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Saturday, June 19, 2010

Brasserie Bread, Banksmeadow: Baking with Brioche Workshop

You know that sound? The crackle of a knife making that first cut into a loaf of crusty bread?

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.

Brasserie Bread

It's this love of yeast that brings me to Brasserie Bread, the artisan bakery started in 2000 by ex-Bayswater Brasserie chefs Tony Papas and Michael Klausen. These days the company supplies more than 200 restaurants, hotels, cafes and delis across Sydney with breads, cakes and pastries.

Bread rolls proving

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.

Extracting dough from the giant mixer

"Whoahhhh..... that is so cooooool."

Suze and I are mesmerised, our noses pressed up against the glass as we watch a baker remove a wad of dough from a mixer so large, the entire machine rises and tilts mid-air.

Beside us, Mei Tan, in charge of Brasserie Bread Training and Community Relations, just laughs and says "that's what all the kids say!"

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.

Fluffy and rich brioche

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.

Brioche dough

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.

Suze hard at work

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.

Chocolate callets

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.

My coulibiac

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.

My baked coulibiac

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."

Wet brioche dough

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.

Kneading the 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

View Larger Map

Brasserie Bread
1737 Botany Rd
Banksmeadow, Sydney
Tel: 1300 966 845

Opening hours:
Monday to Friday 7am - 3pm
Saturday and Sunday 8am - 2pm

Related Grab Your Fork posts:
Cooking class - Tetsuya Masterclass
32 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 6/19/2010 03:48:00 am


  • At 6/17/2010 6:14 am, Anonymous Simon @ the heart of food said…

    Often it's better to not know how much butter something tasty has. Did you use ALL that slab of butter in the image on the brioche?

    Looks like this workshop was a lot of fun. To be around all that bready goodness...*sigh*

  • At 6/17/2010 7:26 am, Anonymous Trissa said…

    Yes everything tastes better when you make it yourself... that coubilac looks amazing - I'd love to attend the class JUST for that!

  • At 6/17/2010 8:44 am, Anonymous Betty @ The Hungry Girl said…

    Yes, your coulibiac looks amazing! Oh, so much bready goodness. I'm seriously considering driving to Brasserie Bread right now hmm...!

  • At 6/17/2010 9:04 am, Anonymous Zina @ tastedbytwo said…

    Holy moly, I have to get myself to one of these classes. All I can think about is the amazing smells that come out of the kitchen when you're there!

  • At 6/17/2010 10:29 am, Blogger Stephcookie said…

    I am totally kicking myself for not going to this! I <3 brioche so much, it is so full of buttery, eggy bready goodness. Your coulibiac is so cute and delicious looking!

  • At 6/17/2010 10:54 am, Anonymous chocolatesuze said…

    mmm butter mmm brioche so much tastyness! hee your coubilac was so cute and zomg the sticky brioche buns were outta this world!

  • At 6/17/2010 11:24 am, Anonymous Hannah said…

    Teehee, I honestly thought that when you wrote "You know that sounds?" you were referring to the alliteration in your title! I'm such a nerd. :D

    Everything you made looks utterly divine, and makes me wish I could wake up in a bakery to those smells every morning :) And I really want that pickle-hot-Russian mustard.

  • At 6/17/2010 11:26 am, Anonymous Jacq said…

    I wish I hadn't missed out on this - it looks like you guys had so much fun! Not to mention all the delicious pastries you got to make and eat yummm!

  • At 6/17/2010 11:44 am, Anonymous Billy @ a table for two said…

    Woah!!! The giant mixer is So cool!!! I love workshops and this one looks heaps of fun!!

    I like your coullibiac, u soo should make a hedgehog brioche!!!

  • At 6/17/2010 11:50 am, Blogger Cathy x. said…

    i have to stop reading your blog. it makes me sad. you're doing all the awesome things i want to do but can't afford between my pitiful chef wage and mortgage repayments *sigh* who's your pr? do you think there's any chance of swaying them with the offer of hot sex? ;)

  • At 6/17/2010 1:58 pm, Anonymous food.4.two said…

    Looks like a great class! I love brioche..doesn't it remind you of asian sweet buns?

