In my bread quest this month, I could not go past brioche.  There are many egg-based breads.  Brioche :: Challah :: Panettone :: Stollen :: Pulla.   Brioche is probably the richest of them all.  In Sherry Yard’s, The Secrets of Baking handbook, she explains the foundation brioche recipe and its versatility to make flavoured brioche, lean and rich brioche, sticky buns, as well as fried brioche in the form of beignets and doughnuts.  When flicking through the pages, I stopped on her Gingerbread Brioche recipe.  I simply nodded and knew it would be where I would start.

As breads go, the recipe was actually quite simple.  Well, if you have a stand mixer, that is.  You simply make a sponge (yeast and warm milk added with a little sugar and flour to make a batter) that rests for about half an hour.  Then you add that with the rest of the ingredients into a mixer and gently work the dough for a few minutes.  Once that is done, it simply needs to proof a couple of times.  At the end, you shape into your favoured tin, and voila, you are done!

I only made half the recipe suggested as I was light on brioche à tête molds – I only had two medium sized available.  Even when I filled those I had some dough left over.  I looked around for some alternative pans / molds that would take the remaining dough.  I pulled out some little pudding molds which were perfect for the job.  For these mini gingerbread-y versions, I wrapped up the dough around a little square of dark chocolate.  What could be better?

The end result was fabulously light, buttery, rich and soft all wrapped up together.  The texture just perfect.  The only thing I would change next time would be the amount of nutmeg.  The flavour was a little overpowering compared with the other spices included.  When I was adding the spices I did pause when reading the quantity of nutmeg (thinking it was too much), but shrugged, figured Sherry knows best, and continued on.  I would probably reduce it by half or even a quarter next time.  But I have retained the original quantity in the recipe below, in case you are a nutmeg nut!

Sherry makes this bread specifically for French toast.  She serves it with orange butter and walnut-maple syrup.  After tasting the bread, I think she is on a winning combination.

{ Gingerbread Brioche }

* Ingredients *


½ cup whole milk at room temperature (see note)
1 tbsp dry active yeast
2 tbsp sugar
½ cup bread or all purpose flour


1/3 cup unsulfured black-strap molasses (see note)
3 tbsp packed light brown sugar
2 tbsp ground ginger
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
¼ tsp ground allspice
¼ tsp ground cloves
4 cups bread flour 
2 tsp salt
6 large eggs, slightly beaten
9 ounces unsalted butter, softened but still cool

1 large egg

* Directions *

Make the sponge.  Combine milk and yeast in the mixing bowl of a standing mixer. Whisk and let sit for 5 minutes.  Add flour and sugar, mix to form a thick batter. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest at room temperature for 30-45 minutes, until bubbles form.

Add the molasses, brown sugar, spice, flour, and salt to the sponge. Add the eggs. Beat with the paddle attachment on low speed for 2 minutes, until the eggs are absorbed. Increase the speed to medium and knead the dough for 5 minutes.  Hold the mixer when necessary.

Turn the machine down to medium low speed and add the butter, 2 tbsp at a time. Knead for another 5 minutes, until the dough is shiny.  Scrape out the dough and clean and lightly oil the bowl.  Don’t worry if the dough is difficult to handle.  Place the dough back in the bowl then turn it over so that the top is oiled. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature for 2 hours, until doubled.  When dough is has doubled in volume, punch it down by folding it two or three times. Cover and refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight.

After the second rise, the dough is ready to be shaped.  Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface.  For brioche à tête generously butter two 8 inch brioche molds and put them on a baking sheet.  Punch the dough down again and transfer it to a work surface.  Set aside the equivalent of about 1 cup of dough, and divide the rest into two portions.  Firmly roll each portion of dough on the table in a circular motion with the palm of your hand to form a smooth ball.  Place into each mold.

With the reserved dough, divide in half and roll into a bowling pin shape.  Make an indention in the centre of the larger ball, and place the small pin into the centre of the brioche. Cover with a towel and let rise in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 400F or 200C.  Lightly whisk the egg and gently brush the surface of the dough.  Bake for 10 minutes and reduce heat to 350F or 180C.  Bake for another 30 minutes depending on the size of your molds.  Allow to cool for 10 minutes.

{ A few notes … }
1. For the milk, I warmed mine ever so slightly to about 80 – 90 F.
2. I have had trouble finding unsulfured molasses in Australia.  As a substitute, I used dark treacle.  I use treacle for all my gingerbread baking and it works a treat.
3. Tête means head, as you can see why!



After almost five years of living in Boston, and about 500 bagels later!, I returned to Brisbane to find no fitting substitute for this chewy and delicious bread.  I suffered terrible bagel withdrawal, but quickly learned to re-familiarise myself with the local offerings instead.

In Boston, I was spoiled for bagel choice.  There were a number of good independent Jewish bakeries around, but Finagle a Bagel was my favourite, most convenient, bagel destination.  Every visit I practically ordered the same thing.  Egg bagel :: toasted :: plain cream cheese.  Simple and delicious.  Occasionally I was tempted by the sweet selections of the chocolate chip and raisin cinnamon varieties.  Either way, my favourite part was watching the bagel selected for you whizzing down the conveyor to be unceremoniously cut by a massive circular saw.

