This weeks lesson: sugar.
Last week I was in a hurry to get my regular brioche prep out of the way so I could get on with my other loaves, and forgot to put the sugar in. There isn't much in there, but boy does it make a difference!
My brioche have a long-ish bulk then a long overnight second prove in the fridge. They puffed up fine to begin with (while there was food in the flour for the yeast.) But the second rise didn't go quite so far... old yeast I thought, they'll recover later. So I shaped them and put them in for their final prove, but again, nowhere near as big as normal - even after leaving them longer. I put them in the oven but still no big push, and where was the colour? Normally they begin to brown within about four or five minutes - but these stayed in an extra ten and were still only golden yellow. Only then did it hit me - no sugar! Sure enough, when I tasted them they were heavy, dry, eggy buns - none of the lovely light, sweet buttery taste as usual.
So kids, sugar - gives your yeast something to eat when it's got a lot of work to do, and makes the lovely reds and browns in the crust.
It's funny, you read about how ingredients work in all the books and you absorb what it says, but it's not until you forget one that you actually see for yourself and understand.
No sugar - pale and nasty.
The real deal!