Brasserie Bread class: Artisan Baking – The Art of Sourdough

October 6, 2011

Since the beginning of my love affair with food, cooking and trying out new and exciting recipes, I have gone through many different nemeses. When I first started, it was pastry. Ooooh we didn’t get along pastry and I. Even store bought pastry and I hated each other! But once I actually broke it down, worked out all the ingredients and had a good little fiddle, I won. Take that pastry!!

Mini rivals here and there, I have fought, and I have won (woot)! But my current nemesis? Bread.

I use to have a breadmaker that in its heyday was spitting out perfectly cooked breads like they were going out of style. Until one fateful day, the breakmaker was kneading its little heart out so hard that it jumped/fell of the kitchen bench and cracked a little. It still worked but it was never the same. Producing stodgy loaf after stodgy loaf *sigh*. Fine! I’ll try to make it myself!

Fail! I was even worse than the breadmaker.

You see, I’m not very good at kneading and don’t really like things sticking to my hands so would add more and more flour and wonder why it looked so damn easy on the TV. Why didn’t my bread have those wonderful pockets of air that resulted in beautifully holey bread? I was ill deserving, I told myself because I was a lazy kneader. Kneading’s boring man! So I gave up. Sort of.

Anyway, fast forward to about a month ago when Von told me that she wanted to do some kind of cooking course and I suggested Brasserie Bread. They had some awesome courses and after googling a few food blogs, and seeing their experiences, I was pretty damn excited.

Oh, you may also note that the shot for this post are a little inconsistent? Well if you don’t, never mind, forget I mentioned it. But if you do, it’s because I finally got my butt in to gear and did an intro DSLR course and was playing around with the settings a bit during the day. This is also a little hard to do with dough all over your hands so bear with me lol, I’m still finding flour specs all over the thing!

I arrived a little early to Brasserie Bread, just as they were finishing up the kids class which they run every Saturday. I take my hat off to these teachers lol. All I saw was about 10 kids running out to their mums so excited about what they had learnt and wanting to buy everything in the place haha. I think its such a great thing that Brasserie Bread do as it teaches kids the importance of good food at a young age and gets them really excited about it which means they will stick to it. It’s something I wish they had around when I was younger, maybe bread and I would be friendlier if it was ;)

After they had cleaned up and reset all of the ingredients for our class, Matt came out, introduced himself and lead us all in to the workroom.

I did have a chance to try their Strawberry and Pinot Noir jam and it was fab but I forgot to buy some on the way out. Good excuse to go back though ;)

We all got our aprons on, stuck on our name tags and had a bit of a chat with Matt about what Artisan Baking means.

It’s clear upon first introduction with Matt that he is very passionate about the bread and the technique and his passion is infectious! I couldn’t wait to get started.

A man after my own heart, Matt turned around to their industrial oven, and pulled out some beautiful pastries, cut them all up for us and told us to eat. Eat I did! Every bite was pure buttery goodness with the sweetness of fruit and sugar. Fruit = healthy. Take note!

After he had buttered us all up (literally), we got straight in to the making. It’s a long process to make sourdough (around three days and that doesn’t include the month or so it takes to get the starter ready) so we all started mixing up our dough, to let is rest in time for the beating kneading, moulding and more resting.

Now mixing I can do, so am pretty pleased with myself when it’s all combined but it does seem pretty wet. I mentioned to Matt that at this stage, I would definitely add more flour, and probably lots of it. This is apparently where I am going wrong. The dough is extremely sticky, but taking my OCD in stride, I power on through and, as taught by Matt, only using one hand, pick up the dough from the right and let it stretch slightly as I throw it back down on the bench. This is the part of the day I like to call payback. To any bread dough that ever crossed me, I release all frustrations in this one tiny loaf and by the time Matt’s gone around the table, checking everyone’s technique I have a sore arm have finally got the hang of it. It’s all about getting in to a rhythm and once you do, you feel like the happiest little vegemite EVER!

We place our dough on the bench, cover it with our bowls and move over to another smaller bench where Matt talks to us about Starters. In a demonstration, he shows us the starter he has been working on for a while now, strangely named “Monkeys butt” which is called so because he used figs as the sugar for his starter and when he told his boss about his plans to do so, he was told that the figs he needed must be so overly ripe and juicy, that they’ll be the ones no one wants aka Monkey Butt Figs.

