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#ThatTranslatorCanCook week 20: brioche

As many kick off the new year and decade with virtuous and optimistic resolutions, goals, and declarations, I start mine with a confession...

I cheated on the #ThatTranslatorCanCook challenge.

Well, not entirely (this here post is proof of that).

Let me explain.

My lovely French friend and neighbour Emeline is my guest chef – or my ghost chef? – this week. She was planning on making brioche, and so as to kill two birds with one stone (although certainly not literally, since she’s a vegetarian and an environmentalist), offered up the fruits of her labour in aid of this challenge. She did the recipe finding and cooking, while I ate, translated, and blogged after the fact. A pretty good deal if you ask me.

The recipe is not exactly seasonal, since it’s a plaited Easter loaf featuring hard-boiled eggs. But, given that you can buy hot cross buns in the supermarkets year-round these days, I doubt the season police will be knocking on my door anytime soon.

The recipe is a clipping from a magazine sporting a hand-written note courtesy of Emeline’s mum (‘use more sugar’).


Yeast types - fraîche ou sèche?

Yeast proved to be my first stumbling block. The type of yeast to use wasn’t specified. Fresh? Active dry? Fast-acting/instant? It wasn’t obvious. After a little research, I tracked down some useful info on yeast types in French, and yeast types in English, and I've summarised what I learned below.

Three types of yeast:

  • Fresh (levure fraîche / biologique) - comes in a solid block (you can keep it in the freezer). You need quite a lot to get it going. You do need to add to warm water and sugar to get it started.

  • Active dry (levure sèche active / levure biologique déshydratée) - dried granules. Significantly less yeast required than fresh yeast, but slightly more than instant. Needs to be reconstituted with warm water and sugar.

  • Fast-acting/instant (levure sèche instantanée) - dried very fine granules. Smallest quantity required. Can be added directly to flour, with no need to be reconstituted in warm water and sugar.

Given the quantity the recipe asked for (30g), I decided they must mean fresh yeast. This is a bit of a moot point however, since I haven’t been able to track down fresh yeast locally for a while now (and neither could my neighbour/ghost chef) - although you can substitute either of the dried varieties for it. Does anyone have any suggestions on shops that sell fresh yeast?

To warm up, or cool down?

Welcome to another excellent French word – tiédir. It means ‘to become, or to make something tepid, lukewarm, or warm.’ Essentially, to bring it to that state. But, depending on the original temperature of the ingredient or mixture, it could be translated as ‘warm up/heat’, or ‘cool down.’ A bit of a strange one, since the two are opposites.


My ghost chef reports no major difficulty with the cooking process, although believes it was slightly overbaked – so the overall cooking time could be reduced slightly. This wasn’t helped by the fact that no oven temperature was listed in the recipe (although did appear three pages prior).

As you can see, the hard-boiled eggs weren’t included in this version. Regardless, it definitely looked impressive, and I can vouch for the taste – soft and light yet buttery. I enjoyed it with yet more butter and jam. By the way, any slightly stale bits make wonderful French toast.

Next week

Keep your eyes peeled and appetite at the ready for next week’s sweet treat.

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