Braidwood locals will be familiar with the sight of baker Mark Barrington trundling across the main street with his trolley stacked high with crates of freshly baked bread. Mark’s sourdough creations have become a favourite of locals and tourists alike, and Dojo Bread is a staple of the community.
For many years, Dojo Bread was based in a small shopfront down a laneway, but recently it has moved across the highway into the larger location formerly occupied by the Boiled Lolly sweet shop. Mark Barrington, owner and head baker, still uses the old space for baking (hence the highway-crossing trolley).
Dojo Bakery specialises in all things fermented, but Mark says it wasn’t always this way.
“Seventeen years ago, when the business started, you couldn’t sell fermented bread, nobody was interested,” he told Region.
“Soft, white high-top loaves would have been our biggest seller back then but we don’t even really make them anymore!”
These days the bakery ferments just about everything, from its signature sourdough loaves to its flakey pastries and croissants. The only exception is a few dinner rolls, and white tinned loaves that are only made on request for a few long-time customers.
“Apart from it being better for your digestion, fermentation just gives it a beautiful flavour,” Mark said.
”Even the sweet things just have that umami flavour that feeds your soul. We make long-fermented croissants, and also danishes.”
Aside from baking bread, Mark’s other passion is brewing beer and he’s combined the two into a special beer bread. Traditionally, bakers in cold climates would form a relationship with the local brewery and use the ”crown” from the semi-fermented beer in place of sourdough starter.
Drawing on these Germanic traditions, Mark brews his own semi-fermented beer and then uses that liquid to kickstart the fermentation process on a wholegrain loaf. The result is a deliciously soft, nutty loaf with a rich flavour.
The cornerstone of Mark’s bakes is that simplicity is best. He takes the best ingredients and uses technique and tradition to create foods that are delicious in their simplicity. He talks passionately about a recent focaccia special topped with tomato puree – “tomatoey heaven” – with taleggio cheese.
“And I haven’t added anything else because you don’t need anything else,” he said.
It’s the same theory that underpins his most controversial business decision: he doesn’t serve tomato sauce with his pies. Instead, he ensures that his pies are already bursting with delicious flavours so they don’t require any additions.
Mark uses meat sourced from the local butcher and makes thoughtful flavour combinations such as lamb and fenugreek, based on an Indian curry named methi gosht, a favourite from Mark’s upbringing in the UK.
Using local ingredients and supporting other local businesses is important to Mark.
“I think that’s part of running your business ethically,” he said.
”It’s better to buy your meat from the local butcher … he’s got four young people working for him and other auxiliary staff and that helps to keep money in the local economy.
”And that’s important when you’re 50 km from anywhere.”
Plans are underway to build a new, larger bakery space out the back of the present shop, but for now, traffic halts for the fresh-bread delivery.