In previous attempts at making my own starter, I followed a Googled recipe (as you do) and they advised to use only a tablespoon or so of flour and equal amounts water. Around a week in to this experiment, my starter looked like it had grown a beard and smelt pretty foul. Matt let me know that in order to get a good starter going, you need to have a minimum of 250 grams and described it as a child. You need to feed it at the same times each day and take good care of it. Hopefully next time I try, I’ll be the proud parent of my very own Starter baby. I shall name him Gerrard! Why? Why not!

Back to our benches for another beating! After this one, we roughly shape (not for final shaping, just so it doesn’t look like a hot mess when going in for the next rise) lightly oil our bowls and place them in for another rise.

Next up, Yudha takes over our class to teach us how to mould. Yudha teaches the kids classes on the weekend and Matt says the kids adore him, after about a minute or so, we can see why. He has a very infectious passion and laugh.

Yudha gives us all pre-prepared dough that has been cut in to equal portions (they show us the machine in the tour later one that actually portions the dough. Coolest. Thing. Ever.) and tells us we will be making a batard , dinner rolls and an epi (). I’m most excited about the epi because they just look so damn impressive.

But before getting busy with our epi, we start on the batard. We work the dough slightly and then attempt to shape it. Basically, you prod and poke it with your tippy fingers and stretch it slightly until you have a rectangle (ish) shape. Then you fold a third (from the shortest end) in and then the other third in and flip it so the seam is down. Ok so writing this, it seems simple enough. Well let me tell you know it alls out there – its not ok? Lol mine was a little less than perfect so Yudha said we could call it “rustic”. I like it! Perfect is soooo 2010.

Next, on to our baguette. Again, not as easy as it looks and did actually look strangely familiar. You judge.

Our dinner rolls were actually pretty fun. You divide the dough evenly in to size and then with the dough under one had, you cup towards the bench and roll it around until you have a dinner roll shape. Fun!

Our epis were going to be coated in a seed mixture which I loved (I try and sneak multigrain or any kind of seeded bread past Stud at home but he isn’t a massive fan. He likes his wholemeal and that’s that). So we shaped our baguette, took it over to its “water bath” and rolled it in it, popped it in the seed tray and then rolled it again and took it back to our bench. Making the epi isn’t as hard as it looks (thank god because everything else I made was looking a little too “rustic”). You get a pair of scissors and hold them almost horizontally and proceed to cut – almost right through, but not quite – to the bottom of the loaf and without letting the bread touch again, move it to the side. Matt was kind enough to grab my camera from me and take a couple of shots (excuse the hair net, I thought it looked so sexy that I had to keep it on) while I was doing it. In hindsight, this was a great move on his part as I can not only use it for the blog, but to prove to people that I actually did make it lol.

We hand Matt our batards and he places them on a large piece of cloth, known in the bakin biz as a couche, to rest before baking and while all our masterpieces were resting on their trays, Yudha took us for a wander around the bakery. Matt had already told us that the weekend classes are the best to do because the guys are hard at work and we get to see the bakery in action. Usually on weeknights, by the time the evening classes start, all of the staff has gone home so you don’t get to see it all in full swing.

The smell permeating through bakery is absolutely divine and even though pretty much all we have eaten all day is bread, the smell makes you crave more. There’s no better smell than freshly baked bread!

We are shown an oven that looks strangely like the conveyor belts at the morgue. I immediately think that this is the soft doughs last days although it’s going to a much better place. My belly!!

All the puff pastry is naturally made in house at Brasserie Bread and one of the staff is actually passing it through a machine that’s not unlike a massive pasta maker. Yudha tells us that the butter used is sourced overseas and is of the highest quality. He also mentions that the reason they don’t source their butter locally is that due to Australia’s harsh climate and random environmental issues, the butter can sometimes come back quite inconsistent. Understandably, the bakery can’t afford for this to be the case so have sourced internationally.

A cupcake tasting? Don’t mind if I do Yudha, thank you! I tried a half of the milk chocolate coconut teacake and it was nothing short of delicious! Next time we are at Brasserie Bread I will definitely grab a cheeky 6-pack of these cupcakes. They were so packed with flavour and wonderfully moist. Von and I snuck in another quarter before we wandered off. Hey, if it’s going to go to waste otherwise, it’s the least we can do.

