Melbourne baking powerhouse Mike Russell of Baker Bleu has published his first book, and with it the cheat codes to some of the city’s most sought-after loaves.

Nicknamed Blue as a kid, Mike Russell spent his twenties seeking that thing that would make him tick. Advertising wasn’t it. But it turned out that baking was, and at 25 he began honing his skills with leading bakers across Sydney and Melbourne. In 2016, he and his then-banker wife Mia Russell sold their house, upset their parents, and threw everything they had at a tiny shopfront in Elsternwick. Eight years later the couple are full-time in their business, which turns out 40,000 items a week.

The single most useful thing I can tell you about baking is finding the best local ingredients, being patient and not rushing the process. 

If you’ve never baked a loaf of bread, the Baker Bleu book will… There are five core recipes to launch you into a world of approachable sourdough baking. The recipes are designed for ease and are equipped with lots of useful information for the enthusiastic at-home baker.

If you’ve baked a lot of bread, you’ll expand your skills and knowledge, as you’ll gain an insight into having a go and running your own bakery from scratch.  

There’s lots more in the book than just bread, of course. It teaches you to make pizza, a range of delicious pastries, tapas-style snacks, sandwiches, and ways to upcycle your old bread. 

Neil Perry wrote the foreword to the book. If you could sum up Neil’s thoughts on bread in a sentence, it’d be: It’s all about texture, depth of flavour, chewy crumb, and a lingering lactic sour taste.  

The easiest recipe in the book is the bagel. It keeps remarkably well; the resting period is short, and it can be made in a standing mixer at home. If you have leftover dough, you can make empanadas, pizzette and even souvlaki. 

And if you like to challenge yourself, you might try our croissant recipe. It’s a technical process with a strong focus on detail. 

The best things you can put on bread include chef JP Twomey’s beef tartare, mustard, and cucumber tartine, or simply just great quality butter with flaky sea salt. 

And if you’re into sandwiches, you might just buy the book for the steak and ricotta sandwich is a killer recipe by our friend Ash McBean of Gary’s Quality Meats.

If you could take one thing away from Baker Bleu, I hope it is seeing how that passion, risk and enthusiasm can build a dream, and that you can practise great sourdough baking at home.

Baker Bleu: Bake It Till You Make It (RRP $49.99) is out now through Murdoch Books and is available to buy at your favourite independent Victorian bookstores such as Hill of Content and Readings.