Ever wondered what it takes to make a loaf of bread from scratch? I have pondered that very question before but haven’t had the chance to find out until I went to the eye-opening ‘From Grain to Bread’ class at Brasserie Bread. I’ve seen Brasserie Bread being served at cafes all around Sydney and their award-winning bread has always been excellent, so it was great to hear that they share their expertise through classes which are open to the public.
From Grain to Bread is a three hour long practical workshop at their headquarters in Banksmeadow (near Botany Bay) which takes you on an in depth journey in artisan bread making and lets you get your hands dirty, learning skills that you can take home to make your own bread. The process sounds simple enough when you break it down to the core elements of flour, yeast, water and salt but we quickly find out that there’s a lot more to it than meets the eye. The workshop is led by Brasserie Bread’s friendly training manager Matt and the Danish founder and CEO, Michael Klausen, who are both clearly very passionate about bread-making and keen to share their knowledge with us through helpful tips as we work on making our own loaves to take home.
We start off the workshop with a metal bowl each filled with freshly milled single origin wheat flour mixed with an organic plain flour. We’re provided with a sourdough starter culture, fresh yeast, salt and water which we add to the bowl of flour and combine it all together to form a sticky dough mixture. The dough is then transferred to the clean stainless steel benchtop and we “work” the dough by repetitively rolling it over, picking it up and slamming it on the benchtop. It’s strangely therapeutic once you get into the rhythm of it but is pretty hard work since we keep at it for about 15 minutes with some short breaks to let the dough rest.
Once the dough is sufficiently smooth and elastic, we put it in a lightly greased bowl and cover it in cling wrap before Matt puts it in a warm spot above the oven to allow it to grow. While we wait, Matt keeps us entertained by showing us a gloriously fluffy mound of dough he had prepared earlier and tells us to each slice off a small chunk for the next part of our workshop. The dough is incredibly soft to touch and a dream to play with as we learn how to shape dough into dinner rolls, flatbread and a braided baguette with 3 different types of seeds.
After we finish our shaping session, we check on our bowls of dough and its amazing how much they have all grown in an hour – practically doubling in size! We learn how to mould it into a loaf using a special basket and leave it to prove while we decorate our flatbreads with some olives, rosemary and a drizzle of Alto olive oil and a sprinkle of salt. Michael takes some time out at this stage to teach us a bit about the evolution of flour over time and it’s definitely some food for thought as we learn how many additives go into commercial white bread (38 ingredients versus the 5 ingredients we used tonight to make our artisan loaves).
We’re getting pretty hungry by this stage so we’re happy to hear that Matt and Michael have prepared some fresh loaves for us to make DIY open sandwiches for dinner with a spread of delicious gourmet toppings like caramelised onions, eggplant paste, pumpkin and ham. Once you’ve finished putting your open sandwich together, they throw it into the oven for a quick grill and then its dinnertime!
We have dinner outside in the cafe area, but it’s over quite quickly as it’s getting late and we need to head back to the kitchen to put the finishing touches on our loaves. The dough has risen again in the basket and we take turns using a scalpel to slash a couple of lines in the loaves before we stick them in the oven. While we’re waiting for all the bread to bake, Matt takes us on a tour around the industrial bakery/factory out the back and it is fascinating to see the many different elements involved in running an industrial bakery. I have to say that the best part was when he showed us the buckets of fluffy “biga” (extra dough kept overnight to be used in the next day’s dough for added flavour) fermenting in a fridge and there was some dough punching involved to keep the dough from overflowing everywhere due to the yeast being a living organism and continually growing.
Soon enough, our freshly baked breads come out of the rotating oven and I’m pretty thrilled with the look of mine. They didn’t look too promising when they went in but somehow they managed to look decent after baking – it’s hard to believe that in 3 short hours I have been able to learn how to make these artisan breads with my own hands. It’s a credit to Matt and Michael’s patience as they helped us amateurs work through the techniques so that we could all end up with some impressive looking breads to take home and show off!
If you’re keen to get your hands dirty too and learn some useful tips for home baking, Brasserie Bread runs From Grain to Bread ($160 per person) and other classes all throughout the year. Just wear some closed shoes, bring an apron if you want and head over to Brasserie Bread’s Banksmeadow bakery to soak up the divine aroma of freshly baked breads while you learn how to do it yourself!
Excuse Me Waiter attended From Grain to Bread as guests of Brasserie Bread
1737 Botany Road, Banksmeadow, NSW 2019
Ph: 1300 966 845