  • At 6/17/2010 3:30 pm, Blogger Laura said…

    I am obsessed with brasserie bread & i love the cooking classes they have.

    I feel like i'd never leave if I was to visit the cafe, seriously.

  • At 6/17/2010 4:02 pm, Blogger YW said…

    looks like a lot a lot of fun!! hmm.. instead of spending my money on 'toys', maybe I should invest in these classes... :)

  • At 6/17/2010 4:32 pm, Anonymous Mei said…

    What a great post Helen, so glad you guys enjoyed yourselves! I always enjoy our baking classes :) I think my favourite part was definitely patting the dabs of butter into the brioche dough. Suze's expression=classic when she saw the mountain of butter in the bowl.

    and the cinnamon buns ARE to die for ;)

  • At 6/17/2010 4:48 pm, Anonymous Veruca Salt said…

    Wow, all that butter. It's no wonder why brioche is so delicious.

    Looks like a great work shop.

  • At 6/17/2010 5:43 pm, Blogger Unknown said…

    I love that picture of the massive mixer - it looks amazing. What a great class to take - will you be inspired to make your own bread from scratch?

  • At 6/17/2010 6:30 pm, Anonymous Jules. said…

    it all just looks oh so wonderful!
    glad you took on a class at Brasserie Bread :D

    totally in awe of the large mixer .

  • At 6/17/2010 8:59 pm, Anonymous divemummy said…

    there is not much in this world that is more delightful than sinking your choppers into freshly baked brioche - thanks Helen!

    Your coulibiac looked amazing.

    Can't wait to visit their cafe while Master 5 does his first cooking class there.

  • At 6/17/2010 9:40 pm, Anonymous steph @ chefsarmoury said…

    Love Brasserie sourdough, and those sticky caramel buns look delicious

  • At 6/17/2010 10:52 pm, Blogger Viv said…

    Wow so fun, I'd love to take this workshop someday too! Never made my own bread before...brioche looks great...so much butter, no wonder its perfect to turn into french toast! hehe
    Oh, I agree - love the sound of the crunch too ;)

  • At 6/17/2010 11:54 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Hee hee your coulibiac is sooo cuutteee!! Mmm love the look of that brioche boat as well. Mmmm craving Brasserie Bread garlic loaf and brioche of course! Looks like much fun times to be had :)

  • At 6/18/2010 11:56 am, Anonymous Peto said…

    Brasserie Bread is the best place! I just bought my girlfriend a class voucher there....will probably do the new Home Baker or the Artisan Baking Workshop...I also hear they may be on Masterchef real soon (tonight maybe)....;)

  • At 6/18/2010 3:02 pm, Blogger missy vas said…

    Completely wonderful post. I have just signed up for one of their classes after reading this. It looks fantastic.
    Thanks for sharing!

  • At 6/18/2010 11:41 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Carbs carbs and more carbs. Now this is my kind of post!! Thanks for sharing as always!

  • At 6/19/2010 10:33 am, Anonymous Mark @ Cafe Campana said…

    Oh I totally want to do bread making class. It looks so tasty. I think Michael should publish a baking book too.

  • At 6/20/2010 9:33 am, Anonymous Amy @ cookbookmaniac said…

    I love brioche. especially smothered with more butter. The class looks fun! argh! keep me away from the sticky buns! I am bound to devour a hundred of these in one sitting!

  • At 6/20/2010 11:27 am, Anonymous Grace said…

    haha your brioche goodies turned out beautifully! my favourite is that big fat coulibiac fish

  • At 6/20/2010 11:55 am, Blogger Fouad @ The Food Blog said…

    "a ball topped with a small knob"
    Helen, your innuendo makes me laugh, though most probably unintentional. LOL

    I loved this post. What a fantastic experience! I saw the guy on master chef and thought he was a fountain of knowledge. I want to meet him and form a long term relationship hehehe. Amazing! Sounded like you had an awesome time too!

  • At 6/21/2010 3:24 am, Anonymous Jen said…

    The Brioche Workshop sounds like so much fun! And everything looks so mouth watering good!

