Bread.lk is a specialist bakery making great handmade bread in Colombo. Working with natural sourdough, the bakery doesn’t use any additives, affirming that most of their bread is made with just flour, water, and salt.
Using techniques like long slow fermentation to get the best flavour and nutrition from the grain, their sourdough bread is made with naturally occurring wild yeast, and unless stated clearly in the contents, like a little bit of honey in a fruit loaf, none of their bread has added sugar.
Bread.lk Baker/Founder Harean Hettiarachchi shared with us that running a specialty bakery, while it may appear daunting, has garnered some great feedback and the responses have been positive. “We never went out to become something for everybody. It’s a specialty item that we produce, and we try to make it as honestly as possible to what the product should be,” he said. Considering the multitude of mismatched information floating around with regards to fermented foods nowadays, there’s an overwhelming mix of people ranging from those expecting a miracle cure, the be-all-and-end-all to their ailments, and others thinking it’s a boujie attempt with no real substance. About all of this, Hettiarachchi shared that they often do get a host of expectations from people who have never tried it before, but who they do often end up catering to are an enthusiastic group of loyal customers that have particularly sought them out.
Hettiarachchi shared that what they have going is that rustic ideal – the small regional bakery model – adding that their customers often tend to be those who have either lived their lives next to nice bakeries and are seeking it out, or have fond memories with sourdough from a point in their lives. Hettiarachchi said that they have a couple of customers who are from France, and who have expressed that the bread they make reminds them of what they would get in the French countryside, which is now harder and harder to get even back home.
You can have Bread.lk bread delivered to you within Colombo 1-10, Nawala, Nugegoda, Rajagiriya, Dehiwala, and Mount Lavinia, or you can choose to collect your order on the day from their collection points at Park Street Gourmet, Dolce Italia, Kopi Kade, The Good Market Shop, and Motive.lk. They also supply their bread to a select few cafés around Colombo, including The Grind, Seed Café, Kumbuk – which is currently in the process of making their comeback – and Kiku.
As for those trying the bread for the first time, Hettiarachchi said that what gets them interested is the health benefits – they do not use any chemical additives commonly found in all your commercial and supermarket bread. Shelf life extenders, bread emulsifiers, bread improvers, dough conditioners, release agents for bread – they use none of it.
Hettiarachchi said that their sourdough will last 2-4 days outside a freezer if properly stored in the brown paper bag, in another plastic bag, or sealed box in a cool room. The warmer your environment, the faster it loses moisture, and the faster it stales. Their brioche is the same, but is able to stay good for two days because it’s not made with sourdough culture, which naturally keeps bread fresh longer.
For Sri Lankans, what Bread.lk is doing is “a reimagining of bread”, because for Sri Lankans, bread is often merely a vessel in which you ferry good curry from your plate to your mouth. but Hettiarachchi said that Sri Lankans do love a rustic loaf, because even today they don’t prefer the pulun paan and prefer the kadé paan instead. Hettiarachchi said that Sri Lankans and Vietnamese have the closest palettes when it comes to the bread that is in Europe. Hettiarachchi furthered that their bread beats commercial yeasted breads on taste and smell every time, the long fermentation process unlocks more Vitamin B, and makes the bread potentially more suitable for people who find commercially bread bloating, or harder to digest.
Everyone blames baker’s yeast, but really the issue is the sheer amount of yeast. He said that there are bales to buckets of sourdough starter in one teaspoon given the right amount of time, adding that bread has been the core of civilisation for the longest time, and that the issue here is not the yeast, but rather the concentration; what we see is the use of an absolute nuclear amount of yeast chucked into one loaf of bread.
With regards to their operation, Hettiarachchi spoke fondly of his staff. He said their talent hires have been mostly about capability rather than their qualifications, especially considering how those who have done bakery courses are all taught how Sri Lankan bread-makers approach bread, and they need them to unlearn all of that; Hettiarachchi has an assistant who shadowed him for two years, and got their hands on a loaf for the first time only last week. Currently a small-scale operation, Hettiarachchi said that Bread.lk is indeed limited; they have limited chiller space and are therefore restricted in their production. They cannot handle more than a specific number of orders, but they are looking to scale up.