I think maybe one of the reasons people think bread baking must be hard is that there are often so many steps in the recipe. In truth though, most of those steps require as much work as covering a bowl and sitting down with a cup of tea and your favourite book. The list may look daunting but really, there’s not all that much to it.
Where bread-baking differs from a lot of other baking, I think anyway, is in its rewards. You just can’t beat the satisfaction of taking that first bite of homemade bread still with a hint of warmth from the oven.
For this month’s Secret Recipe Club I was assigned to Paulchen’s Food Blog – a treasure trove of recipes from Viennese cat-lover Astrid. Astrid had me when I saw she believes you can read a cookbook just for pleasure. It sounds like her collection would give me a run for my money.
As usual I had a tough time choosing a recipe to make but I thought I’d challenge myself this month. I’d never made brioche before, nor any type of shaped bread (apart from a cinnamon wreath), unless you count round so the little knots really sucked me in. When I saw they were flavoured with orange and saffron I was so intrigued my recipe was set.
I’ll let my phone tell you how I liked them. This photo was taken just a few minutes after I took them out of the oven. One whiff and I had to have one.
They may look fancy, you can tell your friends they were seriously complicated to make, but in truth, they’re really easy. The dough basically makes itself if you have a stand mixer and mine rose so fast I didn’t even have to put it in my sunny spot reserved for dough proving.
Pent up anger or frustration? The best remedy is punching down the dough after its first rise.
It took me a little bit of Googling to find out how to roll these babies and I thought it may end in disaster or tears of frustration but they were easy to shape. The recipe didn’t say how many it made so I went for 16 because that meant easy dividing – cut in half, in half again, and again, and again. I weighed mine out so they’d all be the same but feel free to just guesstimate.
To shape the buns, roll a ball of dough out into a sausage about 30-35 centimeters long. Tie a knot in the middle of the dough. You will have two loose ends. The end poking out of the middle – fold it up and over the knot then back under in the middle. With the end that is sticking out the bottom, fold it up and over into the middle of the dough then press the two ends together firmly.
Plonk the buns into lined muffin tins and leave them to rise again. Just re-writing the recipe now I see that it called for 20g of fresh yeast. I used dried and at the time I thought that was a lot of yeast (usually it’s about 7g). That may have accounted for the vitality of my dough. If you want you could experiment with using less yeast but mine worked well with 20g.
These babies are best served warm just a few minutes after taking them from the oven. I saved a couple (the rest went out as gifts) and re-heated them 2 days later and while they were still good, they were not nearly as tasty as the freshly-baked ones.
See how buttery the inside looks? Combine it with and almost, flakey-pastry-like crust then give it a hint of citrus and a burst of saffron sun and you’ll get an idea of how good these were. They’re not very sweet but that only means it’s easier to consume more than one at a time. Enjoy!
- 250 ml full-cream milk
- 75g butter
- A pinch of saffron threads
- 1 tbsp very finely sliced orange peel
- 20g dried yeast
- 75g honey
- 500g Baker's flour (you may need an extra few tablespoons of flour)
- A pinch of salt
- 1 large free-range egg
- Melted butter for brushing the buns before baking.
- In a heat-proof jug, combine the milk, butter, saffron and orange peel and heat in the microwave 15 seconds at a time until warm (about 110 F) - mine took 3 goes in the microwave.
- Stir in the honey then the yeast and leave to rest for 5 minutes.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer, use the dough hook to mix the salt and flour together.
- Add the egg and the rest of the wet ingredients and knead, slowly at first, then increasing the speed a little and knead until the dough all comes together.
- You made need to add another tablespoon or two of flour if it is too sticky.
- Knead for another few minutes or until you can touch it with your fingers without it sticking and the bowl is clean.
- Take the dough out of the bowl, spray the bowl with oil, shape the dough in a ball and return it to the bowl.
- Cover it with plastic wrap and leave it in a warm place until it has doubled in size (about an hour).
- Line two 12-hole muffin tins with 16 cupcake liners.
- Punch down the dough to let out the air then scrape it out of the bowl and form into a ball.
- Weigh the dough then divide the weight by 16. Write down the measurement - that's what you want each dough ball to weigh later.
- Cut the dough in half then in half again.
- Cut each quarter in half then in half again and weigh each piece to see if it's close to the measurement you wrote down. Adjust to get it close.
- Roll the dough ball out on the bench to about 30-35cm long.
- Tie a knot in the dough then tuck the ends back in and press them together.
- Place the dough in a muffin liner in the tin.
- Repeat for the rest of the dough.
- Cover the dough lightly with plastic wrap and leave to double in size again (40mins - 1 hour).
- After 20 minutes, pre-heat the oven to 200C fan-forced.
- When the dough has risen, brush the top of each bun with melted butter and bake for 20 minutes or until golden.
- Transfer them to a wire rack to cool a little.
- Best eaten fresh and still warm.