Recently remembering my bagel-y breakfasts in Boston, I jotted down these chewy breads on my to-do list.  With my focus now on baking bread for the month, they have soared to the top of the list.

I am no a stranger to baking bread and have sporadically baked a loaf or two over the last 10 years when time permits.  During that time, however, I have never *boiled* pre-baked bread dough.  And that is exactly what you need to do for bagels.  The characteristic chewiness of the bagel is produced by a quick one minute dip of the pre-shaped bread in boiling water.  (Imagine ‘old school’ round doughnuts frying in a pot of oil, and you get the picture.)

I researched a few recipes and they all seemed similar.  I ultimately decided to go with an adaptation from Martha Stewart as many of her yeasted bread recipes have worked a treat for me in the past.  The process seems quite long, but it is really quite simple.  The time you need to factor, like for nearly all bread making, is for the proofing process.

The end result?  They were no Finagle a Bagel, but they were good.  They were chewy and slightly dense and delicious with a healthy helping of cream cheese on top.

{ Bagels } adapted from Martha Stewart

* Ingredients *

3/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
1-2/3 cups warm water
3 tablespoons sugar
4 ½ cups bread flour
1-1/2 tablespoons table salt

* Directions *

In the bowl of an electric mixer, whisk together the yeast and water. Let stand for 5 minutes until foamy.  Attach bowl to mixer fitted with the dough hook and with the mixer on low speed add the sugar, flour and salt.  Knead for about 1 minute until slightly tacky dough forms.  You may need to add more flour or water depending on what you find.  Continue to knead dough for about 5 more minutes then transfer to a lightly oiled bowl and cover with oiled plastic wrap.  Let rise in a warm place for 2 hours (until doubled in bulk).  Divide dough into 10 equal pieces. Cover with a damp kitchen towel.  Let rest for about 20 minutes.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and lightly brush with oil; set aside.  With lightly oiled hands, roll each piece of dough into a 6-inch rope. Form a circle around your hand and then press the two ends together to seal.  Place the bagels 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. Cover with a piece of oiled plastic wrap and let rest until puffed (about 20 minutes).

Preheat the oven to 500 F or 260 C with racks in the upper and lower thirds.  Fill a large stockpot with water and bring to a boil.  Gently drop bagels into the water (as many as will comfortably fit without touching each other). After 30 seconds, use a slotted spoon to gently flip the bagels over — simmer for yet another 30 seconds.   Then, using the slotted spoon again, return the bagels to the parchment-lined sheets. Top them with the seeds or salt .  Place sheets in the oven.  Bake for 5 minutes and then rotate the sheets and reduce the temperature to  350 F or 180 C.   Bake until golden brown for about 10 minutes.  Then flip the bagels over. Continue baking for another 5 minutes. Transfer bagels to wire rack to cool.

{ A little hint … }

:: I used poppy seeds for my bagels as I had them on hand, but take inspiration from Finagle a Bagel for the many flavour combinations available.  The choice is limitless.

P.S. I am submitting these poppy seed bagels to YeastSpotting, the weekly showcase of yeasted baked goods and dishes.  To find out more, click here.


Easter is not Easter without Hot Cross Buns.

And it is not hard not to be tempted by the range available (they are everywhere!).  This year I wanted to forgo the usual and plentiful fruit, extra spice, and chocolate chip selections.  After staring at my pantry for a few minutes I happened across my trusty ground cardamom.  I love the flavour of this fragrant spice in Scandinavian baking and reflected it was perfect choice for these little festive buns.

easter-eggs2My little nieces were staying over during Easter so thought Hot Cross Bun baking was a perfect activity to tackle together.  I also thought it would be fun to add some Easter craft to the mix.  Inspired by the cover of latest Martha Stewart Living magazine (and the corresponding article on decoupage eggs), I purchased up a range of coloured paper and ribbons last minute before the sleep over to keep the ‘Easter twins’ occupied.

The baking was simple enough.  Hot cross buns use a basic sweet bread dough.  The dough is fairly versatile and can be flavoured, shaped and baked a range of ways (buns, rolls, scrolls, loaves …etc.).  For the craft, I opted against using blown out eggs (only due to time), and adapted the decoupage idea using a simple egg shaped card instead.  The end result actually worked well.  We created a range of individual little swing tags perfect for Easter gift giving!

On the craft front, next year I will plan ahead.  In the meantime, try this basic dough recipe anytime you want a sweet treat. 

