The Sydney sourdough universe is populated by a few serious players: Bourke Street Bakery, Iggy’s, Brickfields and a handful of others. But small Inner West operation Baked by Keiran stands up next to the greats.
“I’ve always known I had a good sourdough and I’ve had customers say my bread is better than Iggy’s or Bourke Street’s,” says owner Keiran McKay. The small bakery on Dulwich Hill’s high street doesn’t have much space; McKay can only make 40 loaves for Saturday trade and they’re usually sold out by 1pm. “People are always really disappointed when we run out of bread.”
The loaves have perfectly caramelised crusts, chewy and tart, thanks to the starter McKay has nurtured for the last decade, and the 72-hour process he uses to make his sourdough. “On the first day, we make a sponge from the starter, feeding it to develop the gluten,” he says. “The next day we mix the dough, prove it for five hours and then again for two hours. On the third day we bake.”
The rest of McKay’s offering is just as tasty. On a given day, the tiny retail shop out front of Baked by Keiran’s wholesale operation has viennoiserie-like croissants, pain au chocolat and danishes, alongside meat pies, sausage rolls and lamingtons.
“We do a fair few sweets. In this area, people really go for old school things like vanilla slice or lamingtons,” he says. “We try to put our own twist on the classics. For example, instead of using raspberry jam in the lamington, we do a raspberry bavarois (Bavarian cream).”
There are also canelés, which are a classic French cylindrical pastry with a chewy custard centre and a dark, caramelised crust, flavoured with rum and vanilla. “People who know this pastry flock here for it. It’s very more-ish. The outside is baked so dark and crispy, some people think it’s burnt, but the French call it bien cuit (well done).”
McKay bought the bakery nearly two years ago and ran it exclusively as a wholesale operation until this year. The shop has just enough space for a glass front counter full of pastries, and a coffee machine that pumps out White Horse coffee – a strong blend roasted in the Sutherland shire.
The venue has been a bakery for half a century, with varying degrees of success. McKay believes the balance is in focusing on wholesale and opening the shop at the end of the week and weekends. “The wholesale business does really well, while the front of the shop is a bit of fun. We’re limited by space, so it doesn’t make much money. We’re already at maximum production right now, and we might get to the point where we move so we can open seven days. I hope we outgrow this space. I’d love to do more,” he says.