Sunday, July 22, 2012

Brioche is a Rich Indulgence

About a year ago, I went on a scavenger hunt for brioche because I wanted to replicate Fred 62's brioche French toast. Even though French toasts are made from stale bread, the ones at the diner absorbed so much cream beforehand that beneath the crusted skin was a moist toast. I tried looking for brioche at artisan bread shops, even visiting Whole Foods and farmers market, but it was so frustrating that none of the places I visited sold brioche. At last I resorted to a tang zhong milk bread from Yamashiro at Little Tokyo. Although I had a great breakfast, I'm still hoping to make French toast from brioche one day.

First take on brioche at Anne's
I don't recall ever seeing brioche at bread shops, although I've had some at Little Next Door for brunch. A simply rich chocolate chip brioche with a dark cup of latte made my weekend so much merrier. I love how brioche has butter coats your tongue into silk and makes every bite of bread melt in your mouth like a piece of chocolate. There's nothing more delicate than brioche...

I am very blessed to learn to make brioche bread last week from Anne Willan. This is the best summer job anyone can ask for--surrounded by food and antique cook books. If it wasn't for the recipe testing, I would have never dared to make brioche. Brioche recipe is intimidating...with the extra amounts of butter and egg,the dough is simply too sticky and far too challenging for an amateur like me.

Nevertheless, I DID IT! It was a very exciting experience. I pretended that the dough I'm throwing against the counter is the fat spy who reported me to the police when I exceeded the 2 hour parking limit. That nasty woman deserves to be slapped on the counter on all sides! And for 10 minutes long!

What you need for your brioche dough is:
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1/2 cup milk, lukewarm
330g all purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, beaten together

Later you'll need 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, 100g grated cheese of your preference, and more flour.

In a rather flat bowl, let yeast dissolve in milk for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, sift the flour onto workspace and sprinkle sugar and salt on top. Make a well in the center and pour egg mixture and milk into the well. With one hand mix the liquid together, then slowly add in flours.

When you get a sticky dough that's coming together, use a scrapper to cut through the dough and incorporate all the leftover flour. Gather the dough in one hand and throw it against the workspace with force. Then with the other hand repeat the same motion. Stop when the dough peels off like a rope, about 10 minutes. Pat dough into a ball.

Grease a large bowl with vegetable oil and coat the dough on all sides with oil. Lay a towel or plastic wrap on top then let dough rise for 1 hour or until double the size.

On a lightly floured surface, remove the dough from the bowl and gently knead the dough to let air escape. Place butter in center and fold over it with the dough. With your palms squeeze the dough and butter together. Butter might ooze out and the dough will reject the butter at first. Flour the surface again and knead dough for 1 minute. Gather dough and throw against counter for 2-3 minutes. Add grated cheese, reserving 2 tablespoons for topping. Knead cheese into dough for another 2-3 minutes.

Butter loaf pan. Pat the dough out into a square, 1" longer than your loaf pan. From the bottom, roll the dough away from you. Squeeze the gaps together then fold the sizes inward and squeeze the fold to seal. Insert fingers under dough and flip the dough over as you drop it into the loaf pan. Smooth the side and make sure all corners are covered by dough. Cover pan loosely with plastic wrap and let rise for a second time, 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 400F. Make egg wash with one egg and 1/2 teaspoon water. When the loaf pan is almost filled, brush top with egg wash, leaving a quarter inch space on all sides of the dough, so the egg wash doesn't glue the bread down during the baking process. Sprinkle on the reserved cheese and bake for 25 minutes.

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