The morning was slow and chilly in Levant Boulangerie, a neighbourhood bakeshop and brunch joint in South Cipete, but the shop’s sum of butter-glazed French pastries, jazz tunes and homely atmosphere greeted the day’s gloom with excessive warmth. In turn, anyone who sets foot in Levant will be showered with a congenial spirit in which they have candidly boasted since 2014.
Their kitchen, however, paraded a different mood: where doughs are tossed and turned, this back unit seemed ever-busy. Their fleets, half walking across the room with hands on oven trays and half tending to hungry early risers, come under the guidance of founders, husband and wife Ramon and Elisabeth Medina.
“We used to have baking classes for kids here, including [for] brioche,” said Elisabeth. That day we sat at Levant’s long dining table prepared for an hour of mixing and kneading. At the end of the table was Ramon, draped in a black double-breasted chef jacket discoloured with taints of flour as he buckled up to take on more dough.
Hailing from Lyon, France’s second-largest urban province (and also the country’s chocolate and gastronomic capital), the Lyonnais couple first settled in Jakarta as music teachers at Lycée International Français de Jakarta across the bakery. And unlike most success stories where chefs and bakers lived through years of formal culinary formation, missing their hometown was enough for the couple to expand their experimental trade into a boulangerie.
Elisabeth recalled how Ramon “started making bread seriously” after moving to Indonesia in 2007 despite having little experience in the kitchen. Eventually, the homebaker pursued it with more commitment: he flew back to Lyon for a year of apprenticeship in local bakehouses. By the time he flew back to Jakarta, he was ready to have his own shop and the rest is history for Jakarta’s first Levant Boulangerie.
Today, his assortment of traditional pastries and viennoiseries, which he used to share with small groups of friends, has become the delight of the city’s gourmands. Among Levant’s bookmarked menus, their brioche rules as a favourite that is also fun to hatch at home: the key is to take time with the dough and be gentle throughout its process—like flirting.
“Think of it as if you are sewing an expensive silk,” expressed Ramon while he pressed, kneaded and pinched a bowl worth of dough. It is fundamental to work the air into the dough using some pressure when kneading, but for shaping, a lighter hand is necessary to avoid expelling the air.
As demonstrated by Ramon, it’s a thorough, yet diverting practice: the more patient and mindful you are, the softer and more lenient the dough becomes. Surprisingly, making a homemade brioche and exploring your creativity with its shapes (i.e., whole-breaded, Parisian-style) is not as intimidating as it seems. Under Ramon’s spontaneous yet heedful instructions, whipping up this traditional loaf could be close to being a meditative experience.
Brioche is a type of French viennoiserie (baked goods made from a yeast-leavened dough) that bears a fluffier texture and a sweeter note than average bread. This buttery loaf is typically enjoyed as a French toast, hamburger buns or on its own. Ramon’s recipe takes about 45 minutes to an hour of meddling in the kitchen, and serves one breaded brioche. However, one can serve more by getting creative with moulding other shapes. So, roll up your sleeves and get prepared to use your hands.
- 200gr of flour
- 16gr of sugar
- 4gr of salt
- 1 small egg
- 3gr of yeast
- 12cl of milk
- 25gr of melted butter
- 1 egg yolk and 1 tbsp cooking cream for glazing
- Start by preheating your oven to 180℃.
- Sift the flour and salt together into a bowl. Then add sugar, yeast and egg. Mix the ingredients together with your hands.
- Pour milk and add butter into the yeast mixture until you reach a soft consistency. Knead the dough with your hands for 15 minutes.
- Put the dough in a bowl and cover it with a plastic wrap or a wet towel. Let it rest at room temperature for no more than 28 minutes.
- By now, the dough will have risen. Take it out from the bowl, then knead as needed to release any trapped air bubbles before letting it rest again (uncovered) for another 15 minutes.
- Divide the dough into three equal parts. Then, shape as you desire (note: braided-style is the most popular one) on a baking tray.
- In a small bowl, mix one tablespoon of cooking cream into the egg yolk. Use a pastry brush to glaze the mix over the shaped dough.
- Let the dough rest for another 30 minutes at room temperature. Now would be a good time to clean up your kitchen too!
- Finally, slide the tray of bread into the oven and let it cook for 15 to 20 minutes or until the bread takes a golden brown shine.
- Serve your fresh-from-the-oven brioche with your favourite condiments, or use it as your breakfast loaf!