Thursday, May 13, 2010
Potluck Thursday: Babette Bakes Brioche
Day 1: The Marathon Begins...
Dorie Greenspan is a delight. I had the incredible good fortune of meeting her recently at The Greenbrier. In fact, I had the funny and near-silly experience of sharing a bar of Vosges Chocolate Bacon bar with her. Picture about 10 avid food writers, food literature readers, food magazine editors...I think it was Dorie who did the honors of breaking it into pieces for everyone to experience. It was passed around the table like a communion plate. We all took a shard of chocolate...Then someone read the near zen-like instructions from Vosges on how to enjoy the chocolate...At one point we all had our eyes closed...no sounds were being made...and then you couldn't keep us quiet...because of COURSE we all had opinions. (For the record, we didn't like the chewy texture of the bacon left in our mouths when we let the chocolate melt first...some of us liked it more when we chewed right into it, releasing salty, smoky, sweet all at once...)
But this post isn't about the chocolate. It's about my discovery: Dorie's Brioche. I got the lowdown from the insiders: The Brioche is to die for. And the sticky pecan buns--to die for a second time...So when my signed copy of Dorie's Baking: From My Home to Yours arrived in the mail (no way I was dragging those pounds and pounds of books home on the plane...), I had to get started on the brioche.
I knew enough that the process would be easier if I made the dough the day before...Clever me: I'll throw it together at 10 PM and get it right into the fridge. Mmmhmmm.
Like any bread, the ingredient list is short. Yeast, water, milk, flour, salt, sugar, eggs and butter. Lots of butter. But it is lovely. Once again, Kitchenaid comes to the rescue. When discussing this with Dorie, her first question was: Do you have a mixer? Apparently her first experience was with this dough, a wooden spoon and her aching shoulders. At any rate, it starts as an ugly, mealy dough.
Then the eggs go in and it looks a bit better. And then you start beating the butter in, about 2 tablespoons at a time. Here's me holding the mixer to keep it from walking itself off the counter as it works that dough...
When all is said and done, you are left with a glossy, silken mass of dough.
It is gorgeous (I happily had about 1/2 pound of lovely, yellow Irish butter on my counter to use here...)
Oh, back to my cleverness...First punch down: after one hour. Then every 30 minutes or so FOR THE NEXT TWO HOURS. Until it stops rising. And THEN you get to go to bed...I mean and THEN you get to put it in the fridge (and go to bed...)
It will be a late night...This last shot is of the dough rising on the back porch, where it's warmer.
Just did the first punch down..The dough is just so nice to touch...Do you think anyone else is out on her balcony punching down brioche dough? Now it's 12.43 a.m. Do you know where your brioche is?
I woke at 7.15. Visions of brioche and pecan sticky buns by way of Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home to Yours invaded my mind...I knew I had a lunch to go to with a food professional, and I have a feeling she's bringing me some farm-fresh eggs. I don't want to show up empty handed. Brioche will be my gift.(What? What diet?)
So, I was anticipating a sticky mess--but I forgot what butter does in the fridge...it hardens. So the dough was extraordinarily easy to handle. I divided it. Half is for a loaf, the other half for sticky bunAnd I divided the sticky bun dough in half again, making 8 today, then rolling the other half for the freezer. One day I'll be able to take that little spiral out of the freezer at 10 p.m. and wake up to bake fresh brioche sticky buns. I am wonder woman, I am Supermom.
Let's see. The sticky buns go in about an hour and 45 minutes after prepping. The loaf, about 2 hours later...Look at my results...
And I will vouch for the taste (hey, it's in the job description: eat). A big complaint I had with a batch of sticky buns I made relatively recently was that the bread part itself was leaden. Why bother with that gooey goodness if the bread is like a rock? Well, this brioche sticky bun recipe absolutely knocks that problem out of the park. They are melt-in-your-mouth, buttery lightness. I've eaten half of one bun. 7 1/2 brioche pecan sticky buns are now staring me in the face. I'm watching out the window for my neighbor to come home so I can give her some (my town is such a pain. All the women are on "social x-ray" diets, to borrow that phrase from Tom Wolfe. But at least my neighbor has two little girls...)..then I'll be able to take a couple to the woman I'm meeting for lunch...then if I'm really inspired, I'm going to drive to Boca to deliver the remaining few to the great people at JES Publishing/Florida Table offices. They'll help me salvage my own nutritional crisis...
On to the brioche loaf...
Day 3. The Loaf
Wow. It was one baking morning. As noted below, after an early start, I had the loaf rising and the sticky buns rolled, cut and rising by about 7.45 a.m. The sticky buns were a definite success.
I did as I was told--egg wash, baked at 400. I cannot believe how lovely this turned out. As I said elsewhere, every time I make bread--even something that sounds as daunting as brioche--I wonder why I don't do it more often. Sure, this brioche recipe has 12 ounces of butter in it (that means the little loaf has half that--6 ounces..I started slicing very thin slices once I realized that...), but that's the only expensive ingredient in it...even a plain, Publix baguette costs me $1. I'd say the extra bit of money for this particular loaf? Worth it.
The bread is so rich--you SO taste the butter--I am happy eating it all by itself. A brioche purist, that's me. I could picture it with some bitter orange marmalade, though...Or I'd like to try the bostock Dorie mentions...spread stale brioche (who gets a loaf to last til it's stale?) slices with almond cream, sprinkle with sliced almonds, bake until the almond cream is puffy and hot.
But I don't think it will last long enough.
Day 4: Definition of Brioche
Brioche, noun. (bree-osh) Butter held together by bits of flour, yeast and egg.
When I toasted a slice this morning, it sizzled all on its own.
That's all. Just an observation.