There are bakeries everywhere nowadays but a real good quality bakery is a rare find. They are few and far between.
I can bake cakes, muffins, biscuits and I do an alright shortcrust pastry but this is the extent of my baking. I haven’t tried baking bread yet and the thought of making puff pastry freaks me out. You can generally save your cooking in some way by adding some more ingredients or seasoning here and there. If you are making a pot of soup, it doesn’t matter if a little less celery is included or an extra onion is included, you will still have a pot of soup. This sort of adjustment does not apply to baking, not enough butter or too few or many eggs can result in complete failure. Baking requires accuracy. With a baked good, once you have put it together, it may be a batter or dough, and pop it in the oven, there is no turning back, there is nothing else you can do about the outcome but wait until the baking time has passed and just hope that it turns out ok…has my batter been sufficiently creamed? did I under or overmix? did I under or over knead?...
I recently read Michael Ruhlman’s The Making of a Chef: Mastering Heat at the Culinary Institute. The chapter titled ‘Thermal Death Point’ detailed the experiences at the Culinary Institute of America’s baking skill development classes and during the class the bread baking skills instructor, Chef Coppedge would say “Dough is alive until we bake it. Steak has no opinions. This has an opinion until we bake it.” Coppedge could tell if dough had been properly mixed by the sound it made in the mixer. He told the class to mix dough not by direction but rather by “looking at it, feeling it and hearing it.” The chapter discloses how baking presents much more of a challenge than cooking and it can be a cause of much frustration for people.
I am happy to pay for someone else to undergo all the stress that can come with baking and provide my with bread, baguettes, sourdough, croissants and danishes etc. because baking is a science, you can’t really wing it. Not to mention that professional bakers would have to be up at insane hours of the morning to get baked goods ready for service. Hats off to that!
As we walked to the Bourke Street Bakery I felt like a kid going to a candy store. Walking along Bourke Street, passing so many beautiful old terrace houses, I was constantly asking my friend “are we there yet?”
When we arrived there was a bit of a queue, but luckily the line moved fast. I was quite surprised at how small the bakery was. There were some window tables inside and a few tables along the street against the walls but I think you would have to be extremely lucky to ever get a seat at this place considering how popular it is.
I went to the Bourke Street Bakery with pretty high expectations so I would have been easily disappointed.
I was not disappointed, I was a happy camper. Everything I ate was delicious. I bought a lamb, harissa and almond sausage roll, and a vanilla brulee tart with strawberry puree. When one of my friends went to line up for a coffee, I snuck back into line and got a chocolate mousse tart.
The most outstanding aspect for me was the pastry. The puff pastry for the roll was extremely light, full of buttery goodness, puffy and flakey. The short crust party for the tart was buttery, crisp and crumbly. The fillings were also amazing. The harrisa lamb almond combination was delicious, packed with flavour and texture from the almonds and currants. The custard for the vanilla brulee tart was delicate and the caramelised top and strawberry puree on the bottom of the tart provided unity. The chocolate mousse tart was luscious and velvety, and I loved the addition of fine chocolate cake crumbs on top.
I was so impressed by the Bourke Street Bakery that when I got home, back to Perth, I bought the book and to my delight there are recipes for everything that I consumed and more, much more. I will be working my way through this book. I have started off with something relatively easy, a carrot cake. You can see the results here.