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January 23, 2020

Introducing specialty baker Motherdough

By helping other people bring their entrepreneurial pursuits to market, Renew Adelaide project manager Gianna Murphy has collected the ingredients needed to make her sourdough business a success.

  • Words and top picture: Jess Bassano
  • Body picture: Gianna Murphy

Gianna Murphy was raised with the smell of fresh pastry constantly wafting deliciously through the air.


Murphy’s Café Bakery
Folklore Café
Semaphore Fruit & Veg

Cafés featuring Motherdough:
Clement + Herron
Folklore Café
Third Time Lucky


Working part-time at her father’s former Semaphore bakery, she carefully observed as her dad combined flour, water and salt for dough, then rolled, measured and cut chunks of the gooey mixture for the day’s selection of baked goods.

“I always sort of knew that I would eventually move into food. Watching my dad own businesses all my life, I knew that’s what I wanted to do as well,” she says.

“He’s always owned country-style bakeries, selling pies and doughnuts and things like that, which do incredibly well wherever he’s been. And he chooses his location based on what his specialties are.”

Nothing is better than fresh bread


Gianna says she drifted from job to job, trying to find a career that fit. Then, in 2016, she landed a gig with Renew Adelaide.

“I just thought Renew was so cool. I thought it was this giant team and everyone was so hip and I would never get it. But yeah, I got it. And it’s actually a really small team who manage to achieve so much. And it’s such a cool job,” she says.

As a project manager, Gianna helps South Australian entrepreneurs connect their ventures with brick and mortar spaces in Adelaide CBD.

Guiding fledgling businesses into rent-free CBD spaces, she helps start-ups as they work through the logistical and emotional challenges that come with opening a bricks-and-mortar space, including liaising with government bodies and sourcing the appropriate experts.

One of her first projects was moving Hellbound wine bar into a heritage basement on Rundle Street. A project she describes as throwing her “in the deep end.”

“That was an incredibly long process … [Getting] the development approval and the heritage approval makes that a longer process. And the fact that we didn’t have the architect plans and whatever else we needed again made it even longer than normal.

“[Hellbound] had no experience in lodging development approvals and I had very little experience, so we were all just figuring it out together.”

Throughout her time with Renew, Gianna has taken note of why some start-ups flourish and others never take off. She says these observations have helped to inform her own business style.

“It can take such a toll on you when you are in [the store] every day, slogging away and not making any money from the space. And stressing about the potential that you might not have the opportunity to remain in the space long-term,” she says.

“And it’s more difficult for those who don’t have that partner support. And I don’t mean a romantic partner, just family or friends … just that emotional support.

“I am that support person for those people, but I can be limited on how far that support goes.”

Gianna’s own support person is her father, who – after selling Semaphore Bakehouse – now owns Murphy’s Café Bakery.

It was in her dad’s bakery that Gianna discovered her delight for sourdough.

“But I didn’t learn from [Dad]. I’m self-taught. Dad knew what worked … [but] he didn’t read or write recipes. So, it was kind of difficult for him to explain why a process is the way it is,” she says.

Making sourdough requires a ‘starter dough’ or ‘mother dough’ (which is where Motherdough draws its name) – a pre-fermented mixture usually made from wheat flour and water.

The mother dough is added to other ingredients and left to further ferment before baking.

“I really, really love the 24-hour process and fermentation, it just kind of excites me.

“Bread is such a staple and also bread can mean different things to different people in terms of health. Some people see certain breads as being really unhealthy or carbs as being really unhealthy. But, those same people might look at sourdough as being different – given that it’s a fermented style of bread.”

Gianna started trialling sourdough recipes at home, playing around with herbs from her garden and exploring the science behind what gives one loaf an ‘ear’ (a glorious and crunchy overhanging crust) while another goes flat. (It’s temperature related, Gianna tells us.)

She began replicating supermarket flavours, filling her creations with seeds, olives and rosemary, Spanish onions, cheese and chives before taking her sourdoughs to market for product testing.

“Last year, I did the Makers and Shakers Market as a sort of the tester,” she says.

“There are so many amazing bakers out there and I know that they do really well. But I just wanted to know: ‘Can I enter into that as well?’ And it turns out that I can. People are still willing to try and buy.”

Although Gianna says she’s in no rush to start her own cafe, she would like to join forces with her dad one day.

“With the bakery that Dad has now, the short-term plan is that eventually he will sell the bakery … and we will do something together, hopefully, whatever that looks like.”

Find Motherdough at Murphy’s Café Bakery, Folklore Café, Clement + Heron, Semaphore Fruit and Veg, and Third Time Lucky.

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