If you live outside the UK, you’ve probably never heard the name Dan Lepard. If you’re not a keen baker you’ve probably never heard the name Dan Lepard. But if you’re an enthusiastic baker in this country, whether amateur or professional, you probably know of Dan Lepard. He is the Bread Man.
Dan is an artisan baker whose passion is bread. He has worked all over the world and won numerous awards, but he’s no “celebrity baker” in the vein of Jamie or Gordon or Nigella. He’s extremely committed to promoting the craft of baking and believes that good bread is achievable on a large, even industrial, scale. I think he’s a pretty inspirational guy.
When I joined Mitchell Beazley in 2005, the company had just published Dan’s first book, The Handmade Loaf. There were always a few copies lying around the place, but for some reason I never took much interest in this particular title. As I’ve become more serious about baking and taken a greater interest in bread, how I wish now that I had grabbed a copy for my personal collection! (At least half my cookbook collection consists of books pilfered from those office shelves.)
Luckily Dan does a weekly baking column in the Guardian Magazine, which anyone can read online. His recipes are varied and interesting and definitely worth a look. This recipe for buttermilk baps (bap is the British word for a soft bread roll – and one I will never get used to) leapt out at me during a long and tedious train ride to Wales a few weeks back. I love bread rolls, but especially slightly-crusty-on-the-outside, ever-so-soft-on-the-inside rolls, which I thought these promised to be.
And oh, were they ever. These rolls were a huge hit with Edward and me. Soft, chewy and pillowy – just how I like my buns. The method used is one I’ve never seen before. Even though the recipe calls for instant yeast (I love that Dan Lepard is telling me it’s OK to use instant yeast!) he still proofs it for a short time before combining it into the dry ingredients. I don’t know why. His method also involves very little kneading. More resting than kneading, actually. I don’t know how or why it works so well, but the results speak for themselves.
For more recipes, advice and insights into modern baking, check out Dan’s excellent website, danlepard.com. Anybody who believes there is a better alternative to the packaged, supermarket loaf will find a friend in him!
Adapted from Dan Lepard’s column in the Guardian Magazine
500 g strong bread flour, plus extra for dusting
1 package instant/fast acting yeast
2 tsp salt
50 g unsalted butter
200 ml buttermilk
Mix the yeast and 100ml of warm water in a small bowl and set aside for ten minutes. Place the flour and salt in a large mixing bowl, and rub in the butter until it resemble large crumbs. Stir the buttermilk into the yeast mixture, then add to the flour, along with enough water (about 50ml) to make a soft, sticky dough.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a damp tea towel for 10 minutes, then transfer the dough to a clean, lightly floured work surface and knead the dough on it for just 10-15 seconds. Return the dough to the bowl, cover, and repeat the kneading procedure twice more at 10-minute intervals. Once it has been kneaded for the third and final time, leave the dough to rest for 45 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 220C/425F. Shape the dough into eight balls and roll them into 10cm long ovals. Space them out on a floured baking tray and dust with flour. Leave for about 30 minutes to double in size. Bake in the centre of the oven for 12 to 18 minutes (though you should check them at the 10-minute mark). As they cool, cover the rolls with a cloth to keep them soft.
Once baked, these can be successfully frozen and reheated in a low oven.