Monday, December 08, 2008
"La Brioche" (Cake),1763 by Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin, Musee du Lourve, Paris
This beautiful still life by Chardin was painted in the late seventeen hundreds, but brioche had it's beginnings in the 14th century, possibly in the Normandy region of France where butter was exceptional. Brioche,from the French word, "broyer" which means "to pound", is a yeast bread enriched with butter and eggs, a cross between bread and cake. The dough has a slow rise in the refrigerator and then shaped in the traditional brioche a tete, one piece of dough which fills the fluted pan and topped with smaller round piece of dough. Brioche can be sweet and served as a dessert or savory. Day old brioche can be toasted and served with butter and jam or slices can be dipped in beaten egg and fried in a pan for a delicious French toast.
Just recently, I bought Alice Medrich's book "Pure Dessert", a great book with a wide variety of desserts. I plan to work my way through the book making all of her luscious delights, but I couldn't decide which one to start with. I would just let the book fall open and whatever came up, I would make. Lucky for me, the book fell open to "Desire's Brioche". A trip to the grocery store was not necessary as I had all the ingredients on hand.
When making brioche, all of the ingredients should be very cold and the dough must rest overnight in the refrigerator. If you don't have the individual brioche pans, you can use standard muffin tins, but the effect won't be the same. Achieving the traditional top knot may take a little practice, but don't despair, the brioches are tasty no matter what their shape.
3 cups (15 ounces) bread flour
20 tablespoons (2 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter
1 envelope active dry yeast
1/3 cup plus 1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 cup warm water (105° to 115° F.)
5 large cold eggs
1 tablespoon sour cream or yogurt
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 egg plus 1 teaspoon water for wash
10 4-inch individual brioche pans
Place the flour in a shallow pan, cover and freeze for 30 minutes. Put the cold butter in the mixer bowl and use the paddle attachment to beat it only until it is creamy and smooth; there should be no small hard lumps when you pinch it between your fingers. Scrape the butter into a mound on a piece of wax paper and refrigerate. You must proceed with the recipe right away as a long delay will reharden the butter.
In a clean mixer bowl, dissolve the yeast and 1 teaspoon of the sugar in the warm water just until dissolved. Attach the dough hook. Add the remaining 1/3 sugar, the eggs, sour cream or yogurt, salt and flour and mix on low speed until the ingredients are blended, scraping the bowl as necessary. Knead the dough on medium speed for 5 minutes. At the end of the kneading period, the dough will be very soft, moist and sticky, and very elastic; it will be wrapped around the dough hook.
Add the cold creamed butter in several pieces, pushing it into the dough and beating thoroughly until it is incorporated. This will require stopping several times to scrape the dough from the sides of the bowl and off the hook. Scrape the dough into a bowl, cover and refrigerate overnight, or for as long as 24 hours.
Generously butter the brioche pans.Scrape the dough out onto a floured surface and deflate it with your hands. Divide into 10 equal pieces.
To form the traditional brioches with the topknot, first round each piece as follows: Place a piece of dough cut side down on a lightly floured counter. Flour hands, then cup hand over dough in a loose cage over the dough. Press the dough down gently as you rotate your hand counterclockwise in a small circle. Your hand should stay dry while the counter becomes slightly tacky from contact with the cut side of the dough. A tight ball should be forming. This takes practice. Set each ball of dough aside seam side down as you repeat the process on each piece of dough.
Form each round into a fat snowman shape: Cup you hands around the top third of a dough
ball and squeeze gently with the sides of your hands while you shimmy the back and forth to form a narrow neck with a little head on top. Place the snowman in a buttered brioche pan. Grasp the head from the top with your fingertips at the neck, and simultaneously pinch and twist the neck, then jam it deep into the dough in the pan. To secure the topknot and prevent it from from popping out during the proofing and baking, flour your index finger and poke your floured finger two or three more times around the seam of the topknot to secure it. Repeat until all of the brioches are formed.
Place the pans on a baking sheet and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place until almost double, about 2 hours.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Thoroughly whisk the egg with 1 teaspoon water and strain it to remove any large bits of white. Brush the egg wash gently over the surface of each brioche, taking care not to get it on the pans, Bake until the tops are deeply browned and the bottom of the pans sound hollow when tapped, or an instant read thermometer registers 200°F when inserted in the center of the bread, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool on rack.
Serve warm, or at room temperature.
More on brioche.
The Repressed Pastry Chef
La Tartine Gourmande
Gadget by The Blog Doctor.