{ Hot Cross Buns }

* Ingredients *

2 x 7g sachets granulated yeast
¼ cup (55g) caster sugar
1½ cups (375ml) warm milk
4 cups (600g) plain flour
2 teaspoon cardamon
60g butter
1 egg
¾ cup (120g) chocolate chips

Flour paste for crosses
½ cup (75g) plain flour
2 teaspoons caster sugar
1/3 cup (80ml) water, approximately

1 tablespoon caster sugar
1 teaspoon gelatine
1 tablespoon water

* Directions *

Combine yeast, sugar and milk in small bowl or jug; cover, stand in warm place about 10 minutes or until mixture is frothy.

Sift flour and spices into large bowl, rub in butter. Stir in yeast mixture, egg and sultanas; mix to a soft sticky dough. Cover; stand in warm place about 45 minutes or until dough has doubled in size.

Turn dough onto a floured surface, knead about 5 minutes or until smooth. Divide dough into 16 pieces, place piece of chocolate into each piece of dough and knead into balls. Place balls 8cm apart onto oiled oven trays, stand in warm place about 10 minutes or until buns have risen.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to hot.  Place flour paste for crosses in piping bag fitted with small plain tube, pipe crosses on buns.  Bake buns in hot oven about 20 minutes or until well browned. Turn buns onto wire rack, brush tops with hot glaze; cool on wire rack.  To make the flour paste for crosses, combine flour and sugar in bowl. Gradually blend in enough of the water to form a smooth paste.  To make the glaze, combine ingredients in small saucepan; stir over heat, without boiling, until sugar and gelatine are dissolved.

{ A few ideas … }

:: Flavour this dough with anything you like.  Cinnamon, nutmeg, all spice, lemon zest, orange zest … or even cardamon.  It is up to you.
:: For buns, loaves and rolls, towards the end of kneading, add a handful of any dried fruit, nuts, and chocolate or butterscotch chips etc. if you fancy.
:: If you wish to make scrolls, roll out each piece and spread with a flavoured butter (e.g. cinnamon), and then sprinkle with additives of choice.


In my trip to Paris last year, I not only made sure to visit a number of the best patisseries (Pierre Hermé, Ladurée and Gérard Mulot), but also boulangeries.  The bread I sampled at these bakeries was truly a treat.  Back home, I have been inspired to bake my own bread.

I have been reading a great reference on sourdoughs called Local Breads by Daniel Leader.  It focuses on regional specialities across France, Italy, Germany and the Czech Republic.  I have also supplemented my bread research with a sourdough class.  Last week I attended a Sourdough and Artisan Bread class with Brett Noy at Black Pearl Epicure.  We covered the fundamentals, of sourdough, made white and wholemeal dough plus our own levain to take home.

I love the slightly sour taste of these breads, and this crusty loaf was baked last weekend as my first foray into the artisanal bread world. 

Despite the probably more appropriate choices of continental butter and fruit conserves as an accompanying condiment, I must confess that this bread tastes delicious with vegemite, too.  Perhaps sacrilege, but it is the Australian in me!

I have a range of other bread delights to bake this month.  Many probably better for my waistline than my recent spell of maracon baking.  Some, well, not so sure…  But for now, it is all about the sourdough.

pumpkin-scones4Scones are the quintessential afternoon tea.  They are the perfect level of sweetness for an afternoon (or morning!) pick-me-up.  Scones come in a variety of flavours – plain, sweet or savoury – and all are delicious.  You will find many recipes for sultana/raisin scones, cheese scones, herb scones and plain scones.  But if you come across a recipe for pumpkin scones, it is likely to be courtesy of one lady.  Lady Flo.

Scones originated in Scotland and are pronounced “Skoan” in southern parts of England, and “Skon” in northern part of Britain (northern England and Scotland).  I think the latter pronunciation is more popular in Australia, though I buck the trend learning the pronunciation from parents who heralded from London.

Even though Australia cannot lay claim to the scone, the pumpkin variant is firmly cemented in our culinary repertoire.  Pumpkin scones were popularised by Florence Bjelke-Petersen – wife of former Queensland Premier and later Queenslander Senator. 

Scones are a very quick baked treat to make.  They are light, flaky and creamy, and if not over-handled, will melt in your mouth!  So in honour of Australia Day, I bring you pumpkin scones. 

{  Lady Florence Bjelke-Petersen’s Famous Pumpkin Scones  }

* Ingredients *

1 Tblsp butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1 cup mashed pumpkin (cold)
2 cups Self raising flour

* Directions *







Beat together butter, sugar and salt with electric mixer.  Add egg, then pumpkin and stir in the flour.  Turn on to floured board.  (Use a marble pastry board if possible to keep the dough cool.)  Gently pat the dough into a mound and cut out desired shapes (e.g. circles or squares).  Place on a baking tray in a very hot oven 225-250c (435-480F) for 15-20 minutes.

{ A few tips … }

1. Australian celebrity cooks such as Belinda Alexander also pay tribute to the scone.  Belinda has a variation of the pumpkin scone with the addition of sweet dates – it is a delicious combination.
2. Consider a pumpkin scone variation with spices such as ginger or cinnamon – they beautifully enhance the pumpkin flavour. 
3. Flo’s secret – cook the pumpkin the night before and chill it in the fridge.

« Previous Page