6 July, 2023
Meet the French baker behind the irresistible Laurent bread range at Coles, and find out how he came to deliver flavour-packed sourdough to all Australians.
The mouth-watering aroma wafting out of quaint bakeries in southern France sparked a young Laurent Boillon’s quest to make great bread. “I visited the bakery two or three times a day,” Laurent says. He’d watch the warm loaves being pulled from the oven and dream of leaving school for a life where he could dig in dough and produce something beautiful to be shared with loved ones. “When I was 15, I wasn’t handling school well and told my father I wanted to be a baker. He said that I was too young to work through the night,” he adds. So Laurent became a pastry chef instead, building a reputation as an executive chef in the Caribbean – but mastering sourdough remained ‘unfinished business’.
Laurent returned to France aged 25, seeking out some of the few remaining sourdough masters to hone the craft. He began working at a sourdough bakery – a rare find at the time. “After World War II, the saying ‘time is money’ was born. Real sourdough requires time and patience, so the skill was disappearing,” Laurent explains. He quickly discovered how much there was to learn. “Sourdough is much more complicated than mixing flour and water. I learnt how to control the process to develop a product with the desired flavour. My training was game-changing.”
Keen for more travel adventures, Laurent travelled to Melbourne in 1990 where he met his wife, Julie, and developed his 30-hour sourdough recipe, which allows the bread enough time to rest and rise for a softer inside and crispy crust. By 1993, Laurent and Julie had opened a boutique bakery in South Yarra, and soon more Melbourne stores followed. Luckily for us, Laurent now distributes his fragrant, flavour-packed sourdough nationally through Coles, meaning more Aussies can enjoy his delicious artisan bread.
As anyone who joined the sourdough baking trend of the past few years can attest, it takes time and patience to bake a perfect loaf. “All it has is water, flour and sometimes yeast, and we might add some olives or seeds,” Laurent shares. “We make our own wholemeal flour by adding the germ – the live part of the wheat – back in, which gives it a different flavour.” The dough is crafted over a 33 hour process using Laurent's unique 30 year old sourdough culture, and is rested and fermented before being baked on specialised hot stone. This creates a unique sourdough loaf with a soft light inside and satisfying crust.
Traditionally, baking sourdough has been a very hands-on, manual process, but by sourcing incredible machinery from Europe, Laurent has developed a way to make his bread on a scale that meant it could be available in Coles stores across the country, without compromising quality. “Now we can make a lot of bread, but in the same spirit,” he says. “We’ve mechanised it but the process still takes 30 hours per loaf.”