Many food bloggers have been compiling their ''best of 2011'' lists about their favourite food and travel events of the year, and it got me thinking too. It's awfully bizarre, but fun as well. I've travelled quite a bit this year, which has been exciting! The first trip was to idyllic Israel for Easter with dear friend M. to visit her family and celebrate Pesach together. I have to admit that I do miss Israel; the smells of the bazaars, the freshly-squeezed pomegranate juices, the history lessons, the people... oh, and the soldiers! Don't even get me started on those, for I am a young girl after all, not unlike the two youngest Bennett sisters in some respects. No siree.
Next trip – if you don't count a couple of hours in Amsterdam - was to brilliant Brittany – Finistère to be precise – back in June. Happily I ate my way through dishes upon dishes of traditional Breton food, supported and helped by my Italian fellow-foodie-friend. Crêpes, galettes de blé noir, kig ha farz, macarons with salty caramel filling, quatre-quarts, Breizh cola, kouign amann in Douarnanez... yum. It does not do to think of it. Those were good times, good times. Germany lured me away from my humble abode in August, and I spent two wonderful, and very tasty, weeks in Hamburg and Lübeck. Fish of all shapes and sizes; fish in bread, fish and chips, fish in salads and, well, sausages. But summer came to end eventually, and the only remedy I could think of to cure me from ''I'm just a little tired of doing my homework in the weekend'' was, as you can imagine, a trip to Paris. So, in September, off I went.
There was plenty of food in Paris; homemade chocolates, macarons from Ladurée, pastry from Pierre Hermé, croissants for breakfast every day (yes, every day!), baguettes from Eric Kayser, a cuppa or fifty of coffee, salt caramel ice cream and blueberry sorbet from Berthillon, late dinners with Bordeaux, some more sweets at Versailles, omelettes after my first Catholic mass at Notre-Dame and so much more... Oh, and brioche. Lots of brioche.
Now brioche is positively one of my favourite breads, and always a huge hit in my house for ages. This recipe is the best I've tried yet, though I cannot remember where I found it. I love it all the same.And like most things I love, it drives me crazy. Crazy! The downside to them is that they just don't seem to last long. They'll be fresh and warm and in abundance in the morning, and by the evening, they're gone. Poof! Just like that. And suddenly I'm left without brioches in my lunch box (or my mouth). How is this possible? It must be my brother and his friends. How rude. Then again my brother gave me these wonderful brioche moulds for Christmas (aren't they cute?), which I actually bought in Paris. I've been drooling over them since September, and couldn't wait for Christmas to come, so I could use them!
I like to keep my brioches simple, like the original ones probably were in Basse-Normandie, so I don't go too crazy with flavours. Of course, I add the occasional chocolate piece, but that's pretty much as far as I go. But the real secret to a good brioche lies in the butter. A good-quality butter can make a bad brioche dough good, if you use good butter, oh baby... You won't regret it. Pinky-promise!
And now, time to welcome a new year. There will be more foods to make, new recipes to try, places to eat, ingredients to test and places to travel. My summer holiday trip next year – whereto I shan't say yet – is already booked and paid for, but there will be no travelling to foreign lands before May, I'm sad to say. Woe is me. So I'm curious, what is on your travel agenda or wish list for 2012?
Happy happy New Year!
I'll be submitting this to Yeastspotting.
500 g. flour
25 g. fresh yeast
250 g. butter, at room temperature
2 tsp. salt
70 g. sugar, depending on how sweet you like it
60 g. half-and-half, tepid
1 egg + 1 tbsp milk, for egg wash
1.In a bowl, mix the yeast with the half-and-half. Add sugar, flour and salt. Blend well. It will be dry! Then add the eggs. It should be very sticky.
2.Add the butter, a few cubes at a time and knead into the dough. You'll probably need some extra flour every now and again, and don't worry about adding too much! It may be dry, but the butter will absorb the flour as you knead. Knead until the dough is elastic.
3.Put dough back into bowl, cover, and let rise until doubled at room temperature. Then leave in fridge overnight, or at least for 12 hours.
4.Divide the dough into 20 balls of dough à 50 gram each. You have to shape the balls quickly, so the dough doesn't warm up. If it does though, just place it in the fridge for a few minutes and continue :)
5.Let rise for two hours. Preheat the oven to 200°C. Glaze with the egg wash. Make sure you only glaze a little; too much egg wash will hinder rising! Bake in oven for about 12 minutes, or until they're all golden and lovely!