Now that Food Photo 101 is started, I still don’t want to stop cooking and talking about cooking. With that, I realized I still haven’t posted about the bread I made for the wine party we had a couple of weeks ago.
The foie gras I made gave me the opportunity to try a new kind of bread, brioche. What is brioche? For those that don’t know that it’s a little slice of buttery heaven, here’s a formal definition:
n. A soft, light-textured bread made from eggs, butter, flour, and yeast and formed into a roll or a bun.
Really, that lists things in the wrong order; butter should be the first thing, because this bread is loaded with it! There’s almost as much butter as there is flour in this recipe.
I made the Rich Man’s Brioche, though there were 2 other versions, each with different levels of butter, adding other dairy to compensate (and be less costly when butter was harder to procure).
Rich Man’s Brioche
from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice by Peter Reinhart
1/2 cup unbleached bread flour
1 tablespoon instant yeast
1/2 cup lukewarm whole milk
5 large eggs, slightly beaten
3 1/2 cups unbleached bread flour
2 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 cups unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 egg, whisked until frothy, for egg wash
Place the flour and yeast in a large mixing bowl and stir together. Add the milk and stir, until the flour is completely hydrated. Let the sponge ferment for 20 minutes, covered with plastic wrap. The sponge is ready when the bowl is tapped and the sponge rises and then falls.
In the same mixing bowl, add the eggs and beat on medium spead until it’s smooth. When I say to beat something with the mixer, I’m using the paddle attachment, not the kneading hook. Separately, put the flour, sugar and salt, and stir it. Add to the sponge and eggs, then mix for 2 minutes. The gluten needs to develop, so rest the dough for about 5 minutes. Start mixing again on a medium setting and add the butter, 1/4 of the total amount at a time. Each time butter is added, mix until it’s blended into the dough before adding more. Continue to mix for about 6 minutes more. As the dough mixes, the butter causes it to stick to the sides of the bowl; stop the mixer and scrape this down periodically. The dough ends up soft and smooth and really clingy.
The recipe says to line a sheet pan with parchment to put the dough onto here, but I sprayed the inside of a gallon ziplock bag and put the dough in the back instead. I put the dough in the refrigerator overnight then.
In the morning, I took the dough out of the fridge, and quickly formed 2 balls which went into fluted pans, and one loaf that went into a regular bread pan. I worked quickly, as the recipe says to work the dough when it’s cold. I also used nitrile gloves to keep the dough from sticking too badly. I filled the pans so they were only about half full, allowing room for the bread to expand while proofing.
After the dough was in the pans, I lightly sprayed it with some Pam and covered with plastic wrap. After a couple of hours, the dough had about filled the pans, and I brushed the egg wash over the top of the loaves of dough and recovered for about 30 minutes, about when the dough had doubled since going into the pans.
The recipe called for the oven to be preheated to 400 degrees F for petites brioches. I didn’t make these, so I set it to the lower setting of 350 degrees F. I actually preheated the oven well before the dough was ready, so that my Hearthkit would be up to temperature, too. I baked the brioches for 15 minutes, turning it around at 10 minutes for even browning, then checked to see if the bread was done. It took about 4 more minutes until it got to where I liked the color.
I immediately removed the bread from the pans and put the loaves on a cooling rack. I cut into one of the fluted loaves to try it. I almost wish I hadn’t! It’s just too good.
This is the stuff that makes me realize that the French really do know how to use an oven… I was already a fan of French breads, but this is over the top! It was easy to make, actually, and didn’t take any kneading at all, just shaping and proofing after it rested over night in the refrigerator. I’ll be making more of this!