Indulge your sweet tooth and try the finest artisan treats from Australia's best bakeries.
By Jac Taylor
Virtually every Australian town has its own neighbourhood bakery. Traditionally, this was where the locals would get their treats like meat pies and lamingtons, alongside various kinds of bread, pastry and cake. In recent years, however, the Aussie bakery has transformed into an artisan destination for unusual flavour combinations, wildly inventive recipes and a resurgence in traditional, small batch baking methods. Here are some of Australia's best bakeries.
Black Star Pastry began as a tiny shop in Sydney's trendy inner west suburb of Newtown. It quickly gained a cult following for its strawberry watermelon cake with rosewater cream, which has won several culinary awards and gained lots of media attention. The shop is always packed, but the queue moves quickly. The new must-try treat is the raspberry lychee cake, made with chocolate sponge, raspberry marshmallow and fresh flowers. The beautifully styled savoury pies also sell out every day, with fillings ranging from seafood to lamb shanks.
Customers come from hundreds of kilometres away to shop at DOJO Bakery. Hidden down a laneway beyond the main street's shopfronts, in a historic country town on the outskirts of Canberra, this passionate little bakery is a bona fide local secret where baker Matt Hulse, a former martial arts master, brings the discipline and health philosophies of his background to the art of making bread. Wild yeast and natural enzymes (such as lactobacillus), as well as sea salt and filtered water are used to create loaves that are not only healthier and more digestible than what you'll find in your average slice, but utterly delicious too.
Croissants may have originated in France, but it could be argued that they have been perfected at Lune Croissanterie, a converted warehouse in Melbourne's fashionable Fitzroy. Lune herself is a former Formula 1 aerodynamicist, who concentrates so intensely on croissants that there is even an exclusive private bar within the space called the Lune Lab. Here customers can interact with the bakers and taste the newest and most interesting flavours available in a three-course pastry "flight", often straight from the oven. Look out for the twice-baked coconut and pandan croissant, or traditional Breton kouign amann pastries, simply but deliciously caramelised in sugar and butter.
The state of Victoria has a special place in its heart for the vanilla slice. This custard-filled square of pastry topped with icing is probably a descendant of the French mille-feuille. Found in most bakeries nationwide, it often has the rather un-French addition of passionfruit icing. In the tiny farming town of Birchip in Victoria's Mallee region, 300 kilometres (186 miles) north-west of Melbourne, baker Kevin Sharp at Sharp's Bakery has arguably perfected the Australian version. More than 30,000 visitors a year come to taste Sharp’s precisely square, towering vanilla slice, which is the three-time winner of Australia's Vanilla Slice Triumph competition – a little slice of country life.
Adelaide enjoys the influences of its early European settlers in the many subtle German, British and French accents on its menus, and at The Rolling Pin, you'll find a menu that's undeniably French. Owned by two young brothers, one of whom received culinary training in traditional pastry making in France, the bakery combines classic French recipes with modern Australian flavours to create a range of sweet treats you won't find anywhere else. The traditional chocolate tart, for example, is finished with honeycomb and house-made golden syrup – a cherished ingredient in generations of Australian kitchens – made with the rich, distinctive tasting Australian sugar cane. Don't miss the locally famous Turkish delight éclairs.
In Margaret River, a region better known for its wines, you can find a bakery so rustic and traditional, its old-fashioned methods are almost revolutionary. At Margaret River Woodfired Bread, all bread is hand moulded and slowly fermented, made from local biodynamic grains and baked on woodfire-heated volcanic stones, with no traditional oven or other machine, and no chemical treatment involved. The rye bread is rich, and the fruit bread is rightfully renowned for being full of juicy apricots, raisins and more. Visit toward the end of the day for the freshest loaves right out of the oven, or pick up some loaves from the Yallingup General Store down the road.
White chocolate, sour cherry and pistachio, cheesecake, passion fruit, raspberry and basil, and lemon and apricot curd are just a few of the unique flavours that French chef Nicolas Poelaert is bringing to the humble éclairs sold at Choux Patisserie. After working with Michelin-awarded French chefs (including Michel and Sébastien Bras of the revered Laguiole restaurant Bras, and Alain Gellee of La Meunerie), Poelaert alongside his wife Tara – who also has incredible culinary expertise – brought his traditional culinary skills to Newcastle, just over two hours north of Sydney. Here, he began turning the traditional pastry recipe inside out. These tasty creations have been called Australia's best éclairs and they can be found at the Newcastle Farmer's Market.