Thursday, October 6, 2011

The heart of artisan bread - Brasserie Bread class

A newbie baker bakes with their hands; a professional baker with their hands and head; and an artisan baker with their hands, head and heart.

This is how Matt Brock, training manager at Brasserie Bread describes the artisan baker, of which their bakery in Banksmeadow surely houses a few.

Unearthing Artisan Bread class at Brasserie Bread, Botany Road, Banksmeadow
Established in 2000, Brasserie Bread has built up an enviable reputation as well as widespread retail distribution of its sourdough and other artisan breads.

The café adjoining the wholesale bakery in Banksmeadow does a roaring weekend breakfast and brunch trade, while the dedicated Baking School, opened in September 2008, has seen its fair share of kids graduating through the free Saturday kids’ baking classes.

Brasserie Bread ciabatta to taste
I was at an artisan baking class with a few familiar faces one evening, which I believe isn’t the normal timing for classes. After a quick scoff of miniature wagyu beef burger sliders on brioche buns and a taste test of ciabatta destined for a high-profile, very soon-to-open-in-the-CBD Italian restaurant, we were ready.

Schiacitta mise en place
Hands sanitised and aprons donned, we started with a basic bread recipe for schiacciata, which was also used for Brasserie Bread’s signature caramelised garlic bread – if you haven’t tried it, stop denying yourself the pleasure.

The ingredient list was brief: organic unbleached flour (Brasserie Bread uses Kialla flour that has a high protein content, which helps with the bread’s elasticity, I think), fresh yeast (though dried stuff can be substituted at half the amount), water, salt and a couple of tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil (which contains natural sugars for the yeast to feast upon).

Fresh yeast
We crumble the fresh yeast to one side of the bowl and add the salt to the opposite side as the latter tends to be a bit violent towards the former.

Adding water and oil to flour, salt and yeast
We form a well and add water and oil, and begin getting our hands dirty using the plastic scraper to combine the ingredients. There is certain technique here, which I completely missed and which is probably why my dough looked like a collection of scraps rather than a somewhat smooth ball.

My dough - not exactly smooth...
In any case, the dough is significantly wetter than I would be comfortable with – but Matt warns us against adding more flour. This was going to be messy (and hence a lack of procedural photos).

The next stage introduced us to a kneading technique I’ve never seen before. Pretty awesome for stress relief, it involved picking up the entire ball of dough in one hand and pretty much flinging it down to the table, whilst keeping a hold of one end. That one end is then folded over and the process repeated many, many times over a couple of minutes; then followed by a couple of minutes’ resting.

This noisy and, at times, messy technique is repeated four or five times, and saw a few bits of still wet dough go flying across the table towards others doing the exact same thing.

Done with the dough (with some professional help...)
A test of the dough, called a ‘gluten window’, involves grabbing a small piece of dough and testing its ability to withstand a stretching between your fingers, to create an almost see-through but intact sheet – like a sheet of glass in the frame of your hands.

After a suitable amount of ear-bursting dough slamming, Matt demonstrated how to deftly bring the dough together into a smooth ball. Four attempts later, I think I had more dough between my fingers and stuck on the table than in my not-so-round ball. A seasoned helping hand was more than appreciated.

This dough was to rest a while and rise while we moved on to the second project of the night - dinner.

Fillings for the coulibiac
A little more complicated than my normal after-work dinners, the coulibiac here was going to feature Brasserie Bread's brioche - a difficult and time-consuming dough to make, of which luckily they had prepared earlier for us.

It was also going to have crepes, salmon, boiled eggs, diced mushroom and Russian mustard - which is sensational; like a chutney crossed with mild mustard.

Brioche dough
Given the high butter content of brioche, the less the dough is handled, the better. We measured out 200 gram chunks and then watched as Matt showed us how to construct our dinner.

Putting the fillings together
The crepe essentially holds everything together - the mustard smeared salmon fillet, diced mushrooms strewn on top and quartered hard-boiled eggs balanced on top.

Coulibiac crepe package
The package of fillings is then wrapped in brioche dough which is rolled out to a fairly thin state. The edges are trimmed and sealed and - voila - it's almost ready to bung into the oven for cooking.

Egg wash for the brioche dough
But first, some prettying up. I think brioche in all forms requires an egg wash for that glistening, shiny finish. But our pillows of filling and dough are getting even more of the special treatment.

The dough gets the hedgehog treatment
Scales, spikes, tails even - who knew decorating brioche parcels could be so fun! Though I concede my spikes/scales were a little less consistent than Matt's above, I think a little practice here would definitely go a long way.

Coulibiacs in the oven
Given the ingredients in the crepe package are mostly cooked and the salmon can be had rare, cooking the coulibiac is really just a matter of cooking through the brioche, which in its fairly thin state doesn't take a great deal of time.

But it gives us time to take a tour through the Brasserie Bread factory, hair nets and all, for a sticky beak at all the different products that Brasserie Bread sells to customers direct and online, restaurants, food retailers and in its own café.