The starter room is awesome – the sour smell hits you as you walk in and the sign on the door actually makes you feel like you are walking in to a nursery lol. Well, I guess you kind of are.

I’m baffled by the absolute magnitude of the flour, dough and machinery that make up Brasserie Bread and walking around the bakery, you definitely feel a sense of, almost family as you walk through. Everyone seems to be working together really well and it just seems fun. I can imagine that at least a couple of flour fights have gone one here ;)

As we head back in to the kitchen, we are greeted with an array of breads and accompaniments and a cheeky glass of wine. Matt goes through each type of bread and there’s just so much to taste but for research sake, I must power on ;) My favourites were the Olive and Rosemary loaf, Sour Cherry loaf (and I really despise cherries but loved this!) and the Quinoa and Soya loaf and I took home a loaf of each to enjoy later.

One thing that blew both Von and I away was the Meredith Dairy goats cheese. I’m telling you, you haven’t had goats cheese until you’ve had this baby! It’s so soft and creamy and the flavour is absolutely delicious! I forgot to buy some on the way out though *face palm* but will def grab some next time we’re there.

Matt gave us all take-away containers to transfer our little sourdough babies back to their homes. I didn’t actually get home until quite a few hours later and when Stud brought out the container, it had risen so much that it was bursting at the seams!

Matt told us to take our sourdough out of the fridge around midday the next day, let it come to room temperature naturally and then bake it at around 4:00pm. We were going to a picnic the next day at 1:00 so I took it out prior, then actually didn’t bake it until about 8:30 (it was a longer day than expected) but for a first attempt, I was reasonably proud. It wasn’t stodgy like my previous attempts and had that earth shattering sourdough crust (perhaps a little too earth shattering). The only thing I regret, it not doing the slice on top because it came out a little pillowy. This is the only pic I have of it – sorry!

If you like baking bread yourself, or even just eating bread, you really need to go to Brasserie Bread. We had such a fab day with great teachers and learnt a lot. I cant thank these guys enough for building the bridge between bread and I. I think this is going to be a loooong and luuuurving relationship.

Here’s the recipe for both the Starter and the actual bread itself. Give it a go. Its freakin’ amaze-balls!



100g flour (use a good bakers flour)
120g water
100g of simple sugar (Brasserie Bread used figs for our batch)


Mix ingredients until well combined, cover with cling wrap and leave at room temperature until you start to see activity (it should start to ferment).

Once you see activity and it smells pleasantly sour, you need to start your “routine” by weighing 220g of ferment (your current starter) into a clean container, adding 100g flour and 120g water and mixing well. Cover and keep at room temperature and refresh (feeding as per the “routine”) every 8 hours for the next month.

Routine is key to encourage the growth and development of a good quality starter.

Sourdough Batard (800g)


380g unbleached plain flour (approx 24°C)
200g Starter (approx 20°C)
205g water (approx 15°C)
2g malt (Brasserie Bread used wheat malt)


Sift flour in to large mixing bowl, add starter, water and malt and mix by hand for 2 minutes.

Add salt and continue to knead for approx 15 minutes to develop the gluten. This is where the pick up, slap down method comes in to play. Its hard to describe like this but basically, you grip the dough from the right (off the table) and then as you pick it up and it stretches slightly, you slam it down on the bench, lather, rinse, repeat J

Keep kneading until you can stretch the dough enough that you can almost see through it. This is known as the “gluten window”

Rest in an oiled bowl covered with cling wrap for around 20 minutes.

Remove the dough, fold 4 times and return to the bowl, covering with cling wrap and allow it to activate for 2 hours.

Pre shape the dough and allow to rest for 20-30 minutes.

Final shape and allow to prove in the fridge overnight (12-24 hours).

Remove the dough from the fridge and allow it to come to room temperature, this can take a few hours. You want an internal temperature of around 16-17°C.

Dust the loaf with flour, slash and bake (on a hot stone) at 210°C for 40-45 minutes. Inject steam into the oven for approx 5 seconds to develop the crust and assist in the rise.

Rove from the oven, and if you can wait, allow it to cool and enjoy! I couldn’t so had some (very) warm bread and melted butter. YUM!!

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