Monday 14 September 2015

Better brioche, a birthday and a departure.

My best ever brioche. I'm actually happy with this...
It was only after I'd served dessert that I realised it was our third birthday. It was Chris' too - not his third, he's slightly older. Like us though, not a round number, nothing to get excited about. Bizarre isn't it that we celebrate the turn of the second digit, as if it's meaningful. Perhaps in another galaxy they have parties at prime numbers? That would be better surely - with a little aim-for cluster at the end of life: 67, 71, 73, 79, 83?

Maths and baking! I know how to pull a crowd.

Chris and Pat are good family friends; happy to combine a robust discussion with a red wine - my sort of evening. As was this. I didn't realise, until they arrived, that their party was mainly people we know well. So it was a double celebration.

I was happy too that I had, finally, produced a brioche that I could be fully proud of. The difference was made with two simple changes. I have to lay the blame for some of my earlier failure with Michel Roux Snr. I've always followed his pastry and dough recipes; they are generally excellent, but his brioche clearly requests the use of plain flour. Many other authorities call for the same too; almost all the American sites. After chatting to Richard of Holtwhite's Bakery in Enfield, I discovered they used a high gluten bread flour. (BTW guys, I love the new website.). Richard's Brioche is superb; a fabulous buttery taste with a soft, airy structure and crisp crust. How is it that shop brought brioche has such a soft, pale crust? Must research that and come back with an edit.

Also, Richard advised me to leave the second prove until the dough felt soft and a indentation sprung back slowly. This can take many hours. My advice, don't fret and make it the day before you plan to eat it. This bread takes at least 18 hours.

Anyway, I tried the Holtwhite method and wow, what a difference. The gluten gives a much better structure; that soft, tearable sponge I sought. 

Chris fourth from left, next to Pat. John on his knees... again.
That's the birthday and the bread dealt with. What about this departure?

I know I look like a fat pirate but I am a man who is quick to tear and I've been walking round, hiding a wet face all week. 

I believe that we know little of love until we have children. That romantic stuff is like a pane of poor glass through which we view the real thing. Parents know how birth of your first expands your emotional bandwidth with a speed that almost tears reality wide open. Suddenly the world becomes both more beautiful and more brutal; the heights of love matched only by a commensurate depth of darkness; an abyss that thankfully, very, very few of us ever get to peer into. The need to hold tight slowly replaced by the responsibility to release. At some point, you have to let them go.

Fabian is leaving this week for the University of Cumbria. The supper club was started initially to raise funds for him to leave us, briefly, for Borneo, but now we say goodbye for four long years.

I've taken it... no, no... I'm taking it much harder than I thought. In truth, I'm in bits. So, Fabian, my son, my first born and my first love. Goodbye. Be safe. We'll miss you.

Fabian - picking elderflowers with me last spring.

1 comment :

  1. Jason – thanks for wonderful food and a great evening on Saturday. You’ve written beautifully here of the evening and Fabian’s departure – the experience of parenthood is indeed one of constant transition, of gain and loss. But – overall - never less than wonderful… Good luck to you Fabian. And, too, to Jason and Belinda and Etien.