Pane croccante

Uncooked pane croccante

White epi rolls

Seeded epi rolls

Signature caramelised garlic bread

Brioche burger buns


Iced coconut tea cakes
In the back, there's a dedicated, low-temperature pastry room where adorable little iced coconut tea cakes in various pastel colours are packed, along with fruit and frangipane tarts and other sweet goodies.

Sourdough starter mix
And in a guarded cool room (well, not quite guarded, but there is a 'Do Not Disturb' sign) rests several tubs of Brasserie Bread's sourdough starter mix - the stuff bakers slave over with feeding sessions, then protect with their (baking) lives; much like babies. This starter mix is apparently 16 years old (a temperamental teen?).

Shaping the soft dough
After coming back to the kitchen post a good session running about the factory Willy Wonka-style, the dough had risen very slightly, but was rested enough for shaping and filling.

I've not been a very successful home baker, and punching the air out of this dough, I can feel substantial differences in textures. While this is a wetter dough, it's obvious that I'm adding way too much flour at the kneading stage (for easier kneading and less stickiness) to the detriment of the later result.

I'm looking forward to trying a wetter dough recipe at home now, once I find an appropriate surface to be whacking dough upon (along with appropriate screen guards to protect the nearby walls/people).

Adding the caramelised garlic cloves
The soft, pliable dough is easily shaped into a rectangle, to which we add a generous helping of caramelised garlic cloves. These have been boiled whole in sugar water, the syrup which is then cooked with lemon and pepper among other ingredients, and put back together and cooled for a jammy, garlicky treat.

We're making minis today, which are suitable as a snack or a couple for lunch. Makes me wonder about the size of the dough they actually use to make their full size ones. We add garlic and fold into thirds longways, and then thirds again the other way, cutting to create the fold-y over, wrapped form of the bread.

Garlic bread ready for the oven
As these garlicky babies are ready for the heat, the coulibiacs are tanned and ready to come out and serve as our dinner.

Some good colour on the coulibiacs

Coulibiac dinner is served
Sliced in half for a pretty cross section, I think I could have rolled my brioche dough a little thinner and possibly added a bit more mushroom. Served with some dressed rocket leaves and a glass of wine, it was a classy dinner had in my plastic apron with my flour dusted camera and dried dough under my fingernails.

Brasserie Bread fruit mince pies
Matt had one more surprise for us, even though the coulibiac was a bit too big to handle. Brasserie Bread is about to embark on its Christmas fruit mince pie baking schedule, which I believe they wholesale in addition to selling in their café.

Fruit mince pie with Pepe Saya creme anglaise
Served warm with a drizzle of the gorgeous Pepe Saya creme anglaise, it feels as though Christmas has come a little early. There's bread baking in the oven, my tummy is stuffed and there are spicy fruit tarts - all is good in our little baking school room, everyone's happy and warm, and when do we open our presents?

(Indeed, we're gifted with a mammoth, seriously heavy loaf of Quinoa and Soy loaf, which is lovely toasted and spread thickly with Pepe Saya cultured butter.)

Miniature caramelised garlic bread
And the end result of all our kneading, slamming, throwing and scraping? Gorgeously fluffy, sweet and jammy little rolls - some strangely shaped and some with more garlic than others - but artisan in every way.

We may have been newbie bakers, but thanks to Brasserie Bread, our hands got a pretty good workout but we baked our little hearts out.

Find out more about Brasserie Bread baking classes here and check out their Crave Sydney International Food Festival events here.

Food, booze and shoes and a guest attended the Unearthing Artisan Bread class courtesy of Brasserie Bread - thanks for the fabulous class and evening. See more photos here at my Facebook page.

Brasserie Bread on Urbanspoon


sugarpuffi said...

ohh the 'hedgehog treatment' looks like so much fun!

Rita (mademoiselle délicieuse) said...

I've been to two classes at Brasserie Bread now and each time I come away with doughy bits stuck to the soles of my shoes and under my nails! But who can complain when it's such interactive fun AND you get to eat your results at the end of it =D

Lau@corridorkitchen said...

I did the 'Grains and Seeds' worshop and it was so much fun! thanks for sharing!

JB said...

OMG, that coulibiac looks awesome!

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

I love those fat little hedgehogs! :D

Richard Elliot said...

You've got some great photos of the evening. My hands were way too sticky to use my camera much!

Like a fool I didn't connect you with your blog until after I'd left at the end of the night. It was great to meet you!

Corinne @ Gourmantic said...

So... Tina, one hand in the dough, the other on the camera, hmm?? :P

I loved whacking the dough when I did the grains class. Again, one hand whacking, the other shutter tripping!

Tina said...

Hi sugarpuffi - Yep, not sure what other dough that may work on...

Hi Rita - Under the nails yes, but I was more worried about my flour-dusted camera... :S

Hi Lau - No probs - those classes are so much fun, aren't they?!

Hi JB - Fun to make and even better to eat!

Hi Lorraine - There was a lil piggy in there somewhere too!

Hi Richard - Thanks; lovely to meet you too!

Hi The whacking was my favourite part! (OK, maybe after the eating...)


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