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Be warned folks for some reason I developed a serious case of the waffle on this post!

So I’m pretty new to the blogosphere, from the point of my own blog, but also to the sheer mass of wonderful blogs that are out there.  Sometime ago I came across Tuesdays with Dorie, a blog along challenge to bake something from Dorie Greenspan’s book Baking: From My Home to Yours – it looked like such an amazing community of likeminded bloggers and bakers.  But alas, it was a closed group, meaning that no more bloggers could participate, although you could still read their posts about the baking adventures they were having.  Through that I discovered French Fridays with Dorie – a similar concept, except that there were no limits as to who could join, and that the recipe book (Around My French Table by Dorie Greenspan) contains all manner of French food, and so it is a combination of cooking and baking.  Yippee…I wanted in.  And so after waiting an absolute age for my copy of the book to arrive, I can finally participate.

Now, I’m not sure if I have just been living under a giant rock or if Dorie Greenspan’s fame and brilliance has just not made it to sunny South Africa, but I had not heard of her until discovering the blog challenges.  But I think more people should know about her – Around My French Table is beautiful; I’m not one for bland recipe books that just give me a list of ingredients and some instructions – I want to learn, be entertained and hear more about the dish I’m making and the story behind it.  Not all that dissimilar from the way I write I guess…

So, my book arrived on the 3rd of January 2012 and the first recipe challenge blog post is due on the 6th January – yikes!  But I was excited and there was no way I was missing it, plus it is most convenient to start the challenge at the start of a new year.  So, first recipe bubble-top brioche…

Brioche is delicious, sweet eggy bread.  It’s often used in desserts, but also as a savoury option.  I remember when I worked at a hotel in England the pastry chef, Cheryl, did an amazing bread and butter pudding with brioche, it made it so much richer and fuller than using regular bread.

So Dorie reckons that brioche is not that difficult to make provided you have patience, time and a stand mixer.  Um, excuse me, did you say stand mixer?!  Oh dear – I lust after a stand mixer, but I don’t have one, mmm, now what?  She does claim that you can do it by hand, obviously that’s how it was done in the good old days, so I figure why not, I can do this.  And I do have a hand mixer with dough hooks, even if it is crazy out of control fast with no discernible low or medium speed. So I blundered ahead, feeling very uncertain, but excited at the same time.

I couple of other issues came to light while reading the recipe, not major, but just adding to the challenge – all oven temperatures are given in degrees Fahrenheit, not a major issue as I just converted to the degrees Celsius we use in SA, and the recipe calls for all-purpose flour which we don’t get here in South Africa.  I managed to found some conversions and went with cake flour instead, just adding a little extra (2 tbsp per cup) to convert it.

The rules of the challenge are that we don’t publish the recipe, thus encouraging people to buy the book, so you can find it on pg 494 – 496 of Around My French Table.

20120105-210031.jpgReady, set, go

I have baked bread before, but many, many years ago and so it almost felt like my first foray into that world all over again, that and the fact that brioche dough is very different to other bread dough – much softer, being almost like a batter at some points – was enough to make me panic!  Enter calm boyfriend to speak reason to me. Between a bit of hand mixing, some electric hand beaters and their super speed I think I eventually got it to the elusive right point.

20120105-210044.jpgAfter the first rising – so chuffed that it has actually risen, I was sceptical!

After an evening of rising and slap downs the dough finally goes into the fridge overnight to rest, Dorie says this helps to give the brioche its beautiful texture.  The following morning involves dividing the dough up, with the help of lots of flour to avoid a sticky mess, into 3 balls per muffin tin to create the 3 bubbles of the bubble-top brioche.  It then rises for another couple of hours and then gets brushed with egg and baked at 200 ◦C.  Mine were browning a little too quickly and so I placed a tent of tin foil over the top to slow things down.

20120105-210052.jpgReady for bubble rolling

I was a little silly and for some reason made mine in giant muffin tins, not sure why, but it meant the dough didn’t rise over the edges to give that bubbled over look.  But they still looked good coming out of the oven, if a little too dark blonde.

20120105-210119.jpgFreshly baked bubble-top brioche – happiness

20120105-210127.jpgBreakfast (or lunch in our case) of champions

We ate them with boiled eggs, cream cheese, smoked trout and dill, inspired by the suggestions in the recipe book.  They were yummy, although I think maybe a little dry, but the centre was definitely springy and stretchy just like Dorie said they should be.  We also tried them with Nutella for afternoon tea – delicious, although this may be the case for anything with a Nutella component!

20120105-210135.jpgA little dark on top, but lovely inside

All in all a great success me thinks.  Would I make them again? Probably not for a while, but I would like to see if I could get them just a touch moister and to make them in a normal size muffin tin or perhaps as a loaf so it’s more amenable to becoming French toast!

First French Fridays with Dorie completed.

Oh and by the way, Tuesdays with Dorie have just finished their first recipe book and are about to embark on the next book – Baking with Julia – thus opening up to new members again.  I have agonised over the decision of whether to participate, I have ordered the book and will probably wait until it arrives to make my mind up.  It is a huge commitment to bake once a week – my waistline and bathroom scale are quivering in fear at the mere thought of it, but the challenge would be amazing and I could learn so much.  Another concern I have is a comment Dorie herself made saying that the first book was like the introductory course and this book will be the advanced one – there is no way I am anything but a novice baker.  People have also commented that you NEED a stand mixer (excuse to finally buy my KitchenAid perhaps?) and that many have killed hand beaters in the process of trying to bake some of the recipes…