So sadly it seems that the Short and Tweet challenge is no more. In case you have been AWOL for a while, the challenge devoted itself to the weekly cooking of a recipe from Dan Lepard’s home baking bible, “Short and Sweet.” I’m not sure if the challenge is on a temporary or more permanent hiatus but as no schedule was posted for June or July, I am assuming the latter. Anyway, a big thank you must go to @EvidenceMatters who has done such a fine job of hosting the challenge these past months.
There must be literally hundreds if not thousands of books out there devoted to baking. However none have taught me as much as “Short and Sweet.” One of the things that makes Dan’s book stand out is the sheer volume and diversity of the recipes. The blurb on the jacket says “It covers every aspect of baking” and they weren’t lying. I have learnt how to make perfect meringues, pies, pasties, cheesecake, rolls, loaves, muffins and even sticky buns. Not all the recipes have been a success but goodness, when they work they really are heavenly. In case you are interested and have the book yourself, here are my top ten of the recipes that I have tried so far (some I have blogged about and some I made before Under The Blue Gum Tree was born):
- Pear mousse cake
- Sticky toffee apple buns
- Sausage rolls
- Soft white baps
- Wholemeal loaf
- East End cheesecake
- Cream cheese pastry
- Spinach and ricotta pasties
- Cinnamon cake with blackberries
- Apple turnovers
Please let me know if your favourite isn’t featured. I have only baked a tiny proportion of Dan’s recipes so it would be good to get your recommendations.
Given how much I have learnt from Short and Sweet and the Short and Tweet challenge, I have decided to continue cooking a weekly recipe of Dan’s as I know that the book has so much more to teach me. In fact when I sat down and compiled a list of the recipes I still wanted to try, I found there were thirty-five. THIRTY-FIVE. So that’s me sorted till 2013 then. I seriously hope that Dan isn’t planning on bringing out a sequel any time soon. You’re not are you Dan? Otherwise I might be sending you the bill for a new wardrobe of XXL clothes.
So this week I decided to make an inroad into my “to try” list and have a go at Dan’s brioche. I decided on brioche as I have a recipe for bread and butter pudding that I want to attempt but have a bit of a foible where bread in desserts is concerned – it seems a bit wrong but brioche (which is kind of part bread, part cake) is OK with me. I have made brioche before according to a Yotam Ottolenghi recipe (see my post on spelt brioche pizzas) but whilst lovely, Yotam’s isn’t that deep yellow of a traditional brioche. The picture of Dan’s loaf in Short and Sweet, however, looked more the ticket.
Making brioche Dan’s way is a rather messy business. It involves first making a very squidgy dough and then rubbing cubes of softened butter into it by hand. Dan advises working the dough as if you are “energetically playing a sticky accordion,” which surely has to be one of the finest lines ever written in a cookbook. In fact I didn’t feel that I was so much playing an accordion but just making one hell of a mess on my kitchen worktop. Luckily I had heeded Dan’s advice to have a sink full of warm soapy water ready to wash up with. Otherwise things could have really got ugly.
The dough has to be chilled overnight before removing from the fridge and leaving to rise for 3 hours. It being a really cold Jo’burg winter’s day, my yeast didn’t seem too keen on stirring from its refrigerated torpor. So after 2 ½ hours I ended up putting the tin on the under-floor heated tiles to get it moving which worked a treat. The brioche is baked at a high temperature for 15 minutes before reducing the temperature and cooking for a further 20 minutes. My advice? Watch it like a hawk during the first 15 minutes. One minute my brioche was a lovely sunny yellow and the next it had turned a deep, dark golden brown. Luckily I caught it just before it burnt but there is potential for disaster. Make sure you also turn over the page to read Dan’s advice about slashing the top of the loaf before baking. I didn’t see this and my brioche split at the side. This is why my loaf looks like it has a charming comb-over in the photos!
All in all I was pretty pleased with the outcome of this bake. It was soft and very buttery as a good brioche should be although to my uncultured palate, there was a touch too much salt and maybe not enough sugar. I’m off to make my bread and butter pudding now. One down, thirty four Dan Lepard recipes left to go.
*You can also find Dan’s brioche recipe on the Guardian website here.