Thursday, March 19, 2015

Dough Collective, Sydney

During my recent visit to Sydney, I discovered a magical place called Dough Collective.  A bakery, but primarily a bread shop.  I love my baked goods, but bread isn't something I'm usually crazy about.  Or so I though, before I discovered Dough Collective!

Of course, it isn't exactly *just* bread.  They make a variety of breads, some savory, some loaded with nuts and fruits, and others chocolatey.  The chocolate based ones turned out to be my favorites.  The breads are not just basic loaves, rather they have an assortment of interesting shapes, like crowns, rings, horseshoes, 'M's, and 'S's.  Most are quite large, although they are expanding to have more snack size items now.  Several styles of bread are available, including soft and fluffy, or harder and chewier.  I was in love with the soft ones, the texture was very unique, and I'm sure the ridiculous freshness played a big role in how amazing it was.

They have several locations in Sydney, including a large one on George Street, and a much smaller, newly opened, one in the Galleries just a few blocks down.
Baking times for the day.
Out front is a sign showing which breads will be fresh at each 2 hour increment all day.  This is awesome, because you can time it to have your favorite fresh out of the oven!  Except, you have to walk by the sign to know which is coming out when.  I wish they posted this on their Facebook page daily.

Not that anything is ever old, as they bake continuously all day long, and that was obvious in the freshness and quality of the product.

The actual selection varies by day, and time of day, and luck, so you never quite know what are you going to get, which can be sad if you had your heart set on something, but I found that I was always able to find something I was just as happy with, even if my first choice wasn't available.  Visiting mid-morning seemed to be the best bet though.
Espresso Machine.
The larger location also offers coffee, but the Galleries location does not.  This is too bad, because particularly in the morning, a coffee and bread, particularly a chocolate one, go together oh so well, and became my breakfast of choice, when I didn't eat at my hotel.
Decaf Long Black. $3.20.
I was thrilled to see that they use Single Origin Roasters for the coffee.

Back when I lived in Sydney for 3 months, I stayed in Surry Hills, and was close by Single Origin Roasters.  I loved it.  Bar far the best coffee I had in the city.  If the barista at Dough Collective could do even a fraction of as good as a job as those at the Single Origin coffee shop, I was in for a treat.  I was a bit skeptical after I ordered, as the barista was a bit surly and didn't seem to want to make my drink.

But ... grumpy service aside, it was indeed everything I wanted it to be.  I've been checking out all the well rated coffee shops around the CBD on this trip, including Workshop Espresso, Gumption by Coffee Alchemy, and Klink, but none were this good.  It was smooth, it had some depth, it was delicious.  No decaf funk, no strange sweetness, just delicious.

Dough Collective, like many other places around town, prices all coffee exactly the same.  A shot of espresso, a long black, or a mocha are all the same price.  This doesn't actually seem quite fair, particularly when I'm usually going for a long black, but at least they didn't upcharge for the decaf, as many places add a $0.50 surcharge for decaf.  The $3.20 price was right in line with the rest of the city, and actually a bit lower (I generally paid $3.50 - $4).
Muffins, Tarts.
Near the register, they also offer a few muffins and tarts, and I think earlier in the day there are other breakfast pastries, but I never had eyes for these.  Their bread is just too good to go for the other baked goods.  Yes, I picked bread over breakfast baked goods!
The Front Display.
The Dough Collective has several large display cases, loaded with the assorted available breads.  The displays are notable for several reasons, one of which is that they are adorable, with rolling pins for legs (and, rolling pins above).

To select bread, you grab a tray and set of tongs near the entrance, pick your selections from the cases, and then bring the tray to the front counter to pay.  To get to the bread in the cases, you just slide the glass doors, reach in with the tongs, and take the one you want, all self serve.
The real beauty of Dough Collective is the little plastic containers in front of each and every type of bread.  These containers are ... samples!  Yes, every single bread has a sample, and they aren't tiny pieces.  The photo above was taken close to closing time when they weren't very full, but normally, every bin was full to the brim.

