Maaryasha Werdiger didn’t set out to become a baker. She’s a trained physiotherapist and still hasn’t given up her license. But she’s managed to create a sourdough micro-bakery that regularly has queues down the street – and sells out within hours.
Her entirely kosher operation, Zelda Bakery, moved to a new home on Glen Eira Road in Ripponlea in 2021. The infatuation began in 2011 in Jerusalem, where Werdiger was living at the time, when someone gifted her a sourdough starter.
Despite being just postpartum, Werdiger spent her maternity leave (and beyond) perfecting her sourdough recipe. By the time Werdiger returned to Australia six months later, she could make a pretty decent loaf of kosher sourdough, which she says wasn’t readily available at the time.
At the request of family and friends, she began hosting sourdough workshops to pass along her tips. Ten loaves were required for each workshop, and Werdiger would spend an entire day baking them – one at a time in a pot – to get the crusts perfect. Then she would stay up all night testing recipes for sweets such as babka, cinnamon buns and croissants that she’d share with friends on Saturday mornings.
So, she slowly scaled back her physio work and converted the kitchen and garage of her Elsternwick home into a makeshift micro-bakery. Initially, Werdiger was making loaves to order, plus whatever freshly baked pastries she felt like preparing for pick-up day. Customers would arrive hungry and in hordes.
Moving into a separate, permanent space was a relief for both Werdiger and her family, who’d grown tired of navigating the ever-expanding home bakery. She now sells her bread and pastries to the public.
The menu changes often, with a few constants: loaves of sourdough; pillowy, dimpled focaccia with rotating toppings; thick sesame rings; and swirly chocolate babka. Soft, beautifully braided challah, another Jewish staple, is also available regularly. And then there are the pastries, which may include Portuguese tarts, sourdough doughnuts (or “sourdoughnuts”, as she calls them), fruit danishes and croissants.
And everything is kosher: dairy and non-dairy are kept separate; only certified kosher ingredients are used; the dough is blessed with a special blessing after mixing; and Werdiger doesn't work on Shabbat (Saturday).