TRACY WHIT­MEY meets fab­u­lous baker boy Dan Cru­den of The Real Bread Pro­ject.

Cuisine - - CONTENTS -

Tracy Whit­mey talks to a baker ded­i­cated to bring­ing real bread to Auck­land

IF YOU SIT NEXT TO Dan Cru­den on a plane don’t be wor­ried if his carry-on bag emits a faint bub­bling noise or a yeasty smell. It’s only his sour­dough starter that’s com­ing along for the ride. “It’s like a baby – you have to feed it twice a day. And I don’t trust any­one else to feed it prop­erly,” Dan ex­plains. So, on a re­cent trip to Mel­bourne, the jar of sour­dough starter was popped in the over­head locker; in­ter­est­ingly the cus­toms of­fi­cials didn’t bat an eye­lid – they’d seen trav­el­ling bak­ers be­fore! It all goes to show how much Dan cares about his craft, and quite rightly as he and the starter have been to­gether for about seven years.

This de­gree of care and pas­sion has lead Dan to cre­ate The Real Bread Pro­ject, a bak­ery where he can bake good bread us­ing natural in­gre­di­ents with­out adding im­provers or gluten. Mov­ing to He­lensville (north west of Auck­land) three years ago, he recog­nised straight away that this was where he wanted to re­alise his plans to set up his own bak­ery. “As soon as I got here I thought, ‘I’ve def­i­nitely got to do some­thing here.’ I want to gives this com­mu­nity the chance to have real bread,” he says.

So he did just that, run­ning the bak­ery part time at first along­side his job at Amano in the city, then cutting loose and go­ing full time in Au­gust 2018. And he’s no­ticed some­thing of a groundswell of other small pro­duc­ers set­ting up in this ru­ral town, with Mama’s Brew Shop open­ing The Kom­buch­ery in a for­mer butcher’s shop and MILC ice cream just up the road.

Keep­ing up the com­mu­nity spirit, Dan will de­liver his bread not just to lo­cal stock­ists but also to your home within He­lensville – you don’t get that in the city. “People re­ally en­joy that they can chat to the maker,” says Dan, who also sells at Kauka­pakapa farm­ers’ mar­ket ev­ery third Sun­day.

His next plan is for a shop in He­lensville, hope­fully open­ing in late Novem­ber or early De­cem­ber 2018 – a pop-up take­away bak­ery to start with, open at week­ends for bread, pas­tries and cof­fee.

Dan bakes French and Ital­ian-style sour­dough, baguettes, crois­sants and pas­tries be­cause that’s what he likes to bake and that’s what he likes to eat. But a glance at his mes­meris­ing In­sta­gram page shows that these are no or­di­nary loaves. Here you’ll see that Dan makes bread with real char­ac­ter, crisp-crusted and glo­ri­ously tex­tured, with an un­mis­tak­ably hand­made ap­peal. They’re about as far from su­per­mar­ket white sliced as you can get. Oh-so-el­e­gant pas­tries grab your at­ten­tion too, golden crispy crois­sants, multi-lay­ered dough twirled into per­fect cor­nets. Hard work? Hell yes, but it looks like Dan has a lot of fun in the bak­ery, too. Af­ter all, he turned down a job as an an­i­ma­tor with Weta Stu­dios in favour of bak­ing (“I was young and naive,” he says in ex­pla­na­tion of that ca­reer choice, over 20 years ago).

His cre­ativ­ity has clearly found an­other out­let. In among the tra­di­tional crois­sants, pain au choco­lat and dan­ishes you’ll spot hot-pink rasp­berry and choco­late crois­sants, pur­ple car­rot sour­dough, cube crois­sants and in­ge­nious flavour com­bi­na­tions, such as pain au chilli choco­lat. “I just come up with wacky ideas and throw them out to a few mates,” says Dan, ex­plain­ing how his peanut but­ter crois­sant evolved. “My mate Dave (Donoghue) at Pas­trami & Rye has a friend with a peanut but­ter fac­tory. ‘Can you do anything with peanut but­ter?’ he asked. So in the car on the way home I was think­ing about the clas­sic Summer Roll. I made the first batch that night and de­liv­ered to Dave the next day. They’d sold out by 9am.”

Once he’s got the new out­let go­ing Dan aims to magic up one new cre­ation ev­ery month. “I’ll see some­thing and think, ‘I won­der if I could do my own spin on that?'” So far he ad­mits he’s been pretty lucky with his in­no­va­tions. “I do set my­self up though. As I’m bak­ing, I’ll put it up on In­sta­gram say­ing ‘Avail­able to­mor­row!’, so I’m set up for a dis­as­ter if it doesn’t work.”

Take a look for your­self – we don’t see any dis­as­ters there.

/ @dan­the­bak­er­dow­nun­der

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