come home with new cooking skills to share.
With such a foodie-focused family, is there any watershed hour at home to stop talking about business?
David says: “No, we’ve always talked about food so it never feels like we’re really talking about the business. I’ve been banned from eating my bread though. I’ve got a niece getting married this month so I’ve got to get into my wedding suit!”
It’s only 8.30am when I finish the interview, time for David to lay out his array of delicious temptations as a queue already begins. I leave with a doughnut – be rude not to – and glad that I don’t have a wedding coming up myself!

David uses a wood-fired oven in conjunction with standard industrial ovens

The Malthouse Bakery,
Mill Lane, Wimborne
Open Wednesday to Saturday 9am to 2pm
Facebook: The Old Malthouse Bakery – Wimborne

David sells 250 sourdough loaves every Saturday
Image: David Mirus

Quick-fire questions with David:

A-list dinner party guests past or present?
My dad – he died at 89 about eight years ago. I’d love him to see how well the bakery is going and chat to him about it. And my Uncle Boris from Lviv – he died of Covid before I had the chance to meet him. Given what’s going on in that country, it would’ve been fascinating to get to know him. He also loved food!

Books on your bedside?
I’ve got one about coffee at the moment as we’ve just starting selling takeaway coffees – the proper stuff from Honduras. Before that, I was reading a book about sourdough. I guess I never really switch off from baking.

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