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BBA #4: Brioche

June 11, 2009
tags: ,

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First of all, can I just say how sweet it is that some of you have contacted me to make sure everything is okay since I haven’t posted in over a week? Thank you! Everything is A.O.K., we’ve just had an unbelievably busy weekend and early week — family wedding shower, high school graduation, and big house-building event — which meant lots of preparation and packing and some cooking and go-go-go-ing and not having much time to stop to take a breath, much less blog. But now we’re home, settling back in, catching up on rest, and getting back into our more relaxed daily routine. Bear with me as I catch up on emails and comments; I have a few posts lined up to share as well, just need to…um…write them. But without further ado, I’m a few days late on posting my latest Bread Baker’s Apprentice Challenge bread, so let’s hop to it!

The next bread in the challenge was one I love, and one that I think is pretty much universally loved: brioche! Mmmmm. Buttery and rich and flaky, this is not one to make a practice of snacking idly on if you don’t plan on turning into a butter ball yourself, but it is absolutely delicious with some homemade jam alongside a cup of coffee, or in sandwiches, or french toast, or bread pudding. And for those of us who want to choose how much butter goes into our brioche, Peter Reinhart offered three different variations on the basic recipe: Rich Man’s, Middle Class, and Poor Man’s Brioche. I’m not one to shy away from butter, but having heard that the Rich Man’s version was a little extreme on the butter factor, I decided to go with the Middle Class brioche.

The dough was a breeze to make, even more so because I used the recommended method of mixing the dough in my electric stand mixer.

mise en place: butter, flour, eggs, salt, yeast, sugar and whole milk

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As with many of the breads I’ve made for BBA so far, this one started with a sponge: flour, yeast and milk mixed together and left to ferment until bubbly, about 30-45 minutes.

Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble…

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After the sponge had fermented, I mixed in the remaining flour,  yeast and salt, then added the butter in pieces until it was all incorporated into a sticky mass. Some BBA-ers mixed their dough by hand, to which I say, kudos to them — you’d get some pretty good arm muscles built up mixing all that butter in manually!

glad I’m doing this with my stand mixer!

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Next went the eggs, one by one, mixing until each egg was incorporated. The resulting dough was satiny and slightly sticky.

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At this point, I spread the dough onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and covered it, then into the fridge it went for an overnight rest.

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The next day, the dough had risen slightly — I wasn’t sure if it was supposed to rise more — and I began shaping it, working with it while it was cold. If you let the dough get too warm, the butter content can make it difficult to easily shape.

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I decided to divide the dough in half and use one half to make a loaf, and the other half to make brioche à tête rolls, which are the little individual fluted rolls with a “hat” on top. These started out promisingly enough but…well…you’ll see what happened. I couldn’t find any brioche à tête molds at our local restaurant supply store, but I did have a set of small metal tartlet pans that I thought I’d try using as a substitution.

shaping a brioche à tête

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loaf and brioche à têtes, ready to proof

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After I shaped the brioche à têtes and placed them in the metal tartlet pans, I realized I might have made them a little too large. I had seen in the BBA discussions that other people experienced this bread having terrific oven-spring, so at this point I was figuring between the proofing and the oven-spring, we might have a bit of an overflow situation on our hands…but it being a busy week last week, and me being pressed for time anyway, I figured we’d just see what happened and even if they sprung out of their pans, they’d probably still be tasty.

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They rose quite a bit during their proofing, and after an egg wash, it was time for the moment of truth: into the oven they went.

hmm…we can already see an overpuff situation brewing…

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After baking in the oven, I opened the door to find — gasp! — mutant brioche à têtes!! Oh, the horror! Actually, I thought they were kind of cute, in a so-obvious-what-happened-to-the-“hats” kind of way.

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I mean, look at this. You can see exactly what happened: oven spring occurred and the little têtes on top had nowhere to go but to tip over! So sad.

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This one I thought was particularly funny. It’s so obvious the path that it took to droop down…

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But anyway, I did get two decent looking brioche à têtes out of the batch.

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And the rest still tasted delicious, even if they do remind me of a flock of hens, pecking on the ground for seeds.

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Oh – and the loaf turned out beautifully!

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It had a light, airy crumb and just the right amount of butteriness for me.

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Check out the BBA Challenge page if you want to see more Brioche creations, and stay tuned for some other non-bread related posts (hopefully soon!) Our CSA starts today — can’t wait for that!

Previous BBA Bread: Bagels

Up Next: Casatiello (a brioche-like bread with salami and provolone – I’m thinking picnic food!)

14 Comments leave one →
  1. June 11, 2009 9:16 am

    That looks so wonderfully delicious! If it tastes as good as it looks, you’re in for a yummy week!

  2. June 11, 2009 10:21 am

    I LOVE the chicken brioches! Decorate them and they are perfect for a spring party.🙂

  3. June 11, 2009 10:44 am

    Ooh yay! I always thought brioche would be way too hard to attempt at home (and I’m usually pretty adventurous with the breads) but you’ve now convinced me it’s not!

    Thanks, too, for making the Anadama bread a few weeks ago. I’d never been tempted by the recipe, but you made it sound good so I had to try it. And it has made wonderful breakfast toast with peanut butter all week!

  4. June 11, 2009 11:49 am

    Hahaha! I love that the “rejects” are consistent even in their error. I’m sure they tasted delicious nonetheless! I wish I could do this– don’t have a stand mixer, though. I think I’m strong enough but not willing to deal with the sticky mass on my countertop!

  5. June 11, 2009 3:00 pm

    Isn’t it funny that things are almost cuter when they go wrong?!

    Can’t wait to see what your CSA brings!!!

  6. June 11, 2009 6:30 pm

    I think your brioches are awesome. How cute.🙂
    Susie

  7. June 11, 2009 7:00 pm

    *sigh* Brioche. I have a love affair with brioche. I see it, I buy it, I covet it, I eat it… lovingly. I’m almost afraid to make it at home because I know I will sit down and eat it… all. A sordid affair. Yours look soooo beautiful. Bread, rolls, mutants – because they are brioche🙂 Oh yes, please! You are a stud, lady. And I like the hen pecking ones (send them here if you don’t like them).

  8. Allison permalink
    June 11, 2009 7:57 pm

    Thanks for including photos of all the brioche rolls, even the “chicken” ones.🙂 So often we only get to see the perfect end result in glossy cookbook photos, and that’s not usually how it looks when we attempt it. But I’m sure they were delicious regardless of how they looked! Really enjoying your bread-baking blogs…

  9. June 11, 2009 10:08 pm

    These look amazingly delicious. I love the creative shapes! Great post. I had fun making the bagels. there is something satisfying about working with yeast. . .

  10. June 12, 2009 8:02 am

    Welcome back!

    Sue Bette has a great breakfast casserole – sort of a Monte Cristo/French Toast variant that your brioche loaf would be perfect for (if you have any left that is). Brioche is hard to find in bakeries here for some reason. Glad to see it is not unapproachable by a home baker, although I don’t have a stand mixer. Yet. I am beginning to find more and more reasons that I “need” one….

  11. Donna permalink
    June 12, 2009 9:33 am

    Oh my gosh, I’m giggling and drooling at the same time. I love the chickens. So cute. I can’t wait to try this recipe.

  12. June 12, 2009 12:24 pm

    have never made brioche. excited to try!🙂

  13. June 12, 2009 6:11 pm

    Your brioche is beautiful (funny forms and all)! I’m picturing it with homemade strawberry jam…heavenly!

  14. June 14, 2009 2:26 pm

    I wish I had the time to participate in the challenge, but following your journey is almost as exciting!

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