Iris is Tom Edwards and Betty Milner’s one-and-a-half-year-old daughter. Iris the Bakery, which opened in Brunswick last month, is named for her. Opening their own spot has been a long-time dream for the couple ever since they met in 2015, and it’s been a long process to get to this moment.
Edwards has more than 12 years’ experience as a chef working in kitchens under Dan Hunter at Brae and Teage Ezard before taking the reins himself as head chef at The Summertown Aristologist in the Adelaide Hills. In 2017, the couple travelled to Copenhagen for a three-year stint. It was supposed to advance Edwards’s career in restaurants but instead the move was an epiphany – in Denmark, he discovered his passion for bread and baking. Having worked at Copenhagen’s acclaimed Restaurant Relae for two years, he moved across to the group’s bakery Mirabelle where he soon became the head baker.
With Covid came a return to Melbourne, and Edwards became head baker at All Are Welcome Bakery before being headhunted to lead the baking at Tuerong Farm on the Mornington Peninsula. There, he grew and baked with heritage, ancient and modern grains.
This year, gift them a dinner to remember with a Broadsheet Gift Card.BUY NOW
“The bakers that I look up to around the world often come from a chef background and working in restaurants that are very connected to where their food comes from and how it's grown, and they take that same attitude into the bread and pastry,” says Edwards. “When you learn about these flours and see them as living ingredients, not just a static thing that can sit on a shelf for a year and be exactly the same, it becomes a really interesting world.”
His experience at Tuerong Farm was the final springboard towards opening Iris. But after securing a lease, Iris almost didn’t happen. Thanks to a successful crowdfunding push, however, it’s open at last – and already paying its supporters back with copious amount of excellent bread and pastries.
Edwards is currently baking with Tuerong’s Garland 1109, a wholegrain flour known for its nutritional value, flavour and ease of digestion. The table loaf is the staple at Iris and is sold whole or by the half. “It’s not shaped into something pretty, but it’s nourishing with minimal intervention. The benefit in simplifying the process is that it allows the fermentation to continue on its own without interruption,” says Edwards, who mixes the dough and bulk ferments it overnight in a big crate in the fridge. In the morning he cuts it and it goes straight into the oven. The result? A flavoursome bread with great crumb, a thick and chewy caramelised crust on the outside and soft inside, which stays fresher for longer. It’s also enormous.
As well as the Jurassic-sized loaf, you’ll find rustic baguettes, a toasted seed and oat loaf, pecan and raisin bread, as well as croissants, pain au chocolat, cakes and a chocolate buckwheat cookie. Some favourites from Edwards and Milner’s back catalogue also feature: a vegetable pastie recalling their South Australian days; sticky-sweet cardamom buns (“there’s a bakery on every corner of Copenhagen and these always feature,” says Milner); the Danish morning roll rundstykker; and a warm-from-the-oven sourdough boule with whipped butter and tilsit – salty semi-hard cow’s cheese – from Tasmania’s Heidi Farm.
Coffee is by Tim Varney at Stella, and Edwards is baking throughout the day, so you can come and grab a loaf for home, have a coffee and a cardamom bun warm from the oven and sit inside or out in the courtyard and bathe in the hygge of it all.