Method in Madness

Contrary to what I insinuated in one of yesterday’s posts, I was discerning in my choice of this week’s recipes. For the brioche in particular, I wanted a recipe that employed a sponge as opposed to a plain vanilla straight dough method. The reason, because I really do value that extra bit of depth that the sponge method gives to breads. Some of the best brioche recipes I know, in fact, call for a sponge to be made and refrigerated overnight, and the resulting dough ripened in the fridge for two or three days. This gives the brioche the amazing depth of flavor that only long, slow yeast activity can give.

Our recipe is a quickie five-hour job that will still deliver some excellent flavor, though as we work on it the next week (or maybe two) we’ll probably experiment with longer rising times.

All this is not to say that the straight dough method doesn’t have its uses, case-in-point this week’s other recipe, hot cross buns. As I stated before, this is a solid recipe, the only problems being that it calls for cake yeast and high-gluten flour. You can usually find fresh yeast in big grocery stores, hanging out somewhere near the eggs in the refrigerated section (look up high, as it’s usually tucked in a corner on an upper shelf). But assuming you find it, fresh yeast is still a pain to keep, so if you want to try the recipe but want to keep things simple, substitute 0.65 ounces of instant yeast for the two ounces of fresh stuff the recipe calls for (the conversion ratio for fresh to instant yeast is one to one-third).

As for the high-gluten flour, Ms. Gand apparently forgot that it’s only available commercially or by catalog. Never fear, as good ol’ all-purpose will do the job just fine. If you feel like getting into it though, head to the supermarket and pick up a sack of white flour that specifically says “For Bread Machines” as these types of flours have the highest percentage of gluten of any available in stores.

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