I made brioche for the first time last weekend. I wanted French toast on Sunday, but nobody here sells brioche and why would I buy it anyway, because it's dead easy to make and oh-so-delicious. Of course, I did have to decide on Friday that I wanted French toast on Sunday, but nevermind.
I used a recipe from Elizabeth David's English Bread and Yeast Cookery (odd that it should be there and not in Julia's Mastering the Art), which was typically vague. Don't get me wrong, I love Elizabeth. How can you not? But while her writing is captivatingly descriptive, I find her recipes often fall short on detail. My first brioche dough was, as a result, not all it should have been. It was more closely akin to a quick bread dough than to a yeast dough--very soft, sticking to everything, having none of the stretch a brioche dough should. It turns out I added the butter too soon. I learned in The Fundamental Techniques of Classic Pastry Arts that fat interferes with the development of gluten and that your dough should be well developed and stretchy before adding the butter. So I followed that advise this time to stunning results.
adapted from Elizabeth David
- 2 Tbs. milk, warmed
- 1/2 tsp. active dry yeast
- 10 oz. bread flour
- 1 Tbs. sugar
- 1 tsp. salt
- 3 large eggs
- 5-6 oz. butter, tempered
- egg wash for brushing brioche
- Dissolve yeast in warm milk. Combine flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. Mix in the yeast mixture and then the eggs one at a time. Continue to beat the dough until the gluten is well developed and the dough is very stretchy. To temper the butter, put cold butter between two sheets of plastic wrap and pound it with a rolling pin. Add butter gradually, but steadily, to the dough with the mixer running. Beat until the dough is smooth and silky.
- (This can, of course, all be done by hand, kneading where it says 'beat.')
- Transfer dough to a greased bowl, cover, and leave to rise in a warm place for about 2 hours. Punch it down, transfer to a cold bowl and leave in a cold place (not the fridge) for several hours or overnight. Punch down the dough again, make it into a ball with a nice tight top, and place in a greased 1 to 1 1/2-quart brioche mold (or several small molds, or a loaf pan). Allow to rise in a warm place until it fills the mold, up to 3 hours (but check before that).
- Preheat oven to 375°F. Brush the top with egg wash then make a fairly deep circular incision about 1 1/2 inches from the side of the tin using a very sharp blade held almost flat to the dough. Allow to recover for a few minutes, then bake 25-35 minutes. Cool on wire rack.
Makes excellent french toast.
Elizabeth suggest the dough sit overnight in a cool spot for its second rise, but I'm sure this could be shortened with little negative effect on the finished bread, which means you'd only have to decide you want French toast one day ahead instead of two. Either way, it's worth the wait.