  • At 6/21/2010 2:44 pm, Blogger Angie Lives to Eat (and Cook)! said…

    Cute coubilac! That garlic bread finds itself in people's mouths as fast as it walks out the door! So so so so good!

  • At 6/21/2010 4:02 pm, Anonymous Amanda said…

    That looks like a great workshop. I'd love the opportunity to do a sourdough class.
    I love brioche dough - it is so very silky and a joy to work with!

  • At 6/22/2010 3:29 am, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Simon - Yup, ALL that butter was used on the dough pictured.

    Hi Trissa - Doesn't it always. The coulibiac was fun :)

    Hi Betty - Ha, I seem to have a constant craving for their garlic bread. Oh so good.

    Hi Zina- The classes are great fun, and yes, freshly baked bread is pretty droolworthy!

    Hi Stephcookie - What a shame you couldn't make it. It was much fun!

    Hi chocolatesuze - Heh, it was fun making fish out of pastry and yes those sticky buns were dangerously good.

    Hi Hannah - lol. I usually write the post title last so I didn't even realise it was filled with alliteration!

    Hi Jacq - There was bread, there was butter, of course it was lots of fun! lol.

    Hi BIlly - Ha the giant mixer was crazy. They also had an amazing bun cutter. And a hedgehog is a great idea!

    Hi Cathy X - lol. I don't have PR! Occasionally I do get invitations to things but that's all via email, no favours of any other kind involved! lol

    Hi food.4.two - Oh brioche are so much better than Asian sweet buns. lol. I love their buttery texture and the way you can tear it into strands. Asian breads tend to be a bit too soft and squishy :)

    Hi Laura - Brasserie Bread are great aren't they, and yes, I really must get there for brunch sometime soon. Those pancakes!

    Hi YW - We all have our vices don't we? lol. Classes are always fine, because the lessons keep on giving :)

    Hi Mei - Thank you so much for the kind invitation. It was so much fun. And yes, Suze likes her butter :) Those cinnamon buns were a new level of spiritual fulfilment!

    Hi Veruca Salt - Ahh butter is always behind the good things in life isn't it? Tasty tasty butter....

    Hi Gourmet Chick - I do love baking my own bread, it's just the pre-planning of time that always gets me. I would probably give brioche another go at home (I've tried it once before but it was too dry) although I'm a little worried about how of it I would end up eating! lol

    Hi Jules - So much love for the large mixer! I'm glad we weren't the only ones enthralled!

    Hi divemummy - A pleasure to share. They were so good fresh from the oven. I'm sure Master 5 will have a ball.

    Hi Steph - The caramel buns were divine and I'm a big fan of their breads too!

    Hi Vivienne - Hurrah. So glad someone else loves that audible crunch of fresh bread. Making your own bread takes time but it is worth it :)

    Hi FFichiban - Haha thanks, although I don't think I quite have "sun hands". lol.

    Hi Peto - Ahh what a sweet boyfriend you are! I'm sure you'll both have so much fun, and yes, what a lovely surprise to realise they were going to be on MasterChef!

    Hi missy vas - I'm sure you'll have so much fun at the class. Make sure you bring your appetite!

    Hi debbil - It's a carb orgy! Glad you enjoyed the post :)

    Hi Mark - I was wondering about that too. Hopefully fingers crossed there's one on the way!

    Hi Amy - Those sticky buns are dangerously good. The class was great fun - always rewarding to get stuck into hands-on lessons.

    Hi Grace - Heh, the coulibiac was the most fun to make and really so easy too, although having everything ready-prepped did help. lol.

    Hi Fouad - ha, I was wondering if anyone would notice. Trust you :)

    And I'll pass on your number. lol

    Hi Jen - It was a fantastic workshop that was very well organised. Delicious treats to take home was a bonus!

    Hi Angie - Thanks, the coulibiac was fun to make. And yes, isn't the garlic bread amazing?

    Hi Amanda - Brioche does have a lovely silkiness to the dough once you've worked in all the butter. It takes some effort but it's totally worth it!


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