Dojo Bread is taking it back to basics with rustic, fully fermented loaves and hand-made pies deep in the new south Wales countryside.
Located just off the Kings Highway between Canberra and Bateman’s Bay is Braidwood, a sleepy, picturesque country town filled with historic buildings. Housed in a renovated 1830s cottage on a tiny back lane off Braidwood’s main street is Dojo Bread, a well-kept local secret. Previous owner Matthew Hulse, an Aikido instructor, named the bakery after the martial arts training hall. Current owner Mark Barrington has carried on his start-from-scratch philosophy, getting into the bakery at three or four each morning.
In a previous life, Mark was a property developer who made the abrupt change to baking after the Global Financial Crisis ground the property market to a halt. He hasn’t looked back since, saying that although property work fed the pocket, it did not feed the soul.
“Nobody loves a property developer, but everybody loves their baker,” Mark jokes, “and that’s kind of it—you’re doing something that people actually want, and that they appreciate.
“I mean, lots of people like to buy new homes and i’m sure, the rest of it, but this is really something where you’re appealing to something very deeply emotional in people, their connection to and love of good honest food.”
The secret to the bread at Dojo is their long fermentation process, which involves letting the dough ferment for a full 24 hours before baking. Fully-fermenting the bread means that it has more time for the bran to break down, making it easier to digest, and neutralising phytic acid.
“Because of course, we haven’t got two or three stomachs, we’ve just got the one, and we’re not a ruminant animal, so to ferment the grains first, ferment the flour first, it’s much better for your digestion, much easier on your gut,” Mark says.
Another of their unique flagship products includes beer bread, which Mark makes using yeast from beer he brews himself.
“We long-ferment with sour culture. So we produce sourdoughs, but we also do a long-fermented beer bread. We’re not looking for the alcohol, so we don’t ferment it out very long—maybe three or four days, maybe two days, depending on which season we’re in—because what we’re looking for is the yeast, the brewer’s yeast, to multiply in the beer we make and then we use that beer to ferment our dough.”
Mark even brings his do-it-yourself philosophy to the flour, 20 per cent of which is milled on-site with an electric stone grinder.
“In fact, some of the rye breads that we do, we mill everything. We buy organic rye grain, and we mill our little hearts out,” says Mark.
Another Dojo-difference is their dependence on locally sourced produce, some of which even comes straight from Mark’s garden.
“From November onwards, we’re able to source local garlic. During the winter we source local truffles and i source a lot of local vegetables. i get spinach and silver beet and chard from my own garden.”
Salad leaves, herbs, pickling cucumbers and tomatoes also come from local growers. Basalt topsoil, the lingering result of an ancient volcano in the Braidwood area, ensures a unique taste to the vegetables.
Hand-made pies are another specialty at Dojo Bread, with standout favourites including Beef and Red Wine Pie and a Lamb and Fenugreek Pie.
“We have grass-fed chuck steak that goes into our beef and red-wine pies, and one ethos that i have with the cooking is to always try and cook with as few ingredients as possible, and let the ingredients do the talking, really let them shine through,” says Mark.
“If they’re good quality ingredients, then that is what you want.
“If you’re having a beef and red wine pie, then you want a well-flavoured beef, and a drinkable red wine.
“In fact,” he adds, cheekily, “one of my jobs is to check the red wine, regularly, to check that it is drinkable.
“And, by-and-large, i find it very drinkable, indeed!
“So our Beef and Red Wine Pie has grass-fed chuck, it has red wine, it has onion, it has salt and pepper, and just a rue of flour and butter, and that’s it.
“There’s no tomato paste, no garlic, no Baileys, no this, no that… There’s nothing else, just those few ingredients.”
The Lamb and Fenugreek Pie uses New South Wales lamb, and the very non-local ingredient of fenugreek, a relative of spinach.
“I have to get a frozen product that i buy in Canberra, which works, but i would rather have a fresh local product, if i could only persuade a local grower to grow it for me!” Mark says.
The daily menu is decided weeks in advance with 10 to 12 different cake products on display at any one time, and at least four different breads every weekday.
“I never decide on the day what bread to make. i’ve decided it two weeks before and it’s all written down—everything is quantified. We have to make sure we have the appropriate ingredients on the premises. This goes for breads, it goes for pastries, it goes for cakes,” says Mark.
“Even the fermented vegetables, the cucumbers and sauerkrauts. We do some dips as well, all of these things, they’re all decided weeks in advance.”
The incredible dedication of the team at Dojo Bread—as well as, of course, their delicious baked goods—has earned them a reputation as a hidden treasure on the Canberra-to-coast run, as well as within Braidwood itself. Be sure to stop for a browse (and a bite) on your way through the historical town.