Tuesday 16 July 2013

Brioche for Breakfast

Most recipes I've come across for baking brioche appear to ignore the fact that the reader of the recipe does actually have a life to lead, and the complicated cascade of risings, and warm restings, and cold restings, and punchings-down, and more of the same, repeated in a complicated and practically alchemical choreography is entirely inconsistent with a normal routine of eating, sleeping, and generally getting on with the day. I usually want brioche warm and  baked freshly for breakfast, and to be able to produce it without having had to get up at 4.30 in the morning to do so! This version, adapted from Michel Roux, is a godsend. He appears to have stripped away  many of the various stages which he - clearly correctly - considers unnecessary, and the remaining slimmed-down process is entirely practical and user-friendly...and consistent with only being ejected from bed along with 'Thought for the Day' (as who isn't...? If you're still lingering between the sheets at that point, TFTD is enough to make anybody take flight) and still having brioche on the table for 9.00!

This quantity is sufficient for six individual brioches, as well as a medium brioche loaf. Start the day before, with steps 1 through 7; then the final rising and baking can be done just in time for breakfast, next day.

Ingredients: 500g flour (I use Italian 00 Gran Tenero, which has only little gluten; the more glutenous your flour, the chewier and less cake-like your finished brioche will be - a question of personal preference); 2 tsp salt; 15g fresh yeast; 3 fl oz milk; 6 medium eggs; 350g butter; 30g sugar; egg glaze (1 egg, beaten with 1 tbs milk)


1. Heat the milk to blood temperature, place in a small bowl, and crumble the yeast into it , to 'prove'.

2. Combine flour and salt in a mixing bowl (make sure the two are well mixed, and the salt dispersed throughout the flour - the yeast will react badly if it comes into contact with 'undiluted' salt in any significant quantity. Make a well in the centre of the flour, and into this pour the yeast-milk mixture, first stirred with a fork. Flick flour lightly over the liquid and leave aside for fifteen or twenty minutes.

3. Add all of the eggs to the bowl, and then mix the contents of the bowl to make a homogeneous mass (I do this with the mixer paddle) and then knead for ten minutes or so, using the dough hook). Roux says you can also do this by hand, using a wooden spoon, but that it will take twice as long. Haven't tried, can't comment - but it sounds tiring!

4. During the ten-minute kneading, place the butter and sugar together in another bowl, and leave to soften at room temperature.

5. Towards the end of ten minutes, whisk the butter and sugar together with a hand-beater, and add this gradually to the dough being kneaded. Once the butter-sugar mixture has all been amalgamated, continue to knead for another five minutes or so.

6. At this point, cover the bowl with a damp cloth, and put in a warm place - I use a cold oven, in the bottom of which is a roasting pan full of boiling water - to rise, and leave for two hours or so. The dough will rise quite dramatically during this period.

7. Once risen, transfer the dough (or, in fact, the consistency is really more like a batter, at this stage) into a bowl which has room enough for the mixture to double in size, then cover the bowl with cling film and put into the fridge. (The process of transferring acts as 'punching down', and I have to do it anyway, as my mixer bowl is too large to go easily into the fridge). Leave in the fridge for at least eight hours, and up to twenty four hours.

8. Take the dough from the fridge. It will by now be quite firm, and can be placed on a floured surface for shaping. With this quantity, I can make six individual brioches, and the remaining dough goes into a medium sized loaf tin. Brush the centre of the surface of the brioches with egg glaze, then leave to rise, uncovered, in a warm place, until doubled in size - this takes about half an hour.

9. Once risen, brush again with egg glaze and then bake in an oven pre-heated to 220 degrees C. The  smaller brioches will be read after about fifteen minutes, and the larger one might take another ten minutes after that.

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