Things got hot on Dundas West with Chef Jon from Blackbird Baking Co taking over Le Dolci’s adorable space for a no hold barred all on carb fest. Pretty much everyone can get behind a good loaf of bread, but Jon, luckily for us, lives, breathes and positively radiates bread. Speaking like a proud new papa, Jon went over the history of bread, the evolution of baking, how to correctly eyeball a good loaf and using the stainless steel as his makeshift chalkboard, a nifty diagram on the processing behind wheat.
Le Dolci offers a decadent list of hardcore bakery goods- macarons, ice cream (with MC star Julie), doughnut making…the list goes on, but bread is savoury, approachable, honest and kinda intimidating. You can fix a cupcake with icing sugar, a baguette can’t be disguised as anything but a crappy loaf of broken promises. I was keen to hone some better baking skills and was eager to try out Jon’s two recipes (which you can find below), one a brioche, the ultimate butter soaked chameleon….savoury or sweet, brioche has got you covered. Ditto for the focaccia, which can double as a dipper, impress as a pizza, or stand alone as a sandwich all-star.
Wallflowers were put to work -this is a hands on class, which benefits everyone. I find a lot of the cooking and baking classes nowadays are mere demos, some chef guy yammering on about how technique and ability when we’re the ones who need to learn this stuff! Jon had us mixing, cutting, measuring, rolling…everyone was engaged and really impressed with his obsession with bread that was absolutely addictive!
We first started with the brioche, Jon showed us how to make the dough, and like a TV show, voila, a ready made dough was produced and students weighed out the amounts and got their hands dirty rolling out blobs of the buttery stuff. The dough we made sat proofing, waiting for us to take home to bake tomorrow. Genius! While the brioche baked up, we started mixing the dry ingredients for the focaccia.
Everyone should have a good focaccia recipe. This super easy bread can be baked up in a snap, making it a star for scoring an invite to someone’s cottage (yes please). We partnered up and got to work. My partner Jeremy was a good sport/hand model, so he did most of the work while I cheered him on behind the lens. Jon had a smattering of ingredients on hand, so after our dough was beaten into submission we topped our breads with gourmet ingredients like Taleggio cheese, caramelized fennel, fragrant za’atar, loads of fresh herbs and of course, the bare necessities, s&P and evoo.
The goods were ready at almost the exact same time. Focaccia’s came out and our hard work was rewarded with delicate flavours weaved through the bread, the spicy red pepper flakes soaked in olive oil permeated the loaf, I was stoked with the final product. Jon also mixed up ‘eggplant caviar'(you can find a decent recipe here) which was a tasty spread for our lovely bread.
Yields 1 loaf/ 6 x 100g balls
271g ap flour
6g instant yeast
Add all ingredients except butter to the bowl of a stand mixer.
Mix on first speed for 2-3 mins until incorporated.
Increase to second speed and start adding butter 20g at a time. Mix a total of 6-7 mins on second speed
Cover the bowl and proof at room temp for 30-45 mins. Punch the dough down and repeat. Refrigerate until ready to use.
Shape brioche into desired size and proof in baking container until doubled in size, approx 60 mins.
Bake at 350 until internal temp reaches 190f or until a skewer removes clean from the centre.
Yields about 2 large 400g focaccias
400g ap flour
2g instant yeast
335g cold water
Mix all by hand until no lumps are left
Cover and proof at room temp approx. 8 hours
Divide into pieces and form a congestive ball. Rest on the table 30 mins and then top and bake at 450f until golden brown on the bottom.