Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Brioche

I have a little debate with myself every few weeks about whether or not I should invest in a stand mixer. It usually happens when I get ready to make bread. Kneading can be rather annoying and difficult to do by hand so a mixer would be great to have. However, kneading is probably the only exercise I ever get so it's really a matter of health.

Honestly, most breads aren't too much of a bother to make by hand. The only recipe I find a little bothersome is brioche and that's because it involves incorporating butter into a soft dough. Well, I've come up with a technique to make it much easier and now it seems like that stand mixer is really unnecessary. I guess I saved myself $300 and also saved myself my only workout, right?
Ingredients [yields 8 small brioche or 8 brioche buns]:
3 to 3½ cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
¾ cup warm water
¼ cup warm milk
1 teaspoon honey
2¼ teaspoons dry active yeast (one package)
2 + 1 egg
4 tablespoons room temperature butter

The first step to making brioche (my way) is to bloom the yeast. Combine the warm water and milk with the honey and yeast. Make sure the warm water and milk are no hotter than 110F or the yeast will die! Mix it up and let it sit until it's foamy and frothy. That's how you know the yeast are alive.
Crack in two eggs and whisk them into the yeast mixture.
In a large bowl, stir together the flour and salt.
Pour the yeast and egg mixture over the flour and stir just long enough so that there isn't a pool of liquid in the bowl.
Cube up 4 tablespoons of butter and drop in 3 to 4 cubes into the dough, stirring after each addition.

Dump the dough out onto a working surface and start kneading away. You'll encounter the little cubes of butter on the surface here and there and if you do, just fold the dough in so that the butter is at the center of the ball of dough. Keep kneading until the dough is smooth and elastic and slightly sticky.

I find this technique so much easier than what typical brioche recipes dictate, which is to make a smooth dough without the butter and then incorporating pieces of butter into the smooth dough. It's supremely difficult to do this by hand without ending up with greasy hands with butter in your nails. If you're using a mixer, you should obviously go about it the traditional way.
Pop the dough into a bowl and cover with cling film. Let the dough proof for 2 hours or until it doubles in volume.
Dump the dough out and punch to press all the air out.
Flatten the dough into a circle and use a bench scraper to divide the dough into 8 pieces. If you're really concerned about making everything the exact same size, you can weigh the dough.
Grease up your brioche tins generously with butter. If you don't have brioche molds, you can use a regular muffin pan.
Roll each dough wedge into a smooth ball. My technique is to use both hands to smooth out the top and tuck the dough under.
To make the classic brioche shape, roll the ball into a bowling pin shape by using a sawing motion. You want about a quarter of the dough to form the "head" of the pin and the rest of the dough to form the "body."
Next, poke a hole into the bigger part of the dough and then push the smaller nub of dough up into the hole.
Gently press the dough into the brioche tin.
I made four classic brioche.
The rest of the dough was formed into little rounds. These guys were made to become burger buns.
Cover the dough again with a damp cloth and leave the rolls to rise for one hour.

Grab an egg and beat it up and then brush the tops of all of the dough with the egg wash.
Pop the brioche into a 400F oven for 12 minutes. After 12 minutes, raise the oven temperature to 450F and bake for 5 more minutes or until the brioche are lovely and brown and shiny.
Gorgeous, right? I don't like overly dark brioche. I think that when they're left to get really dark, they end up too dry and they lose their buttery lightness. But hey, that's just me.
And check out those buns! My anaconda don't... If you're wondering, I made brioche buns so I could make some crazy amazing burgers. Come back tomorrow if you're a burger fan.
Let the brioche cool briefly on a wire rack before digging in.
I like splitting the brioche right in half and smearing it with a pat of butter and a generous amount of jam. On this particular occasion, I went with apricot. The brioche is fluffy and buttery with a crisp exterior. I think it makes an amazing breakfast.
I think the fluted edges are so cute.
Here's the recipe page:

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