Given that they have about 50 items at a time, you can eat a LOT of bread just walking through making decisions ... and making decisions is very, very hard.
Scones: Chocolate, Raisin, Cheese and Shallot.  $1.50.
The one item I wasn't a fan of was the scones, available in three varieties: Chocolate, Raisin, or Cheese and Shallot.

I tried them all, but the style was just not what I think of as a scone.  They were soft, not crumbly, not very buttery.  They weren't the hard style we think of as scones in the US, but also weren't really like British scones either.  Maybe this is Australian style?  They also just weren't very flavorful.

The savory cheese and shallot one I could imagine using with a fried egg and cheese sandwich, but besides that, I'm not sure why I'd want one.

$1.50 price is reasonable for a scone though.
Bagged Buns.  $6.25.
Some small buns are available in bags of 5, for $6.25.  These didn't seem to be a big hit though, I'm not sure who stops in to get an entire bag of just one thing when there is so much selection.
Individual Buns. $1.80.
There were also a couple varieties of individual buns, a great snack size, particularly compared to the much larger regular options that I do feel are a bit too big.  But, the flavors of the individual buns are the least exciting of the choices, so I never went for them, besides trying the sample of course.

I tried all the different buns:
  • Cheese Bun: This is a basic savory bun, made with Grana Padano parmesan.  Doughy, fluffy, a bit salty.  Simple, but tasty enough.
  • Cheese and Walnut Bun:  This is the same as the cheese bun, but with walnuts added.  The nuts made this more satisfying, perhaps good for a snack.
  • Chinese Bun with dried longan, black sesame, and black glutinous rice.  I expected to love this one, since the ingredients sounded like winners, but it was actually just quite strange.  The filling just had an odd taste to it, which I guess was the black sesame?  I didn't taste any sweetness from longan.  And I'm not sure where the black glutinous rice was.  Interesting, but definitely not my thing.  I tried it a second time, and still felt the same way.  The filling was gooey though, I wish I had taken a photo of that, as it was kinda a stuffed bun, quite different from most other options.
  • Chocolate Surprise with Belgian dark chocolate, cocoa, and "chocolate flavoring".  The winner of the buns, but the least exciting of the chocolate breads on offer.  Chocolate base with some chocolate chunks.
Front: Ham Pizza Toast. $6.50. Garlic and Cheese Bread. $3.20. Back: Gourmet Hot Dog, Cheese Triangle.
Now, starting with some full size savory options.

The Ham Pizza toast is a large loaf, with all your pizza toppings inside the dough, including ham, sliced cheese, "pizza cheese", onions, peppers, and uh, salad dressing.  I didn’t really think it was like “pizza” exactly, but it was savory and well seasoned, although the dressing was a bit runny.  I had samples at room temp and they recommend heating it, so perhaps I missed out on how great it could be when warmed up. 

The Garlic and Cheese Bread is a basic baguette style with parmesan and garlic, basically slightly cheesy garlic bread.  They also offer a Garlic Baguette, sans the cheese, and a Garlic Knot.  I thought they all had good buttery garlicky flavor, plus generous herbs, but these weren't items I'd typically go for, unless serving alongside an Italian dinner.

The Gourmet Hot Dog, on the back right, was the most interesting sounding savory option, a pork frank wrapped in their dough, with a little mustard.  It turned out to be one of my least favorites however; just an unremarkable cold hot dog inside some bread.  The bread was good, as is all their bread, but the ratio seemed off, in the opposite direction than you'd expect: too much hotdog, not enough bread.  I wanted it to be warm, which I guess I could do if I bought it and brought it home, or to have some cheese, more more mustard and ketchup or something.  It was just too bland as it was.

The Cheese Triangle, back left, is a triangle shaped piece, with parmesan cheese and sliced cheese.  It had a great saltiness and was really cheesy, a generous amount of cheese in this one.  It was firmer and chewier than most of their breads, which worked well here.  I was amused at the use of sliced cheese, but, well, that is an Australian thing.  I think a slice of this would go great alongside a bowl of pasta, or anything saucey to dip it in.

Not pictured are a few other savory cheese options, including a cheese and walnut roll that was a decent slightly savory selection, a two cheese roll (parmesan and cream cheese, a bit of a strange combo, but it kinda works), and the aptly named Roll O'Cheese, absolutely bursting with cheese, as it uses cheese cubes, so the cheese is in concentrated bites.  The Roll O'Cheese is my favorite of the cheesy ones.

