I'm not really one for New Year's resolutions, finding it far more productive to set goals and aspirations as the opportunity and needs arise. Nor do I particularly like the idea of writing a 'justification post'. We all know that, first and foremost, blogs are a self-indulgent space, so what would you care about where things are headed? The whole thing's a right wank, let's be honest, but everyone needs a hobby and if I can share that with someone who's interested then so be it.
In this mysterious world of knowing people without actually knowing them I often wonder how my voice is interpreted in the written format (you all know that my overuse of florid descriptors is entirely facetious, right?), and given that the summer break is a rare opportunity that many of us take to sit down and think "what the hell am I doing with my life (and, less importantly, blog)?!", I thought it might be a nice chance to provide a little insight into how things run.
We've seen a number of changes over the years here at Keeler & Spon. From it's humble beginnings as a life restorer we've moved through various kitchens, gone from two to one, and learnt plenty of new things along the way. In our most recent incarnation we came with a fresh look and added structure that—for me more-so than you—was designed to make finding inspiration that little bit easier. On the whole it's worked well but as always, I'm still finding room for improvement.
Like most overly ambitious projects there were a number of ideas that worked, and some that invariably didn't. While school turned out to be not nearly as inspirational as I'd hoped I did manage to use my cookbook collection/library a lot more, and there were plenty of great feasts and delicious discoveries enjoyed throughout the year. Posts became much more regular, and although it was satisfying to achieve this consistency things also began to feel rushed. While I'd hope that, like me, you use recipes as a mere guide rather than following them to a T, there were a number I probably should have tweaked before throwing them up in the heat of the "oh sod, I haven't baked anything this week" moment. So to address some of the things that aren't quite hitting the mark, here are a few changes I hope to make in 2016:
- Bake more, post less: instead of posting to meet a self-enforced deadline I'll be taking my time with the recipes and posting only when I feel they're really en pointe.
- One thing, many books: having successfully used the "one book, many things" approach to get me baking from my library more I'd now like to work on finding favourites by comparing techniques and exploring different concepts within this happy resource.
- More school: while not meant literally—the coursework aspect of my apprenticeship is not all that stimulating for the academically-inclined—I will endeavour to read more and share any useful tidbits I discover along the way.
- More bread: working around school and an unpredictable roster can be difficult and it's so easy to start making excuses. But when it's something you really want to do and you're more of a "just get on with it" type that's a pretty soft attitude to take, and so I'll be addressing that as a means to introduce more savoury over the coming months.
So here's to 2016. May you survive the dark, live in the light, and always find time to bake. And if you've made it this far through all that reflective codswallop then you most definitely deserve a treat, which this week takes the form of a cream-topped brioche tarte au sucre. I rather enjoyed it plain, but serve it with jam if you so wish.
TARTE AU SUCRE (Adapted from this recipe by Bruno Loubet)
- 175 ml milk, lukewarm
- 5 g dried yeast
- 20 g brown sugar
- 350 g plain flour
- 2 eggs, plus 1 egg yolk
- 160 g butter, soft
- 100 g crème fraîche
- 60 g caster sugar
- 40 g demerara sugar
- The zest of 1 lemon, finely grated
In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together the milk, yeast, brown sugar, and 50 g flour. Cover and leave in a warm place 15 minutes, until bubbly and doubled in volume.
Add the remaining flour, a pinch of salt, eggs and egg yolk to the yeast mixture and mix with a dough hook on low-medium speed for ~5 minutes, until starting to develop some elasticity.
Gradually add the butter, waiting until it is incorporated between each addition, then mix for a further 2-4 minutes, until fully developed. Transfer to a lightly-oiled bowl, cover, and refrigerate for 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 195℃. In a small bowl rub together the sugars and lemon zest and set aside. Divide the dough in two, form each piece into a ball and then roll each into a circle 15-20-cm in diameter. Alternatively, leave as a single piece and roll into a circle 32-35-cm in diameter. Place each on a tray lined with baking paper and leave to rest for 15-20 minutes. Press around the dough 1-cm from the edge to create an indentation with a rim. Spread half of the crème fraîche into the indentation of each disc and sprinkle with the sugar mix. Leave for a further 15-20 minutes and then bake at 195℃ for 20 minutes, until golden brown all over. Dust with icing sugar and serve with jam, if desired.
Makes 2, 15-20-cm tarts (or 1, 32-35-cm tart).