Making the perfect sourdough
Peter Groeneveld of Bakery Culture, Jamison Plaza shows the process behind making sourdough. Photo: Jay Cronan
Peter Groeneveld's sourdough culture looks like dried porridge.
Lumped in the corner of a plastic tub, no one loves this old dough as much as Mr Groeneveld, an artisan baker, who feeds it twice a day.
Cut-price German grocer Aldi has opened a bakery opposite him. Coles Supermarket - in the consumer watchdog's sights over claims of freshly baked bread - is a couple of doors down at the Jamison Centre.
Mr Groeneveld doesn't much care about them. He doesn't change his prices. He just keeps feeding his six-year-old culture.
"This is the lungs of my business, a living micro organism," he said.
Meanwhile in Braddon, pastry chef Darren Perryman slips away from the clatter of coffee cups and cake making into a cool room where he lifts the lid on his mother dough, which sags with a sigh.
The starter dough dates back to 2007, and he's going through 150 kilos a day feeding salivating customers who queue on Saturdays and Sundays, and in supermarkets for his breads.
So, what's all the fuss about fresh bread with a hint of sourness at the end of a good, long chew?
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is alleging in the Federal Court Coles is misleading customers with claims bread baked in store could infer it's made from scratch, when in reality some is partially baked elsewhere, frozen and then finished off in store.
This could be unfair competition on other bakers.
At the Jamison Centre, Coles bread sells for $3, sometimes less, whereas Mr Groeneveld's Bakery Culture sourdough sells for $6.50 to $7 a loaf.
"I'm probably doing four times more bread than what I was doing a few years ago," Mr Groeneveld said.
He once travelled to the San Francisco Baking Institute to perfect his bread making before opening Bakery Culture, where 30 people are employed. The cash register staff say customer numbers surge on public service payday and Saturdays.
He turns over two tonne of flour. It takes 36 hours to process the dough, which is left to rest, then mixed again, shaped and eventually baked.
"The weather here is different to Sydney's and so is the sourdough, because of the different atmospheric conditions."
Autolyse, a term for allowing dough to rest a while, is the name Mr Perryman and his partners adopted for their Braddon bakery which opened in April, hand shaping everything and baking throughout the day.
"We are so different to supermarkets, we didn't look at competition from them," Mr Perryman said.
"I just love the whole process of watching the dough go through the oven, and come out looking just superb."
Mr Perryman said artisan bakers throughout Canberra sold for the same reasons - their bread was good quality and they put love into it.
"I don't think $5 (a loaf) is a premium at all, because it is handmade and made properly. We are not trying to undercut the next supermarket or next bakery, we are just doing our thing, we are not over the top."