It reminds me of footsteps crunching on a pile of autumn leaves. The splintering of the outer shell, the tumble of crust shards onto the chopping board and then the gentle sawing through soft and fluffy pillows of dense sourdough.
This must be one of my favourite sounds in the world.
The cafe is closed but people slowly drift in through the door on this cold wintry evening. Not only does Brasserie Bread feed hungry mouths, they feed hungry minds too, running baking classes, sourdough courses, wholesaler sessions and free kids workshops through its dedicated Training School.
Checking on the bread
Our baking instructor and Brasserie Bread CEO, Michael Klausen
Tonight we're here for our own hands-on training, learning how to make the rich French classic, brioche, in the Baking with Brioche Workshop
Is there a better way to start a class than with food?
Michael carves thick slices of their brioche for all of us to try. The crust is golden, the interior is soft and eggy. Enriched with egg and butter, brioche is classified as a viennoiserie or Viennese specialty, a category that includes crossiants, pain aux raisins, pain au chocolat and Danish pastries.
Brioche is much like a cross between a bread and cake, and the Brasserie Bread version is bliss, the insides pliable enough to be torn into strips, and as tender as a newborn's cheek.
We begin the class using brioche dough that has been prepared earlier. Although this is their first ever session on brioche, consideration has already been given to proofing times. The class lesson will go backwards, starting with brioche shaping and finishing with instructions on how to make brioche dough.
Cutting the brioche dough
Given the richness of its ingredients, brioche dough is reasonably forgiving, Michael tells us. The dough is pliable and we will be able to work with it as long as we need to without fear of overworking the dough.
We start by rolling out three lengths of dough using only our flattened fingers and intertwining them to make a plait. It's simple but effective.
Rolling the brioche dough into balls
Next Michael shows us to roll the dough into balls using only the palm of our hand and the table surface. His movements are deft and within seconds he has a ball that is round and smooth.
For the rest of us, it's much more of a struggle.
Instructor Don Parsons demonstrates the fine art of dough rolling
From the balls we make the classic brioche bun, a ball topped with a small knob - much like a snowman - and placed in a deep round fluted tray.
Brioche buns sprinkled with pearl sugar Rolling out brioche dough
We use rolling pins to make our next brioche products, flattened buns topped with apricots and little boats filled with strawberry jam, chocolate callets or both.
Apricot brioche and
brioche boat with strawberry jam and chocolate callets
Rolling the coulibiac
We move onto the coulibiac
[koo-lee-BYAHK] next, a French take on the Russian kulebiaka
, a hot pastry pocket that traditionally holds salmon, rice, mushrooms and hard-boiled eggs. The pastry is usually made with brioche dough.
Our version uses fresh salmon, mushroom duxelle, hard boiled eggs and a generous slather of Russian mustard that tastes like a cross between hot English mustard and sweet mustard pickle. We enclose the mixture in a crepe so any excess moisture from the salmon is absorbed by the crepe, instead of making the brioche soggy.
The crepe is then wrapped inside brioche dough, the seam folded over so it lies underneath. We're shown how to use scissors to snip "scales" into the dough so it resembles a fish. I fashion a tail and add an eye and a smile.
Chocolate and orange babka
From savouries to dessert. Today we're making a variation on the Brasserie Bread chocolate and orange babka substituting the usual filling for brown sugar, butter and honey to make a sticky brioche bun.
Mei Tan and a class participant adding honey to brown sugar
Combining the sticky bun spread
We roll out the brioche dough and then smother it with the thick layer of sticky bun spread. The dough is rolled up, sliced and then twisted around each other to form a flower pattern.
My tray of completed brioche ready to prove
Good bread takes time. Whilst our brioche is proving, our coulibiacs are placed in the oven to cook (about 10-15 minutes) and we take a break with tastings of their sourdough, baguette and quinoa & soy loaf served with taramasalata, olive oil and provolone cheese.
Coulibiacs fresh from the oven
It doesn't take long for our coulibiacs to finish cooking. We adjourn next-door to the cafe for a dinner of coulibiac and glasses of wine.
Mushroom duxelle, salmon and hard boiled egg inside the coulibiac
The coulibiac is delicious. There's a moment of confusion when you realise the pastry is not crispy but soft brioche, but its sweetness works well with the salmon and mushrooms. Michael tells us that often a whole salmon is cooked in this fashion, although I think miniature versions would also work brilliantly for a dinner party.
Over dinner I ask Don about their amazing garlic bread, a loaf studded with whole cloves of caramelised garlic that is pungent yet incredibly addictive. The garlic cloves, he explains, are cooked in a sugar syrup in a large pot for two hours, a process that removes the heat associated with garlic and converting it into more of a jammy consistency. They make a batch every two days, drenching the bakery with the smell of garlic. The bread is made by spreading the garlic between layers of dough and then slicing it vertically to create loaves for baking.
"We don't need to sell that bread," Don says. "It walks out the door."
We return to the kitchen for our final lesson, making brioche dough from scratch. Into a bowl we combine flour, fresh yeast, sugar and salt, then add milk and eggs to create a wet sticky dough.
"We're kneading for ten minutes. Okay? Go!"
It is more like sticky goo than dough but Michael reassures us that by stretching and slapping the wet mixture, we will gradually work the gluten into a pliable dough.
We shouldn't have doubted him. Eventually the dough does become more manageable, and after resting it for ten minutes, we work the dough again until it is soft and smooth.
Working the dough a second time
A brioche isn't a brioche without butter.
We're given fat chunks of butter which we're instructed to tear into blobs and pat over the dough.
Covering the dough with dabs of butter
Kneading a butter-bathed dough is something I'm glad we did after
eating the coulibiac. No wonder brioche tastes so good.
There's more kneading, pushing, slapping and stretching until we all end up with beautiful glossy mounds of dough. Each person is given a container to take home their dough. It's to be rested overnight in the fridge and then baked into whatever shape or concoction you please.
My baked brioche
By this time, our trays of completed brioche have proved and been put into the oven to bake. They emerge in shades of golden brown, glossy with egg varnish and smelling buttery and sweet.
Sticky brioche buns
We attack Michael's sticky brioche buns with glee. The hot steaming bun threatens to burn, but we dig in anyway, licking the remnants of caramel syrup from our fingers.
9.30pm comes and we're packed off with recipe sheets, loaves of bread and all our baked treats in goodie bags. The next day I turn my brioche dough into sticky brioche buns, with double the amount of brown sugar filling. It's deliriously good, and ever tastier because I know I made it myself.
The Baking with Brioche Workshop runs for three hours on selected Thursday nights and costs $130. The next scheduled classes are July 1, July 22, August 12 and August 26. Bookings: 1300 966 845.
Grab Your Fork attended the Baking with Brioche Workshop as a guest of Brasserie Bread
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1737 Botany Rd
Tel: 1300 966 845
Monday to Friday 7am - 3pm
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