Breaking bread

We do get the best guests. Jason Lilley is about to hit the even-bigger time as his bakery is becoming more and more famous and quite deservedly known as the kind of shop which is redefining the way South Africans think about their daily bread.

Part of living or working in Cape Town is familiarising yourself with the many different coffee shops, deli’s and cozy corner spots around town. There are two ways of appreciating this sidewalk culture: Either you take the explorer approach and try to have coffee and a sandwich at every one of these or you have you favourite spot (or closest spot) where you find yourself stopping regularly for that specific cupcake, that cappuccino that no one else seems to get right or a morning read of the daily newspaper. It’s clear the Jason Bakery satisfies both these coffee shop connoisseurs as it’s a signature bakery in the centre of town.

Come sunshine or showers, there’ll be a crowd gathered at the takeaway hatch every working day morning. It’s hard to pinpoint wether these coffee craving, hungry individuals are passing there on their way to work or whether they go out of their way to make a pitstop for a latte and a croissant, but I’m definitely leaning toward the latter. Especially seeing as Jason Lilley’s bacon croissants are a well known and well craved commodity among city folk.

Situated high up in Bree street, in a corner building that’s sure to have been around for some time, this bakery has got everything a buzzing city requires: The hatch, the freshness and the broad sidewalk. They work together perfectly too; the freshness of baked goods and brewed coffee wafts through the hatch and onto the nice broad sidewalk where crowds flock toward it. Merely walking past there in the morning without buying anything creates a happy, contented feeling that only a busy corner bakery can bring.

But it’s not only about the delicious takeaways, Jason Bakery also has seating and waiters, allowing you to have a nice sit-down. The seats outside are great if you enjoy watching the city go by and the distinctively Skinny Laminx cushions give a bit of extra character. Inside offers a more quiet environment, with warm lighting and rustic wooden beams for flooring. Even the walls are wooden and the weaved light fixtures make for a comfy indoor setting. Newspapers will keep you up to date with life on the outside.

Recipe by: Jason Lilly
Serves: Makes 1 loaf
Category: Vegetarian / A little effort / Great value / Kid-friendly
Prep time: 3 1/2 hours, plus 12 to 16 hours for pre-fermenting
Cooking time: 30 minutes
For the poolish
10 g instant yeast
200 ml water
200 g eureka mills white bread flour
For the dough
400 g eureka mills white bread flour, plus extra for dusting and sprinkling
200 ml water
10 g fresh yeast
1 t salt
120 g green olives, pitted and patted dry
2 T porcini dust
Cooking instructions: 
To make the poolish: (a pre-starter)
In a large bowl, disperse the yeast in the water, then add the flour and mix until smooth. Cover the bowl with cling film and allow to stand in a cool place for 12 to 16 hours.

To make the dough:
Add all the dough ingredients (except the olives and porcini dust) to the poolish and, using your hands, knead until well combined. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until the dough is supple and moderately loose.

Add the olives and porcini dust (save 1 t of the latter for the top of the loaf ) and knead until the olives are evenly distributed. Place the dough in a clean bowl, cover with cling film and allow to prove for 2 hours, knocking the dough back and giving it a gentle knead after 1 hour.

Keep in a cool place. Place the dough on a lightly floured surface. Press it out to form a large disk, about 20 cm in diameter. Holding the centre of the disk with one hand, use the other hand to bring the edges in towards the centre.

Flip the dough over and shape into a smooth ball. Place on a baking tray and cover with a damp cloth.  Allow to prove for a further 45 minutes.

To prepare the loaf:
Preheat the oven to 240°C. Lightly spray the loaf with water and sprinkle the remaining porcini dust, along with a little flour, over the top. Using a very sharp knife, score the loaf in the shape of a square.

Bake for 30 minutes, or until the loaf makes a hollow sound when tapped underneath. Allow to cool completely before slicing.
Cook’s notes: To make porcini dust, grind dried porcini mushrooms until fine. Eureka Mills White Bread Flour is available from selected delis or from Eureka Mills directly; tel: (028) 722-1887 or visit