Also not pictured is the 'S' shaped "Sailor's Special", with tuna, garlic sauce, shallots, walnuts, onions, black pepper, and cream cheese.  Um, yes.  I tried this one many times, as it sounds so fascinating, but I never tasted, nor saw, the tuna. It was savory, and perfectly soft, and I loved the shallots and onion, but I never found any tuna.  Still, a nice choice for a savory.

One item I wanted to try, but never found, was the Hokkaido Azuki Toast, made with sweet red beans.  I love red bean, so I really hoped to try this one, but they never had it when I visited.  I asked about it several times, and was told that everyone keeps requesting it, but they haven't been making it lately.  Perhaps they had a supply issue with the beans?  They do take pride in the sourcing of all the ingredients.   I also never encountered the Mixed Beans & Cream Cheese.
Chinese Goji Berry Roll. $5.25. Sweet 'n' Savory Ring. $5.50. Pumpkin and Cream Cheese Roll. $5.80.
Moving on, you can start to see the size of these items, and you'll understand why I see the appeal in the buns, rather than the full size items.  They would be great to share, but a bit much to just eat yourself, unless making a meal of it.  Which, honestly, doesn't seem like such a bad thing.

The Chinese Goji Berry Roll isn't a "roll" exactly, it is more of a loaf.  A fairly healthy, nutrient filled loaf with goji berries, raisins, almond slices, black sesame, white sesame and sunflower seeds.  I liked the crunch from all the assorted bits, but this wasn't particularly interesting to me.

I don't recall anything specific about the Sweet 'n' Savory Ring, besides the fact that it is quite large!

The Pumpkin and Cream Cheese Roll is actually the item that first drew me in to the store.  An employee was standing outside their newly opened Galleries location with samples of it, and it sounded really interesting.  Again, I'm not sure why they call it a "roll", as it is a large creation, shaped like ... an "M". Why?  I have no idea.  Anyway, soft fluffy bread, with cream cheese and pumpkin filling.  I liked the creamy inside, but there was not tons of pumpkin flavor.  I tried it several times, and each time, I was disappointed by the meager amount of pumpkin filling.  I still never really tasted pumpkin, but I do like this bread base, and the cream cheese.

I never saw it, but they also offer a similar sounding Sweet Potato & Cream Cheese Knot, with sweet potato in place of pumpkin, in a knot shape, that I would have liked to try.  It sorta sounds like Thanksgiving in a roll!
Front row: Mango Tango. $4.50. Multi-Grain Lychee Roll. $5.25. Strawberry Choc Heaven. $4.80.  Lucky Horseshoe.  $5.80. Dark Horse. $5.80.
And more large items.

The Mango Tango was a large roll, that sounded promising, because, well, mango, but wasn't ever as flavorful as I was hoping.  Just a few little dried bits of mango, the flavor never popped, and it is one of the harder style of bread.

One of my absolute favorites, flavor wise, was the Multi-Grain Lychee Roll, made with dried lychees, almond slices, black and white sesame, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, walnuts, rum, and lychee syrup.  It was a surprise hit, as I never expected to like a multi-grain item, and one that was the harder style.  But I liked all the crunchy seeds, and absolutely loved the sweetness from the dried lychee.  Great flavors and textures in this one.

The Strawberry Choc Heaven is a lovely pink color from red wine, plus dried strawberries and dark chocolate.  The flavors were good, but it was middle of the road for me, not particularly notable, except that it was the soft style, and had a great name.

The Lucky Horseshoe is, well, a horseshoe shape, with dried cranberries and cream cheese.  Since I don't really like cranberries, I don't think I ever tried this one.

The other horseshoe shape is the Dark Horse, which was quite good, made with a chocolate cocoa base, plus Belgian dark chocolate and cream cheese.  Still fairly simple, but a good intro into their chocolate breads.  I enjoyed the dark chocolate flavor and the creaminess from the cream cheese, and, it is a soft style.  It was one of my favorites, but, their chocolate bread line is impressive, and gets better than this.

