Today’s post is inspired by one of the best acquisitions we’ve made lately: a book called Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day, by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë François , which I’m sure many of you are already familiar with. To say that we love it, we love it, we love it would be quite an understatement, so we’ll try to expand on this as well as we can below.
We must preface this by saying that the entire Bistro team adores bread. Good quality bread, that is…And, despite the fact that one can find such wonderful food and produce in Melbourne, we have often had difficulty sourcing good quality bread within our grocery shopping radius. We must admit that this radius is rather limited and we tend to shop at the same market most of the time, but then again having to travel several kilometres on a regular basis for your daily bread (while definitely a worthy cause) may not always be achievable. Anyway, this self-imposed limitation is often compounded by the fact that many Melbourne commercial bakers appear to be taking the sourdough concept to whole new highs, which usually translates to a rather surreal experience: your eyes see bread, your hands feel bread, you take one big mouthful and enjoy the chewy texture, but all you can taste is….vinegar!!! Now, having read quite a bit on bread baking recently, I am familiar with the benefits of sourdough, but is all that vinegar really necessary?
So, while baking our own bread started partly out of necessity, I have found along the way that it is a wonderful, deeply satisfying experience. I am very much still a novice with lots to learn on this topic, but there is so much about bread baking that I find truly fascinating.
First of all, there is that unique character to each loaf. You can follow the same recipe several times, use the exact same ingredients and weigh them with utmost precision, yet no two loaves will ever look/taste/smell/feel exactly the same.
Then, there is that unique feeling that each loaf (or batch if you’re baking several) exists in its own time dimension. While you can, to a certain extent, speed up rising by increasing the ambient temperature, bread seems to unashamedly defy the hectic pace that often characterises our lives. Recipes will give an approximate rising time, but part of being a skilled baker means knowing what is the most appropriate rising time for the respective loaf – and that, I can only guess, can be acquired through lots of practice…
This newly found baking enthusiasm quadrupled when we came across the aforementioned book, which combines the opportunity to experiment with different types of (wholegrain) flours and that of making really yummy bread at home. Chef Gerald (who is turning into a bread connoisseur himself, albeit one with slightly different judging criteria from your average human) and Mummy can honestly see themselves and Daddy happily munching away through the entire recipe collection.
Our most recent attempt was that of creating the Pumpkin Pie Brioche. Now, the whole concept of “healthy brioche” might sound as an intrinsic contradiction in terms to some, but we are so fond of brioche as one of the most indulgent breakfasts, we felt compelled to try it. And we were totally satisfied with the result. We even went as far as using olive oil instead of butter, though that was purely out of practical reasons (as simple as Mummy trying to use up her favourite olive oil before going on holidays).
If you are not yet a proud owner of the Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day cookbook, you can find the recipe here.
Our notes: this is a really good brioche, with great texture and flavour, that keeps fresh for a few days (whether it lasts that long is an entirely different story…). The pumpkin and spice flavours are quite subtle, which is great considering this is a loaf of bread and not an actual pumpkin pie. The olive oil provided a different flavour to that of butter brioche (which was to be expected), but overall it worked really well and we were very pleased with the result. Try it and you won’t be disappointed.