Sunday, May 9, 2010

Ann's March Bread: Brioche

Okay, okay, I know that this post is WICKED late, and I've been enticing the wrath of my sister for the past six weeks. I had good reasons! Such as school and getting engaged. Guess which one I enjoyed more...that's right, reference class! Just kidding, sweetie.

After failing at my bread planning last month, I was determined to do better this month. I only succeeded marginally, but that counts! My entry for an egg bread is brioche, which is a French white loaf bread with lots of butter and eggs to make it rich, almost cake-like (still clinging to last year...). I've never actually had brioche before, so I don't have anything to compare it with to make sure mine was good, but I thought it was really good.

So one of the other reasons I didn't make brioche last month was that, besides my bad timing, I each recipe I looked at said that you couldn't use a hand-held mixer because of the lengthy mixing time the dough requires to get elastic and satiny, and it's a really wet dough that wouldn't work at all to knead by hand (this totally makes sense after having made it). Dorie (I like to think we're on a first name basis now) said in her recipe that she mixed it by hand the first time she made brioche, and it was worse than running a half-marathon. One of the hallmarks of my existence is my laziness, so there was no way I was going to do that. Instead, I elected to spend a day with my lovely friend Mrs. H-B, who happens to have a Kitchen Aid mixer (my #1 priority on my gift registry). I decided to make two recipes (Dorie's and Ina's), just to see what the differences were in texture, since they had quite different methods. Well, my normal method of not adequately planning for time was once again true in this case. I had to keep the Dorie brioche dough refrigerated for a while, and that meant that I had to stay at Mrs. H-B's until super super late. One of the requirements of the recipe was to lift up the dough every half hour to deflate it. Since I also had an hour-long drive home, so this meant that I just reached over to the passenger's seat and punched it down every half hour, and then continued along with one greasy hand.

When I got home, I stored both doughs in the fridge overnight, and then baked them the next day. First, the Ina dough finished, and I couldn't wait for it to cool to before I started eating it. AMAZING. The bread was soft, pliable, and pulled apart in an almost like petals made of elastic. Yeah, I know that doesn't make any sense, but I've thought that analogy for days, and that's what I'm going with. I shared this with Megs and her visiting parents, and we slathered each piece with homemade blackberry jam from Padre. It was completely decadent, but felt comforting and cozy instead of rich. There was a very slight sweetness and the eggs gave it a really distinct flavor that was so different than your average loaf of bread. It had twice as many eggs as the Dorie loaf, which gave it a much deeper yellow color.

The next day, I tried the Dorie loaf. It was also good, but didn't have that same elasticity (although it wasn't as prevalent in Ina's after it cooled, either), and didn't rise as much as the other too. I'm not sure if this was because of my haphazard rising in the car, but the dough was absolutely gorgeous before I got it home (or maybe it dried out too much in the fridge too?), so I'm guessing that's what happened. And, frankly, Dorie has never steered me wrong. Based on pictures from other blogs that have tried the same recipe, I'm pretty certain I just did it wrong. I'll have to try it again when it doesn't involve prying plastic wrap off the bowl with one hand while I try to navigate rural Indiana roads with the other.

The Dorie bread is in the front, the Ina bread in the back.

Ina Garten's Brioche
from Barefoot in Paris

1/2 cup warm water
1 package dried yeast
3 tablespoons sugar
6 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
4 1/4 cups unbleached flour
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 egg mixed with 1 tablespoon milk, for egg wash

Combine the water, yeast, and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix with your hands and allow the stand for 5 minutes until the yeast and sugar dissolve. Add the eggs and beat on medium speed for 1 minute, until well mixed. With the mixer on low speed, add 2 cups of the flour and salt and mix for 5 minutes. With the mixer still on low, add 2 more cups of flour and mix for 5 more minutes. Still on low speed, add the soft butter in chunks and mix for 2 minutes, scraping down the beater, until well blended. With the mixer still running, sprinkle in the remaining 1/4 cup of flour. Switch the paddle attachment to a dough hook and mix on low speed for 2 minutes. Scrape the dough into a large buttered bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight.

The next day, allow the dough to sit at room temperature for 1 hour. Grease two 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 x 2 1/2-inch loaf pans. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured board and cut in half. Pat each portion into a 6 x 8-inch rectangle, then roll up each rectangle into a cylindrical loaf. Place each loaf, seam side up, into a greased pan. Cover the pans with a damp towel and set aside to rise at room temperature until doubled in volume, 2 to 2 1/2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. When the loaves have risen, brush the top of each with the egg wash and bake for 45 minutes, or until the top springs back and it sounds slightly hollow when tapped. Turn the loaves out onto a wire rack to cool.

Dorie Greenspan's Brioche

from Baking: From My Home to Yours

1/3 cup warm water
1/3 cup warm milk
2 envelopes active dry yeast
3 3/4 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
3 large eggs (room temperature)
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks, 12 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into pieces, at room temperature
Egg wash:1 egg, beaten to blend with 1 tablespoon water

Place 1/3 cup warm water, warm milk and yeast in the bowl of a standing heavy-duty mixer; stir until yeast dissolves and let proof for 10 minutes. Add flour and salt, mix on low speed just until flour is moistened, about 1-2 minutes. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Beat in the eggs on low speed, then add sugar. On medium speed, beat until the dough comes together, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to low. Add butter, two tablespoons at a time, beating until each piece is almost incorporated before adding next. Increase speed to medium-high and beat until dough pulls away from sides of bowl, about 10 minutes. Transfer the dough into a clean bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise at room temperature until almost doubled in volume, about 1 hour. Punch the dough down to deflate it every 30 minutes until it stops rising (it will take 2 hours in total). Cover bowl with plastic and chill in the refrigerator overnight. The next day, butter and flour 2 large loaf pans (8 1/2*4 1/2 inches). Divide dough into 2 equal pieces. Cut each dough half into 4 logs. Arrange logs crosswise in bottom of each prepared loaf pan. Place loaf pans on baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap and let rise for another 2 hours. Preheat oven to 400°F. Brush the brioches with the egg wash (be careful not to deflate, be gentle) and bake until they are golden brown and sound hollow when tapped, about 30-35 minutes. Let cool to room temperature, then run a knife around the side of the pans and turn the loaves out onto a rack. The loaves can also be wrapped airtight and frozen for up to 2 months.