Dan Lepard is an award-winning Australian baker and writer. His baking style typically promotes strong flavour and delicious ideas through a celebration of simple ingredients. Dan is a strong advocate of traditional British baking and champions traditional techniques of old recipes, artisan millers and producers around the British Isles and the rest of the world.
In his early years Dan worked as a photographer but he later moved to fulfil a very successful baking career that spans from the early 90’s to the present day.
Dan is an acclaimed writer and following on from his first book Baking with Passion (1999), he released the seminal classic The Handmade Loaf (2004). His successes and reputation in the baking industry are celebrated and you’ll often find Dan’s baking commentary across TV, newspapers to name just a few.
Back in 2003 when I was writing my sourdough book “The Handmade Loaf” I travelled to Sweden to understand rye crispbreads better and made my way to the organic Roslagsbröd bakery. There, huge dimpled rollers were part of the wheel and belt old-school mechanism used – fascinating to watch in its complex Heath-Robinson ingenuity – as they squished and extruded the sticky grey rye dough into pitted sheets that were cut into rings and baked. The machinery made quick work of a very old home method to turn flour into crispbread that would store for months once dried in front of a fire. At home, a knobbly Kruskavel rolling pin would be used, rolling out a simple rye dough – 200g water, 100g rye sourdough at 1:1, ¾tsp salt, and enough rye flour (say 200g) to make a soft mixture – to be cut into discs. Sometimes today you’ll find them made with a mix of rye and wheat flour, and even with other ingredients added.
Emmer is the perfect flour when you want a bread with heartiness and body, something finely milled everyday wheat flours never really achieve, as they’re not milled for that purpose. In this month’s Bakery Bits recipe I’ve used Gilchester’s Organic Emmer Flour in a method typically used for 100% rye flour breads, where at least half of the flour is fermented overnight – either using yeast or sourdough – then made into a soft batter-like dough the following day with grated vegetable - say pumpkin or carrot - seeds, more Emmer flour, salt and some dark malt to give it a deep blackish colour. The resulting loaf is firm, packed with flavour and heavily seeded. Slice it thinly as you might with a Scandinavian rye bread, perfect for open-faced smoked salmon sandwiches, or as I’m eating it right now: toasted with some great marmalade.
Here in this month’s recipe I’ve combined the beautiful Spring Oven with Redbournbury’s flour to make a Christmas Twist loaf, with the cardamom-spiced dough rolled thinly and layered with ground almonds, butter, chocolate and brown sugar. Serve it warm with a little brandy syrup and soft whipped cream spooned over.
This is a three-day adventure to take you towards croissant perfection. Much easier and less effort than classic puff pastry, with much less rolling to do. This recipe only makes 6, but I’d like you to start here, getting your technique as sharp as you can, before you set up making dozens to supply your entire neighbourhood as the local viennoiserie star baker. You can do it, I believe in you, but just practice a little first.