A few other chocolate offerings not shown here include a chestnut choc roll with chestnuts inside, that I'm pretty sure I never tried, a Swiss Chocolate Bun with a chocolate base, chocolate chips, and walnuts that is the harder style, and a double choc finger roll with both milk and dark chocolate chips and walnuts, also the harder style.
Front Row: Garlic Twist. $4.25. Berry Sweet Roll. $3.95. Gangam Crown. $6.20.  The Crown. $5.80.
And more! I told you they have a lot of fantastic bread.

I did not try the Garlic Twist, but it looked fairly similar to the other garlic items mentioned above.

The Berry Sweet Roll was a chewy style, filled with dried cranberries and Belgian dark chocolate, with a lemon yogurt flavor, and since I don't really care for cranberries, I skipped this too.  See, I have restraint and don't sample EVERYTHING.

I passed up the Gangam Crown the first few times I visited, as it is filled with kimchi and cream cheese, and I don't normally like kimchi.  After several visits though I decided to give it a go, and I'm glad I did.  I loved the creamy, flavorful filling.  A huge loaf, made from 5 rolls, attached at the center, forming a star, and the soft style.  I really appreciated how much filling there was inside, they really loaded it up.  This was my favorite of the savory offerings, hands down.  I was thrilled when they introduced the "Gangam Snack", as a single roll.  A great snack, particularly a savory one like this.  The full Gangam Crown is $6.20, but the snack was a very reasonable $1.80.

Finally, the Crown is the simple cream cheese filled option, shaped of course like a crown, made from 5 distinct rolls as well, attached along the edges.  Again, the awesome soft fluffy bread, and I love the creamy filling.  Another solid choice, but, why choose just cream cheese when there are so many other options?  The full size Crown is $5.80, but the "Crown Snack"was $1.80.  I'd pick the Gangam one over the plain cream cheese though.
Front row: Choco-nana. $5.25. Orange and Walnut Roll. $4.70. Twin Roll. $5.20. Mocha Walnut Roll.
Ok, now we are getting to the good stuff.

Next, my absolute favorite: the Choco-nana.  Chocolate cocoa base, Belgian dark chocolate, bananas, and ... Guinness.  I loved the large, soft chunks of banana.  I'm sure this wouldn't hold up well for long, but every time I got it, it was delicious.  I again loved the chocolatelyness. I didn't taste the Guinness, but that was fine by me.  My second favorite of all the chocolate items, although I wish it were done in the softer style, and offered in a smaller size.  Not that I really had trouble devouring it.

The Orange and Walnut roll had a slight hint of orange, and nice crunch from the walnuts.  They also offer a choc-orange ring, an orange base with chocolate chips, that was the soft style, with a slight orange flavor.  I didn't love either since I don't love orange flavor, but if you like orange, these are unique choices.

The Twin Roll was an interesting one, made with earl grey tea, red kidney beans, and cream cheese.  I actually did like the beans, although they were a bit firm.  It reminded me of red bean in desserts.

The Mocha in the Mocha Walnut was too subtle, I didn't really taste any coffee flavor.  They also offer a coffee roll with raisins and walnuts, which I never tried.
Front Row: Grand Pineapple Roll. $5.95. Walnut French Roll. $4.25.  Chinese Longan Roll. $3.95.  Chocolate Baguette. $3.50.  Brown Sugar Roll. $4.xx.
Ok, getting to the end of the lineup, or at least, the lineup that was available the day I decided to take photos!  This really is only a sample of their offerings.

The Grand Pineapple Roll packed a lot of flavor, with a subtle red wine base, plus chunks of dried pineapple and walnuts.  A good mix.

I don't think I ever tried the Walnut French Roll, just a french roll with walnuts, nor the simple looking Chocolate Baguette.

The Chinese Longan Roll was another red wine base, with dried Longan, which didn't really have any memorable flavors.

The Brown Sugar Roll I expected to love, but it never delivered.  Made with brown sugar and maple syrup, I somehow never really got any sweetness.  It also had raisins and walnuts, and I liked the crunch of the nuts, but it lacked much dimension.
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