Monday, June 8, 2015
Classic Brioche Loaf
I've probably made Rose's brioche dozens of times over the years. I've braided it, made it with a topknot, used it for dinner rolls and hamburger buns, used it as the base for more complicated recipes, but mostly I've just made it in a simple loaf. Unless you only like rustic, wheaty, dense, chewy, and thickly crusty bread, you're going to like this brioche. First of all, although it's time-consuming, most of that time is unattended, like some mythical toddler who plays quietly by himself for hours at a time and then comes cheerfully to you for a few minutes of quality time.
Here, for example, I made the sponge and the flour mixture, and let them rise for about an hour. Then I put them in the refrigerator and went to bed. The next morning, after my first cup of coffee and some toast made from last week's ricotta loaf, I was ready for the next step.
For all the time I spent throwing in one tablespoon of softened butter and waiting for it to get distributed, the batter wasn't completely evenly mixed when I took it out of the mixer. I decided that after it had risen I'd just knead it a little by hand before turning it.
That actually worked just fine. I was afraid at first that the harder parts wouldn't mix well with the softer parts, but it just took a few turns for everything to mix together. I'm sure there's some kind of diplomacy lesson in there, but I can't figure out how to make a pithy saying out of it.
After being in the refrigerator for another day, the dough was still lively and cooperative. It's a perfect Minnesota bread: unfazed by the cold but loving the heat. This is kind of out of nowhere, but did you know that Minnesota is on the same latitude as the French Riviera? And yet we definitely don't live on anything like the French Riviera. This factoid has always made me feel very sad about living in Minnesota in the winter, because not only is it cold, it's also unfair.
If not being on the French Riviera should bother anyone, I'm guessing it should bother the brioche, whose provenance is French, after all. Despite its buttery, delicate appearance, brioche dough doesn't seem bothered by anything.
Including being splashed with egg yolks and cream. (It didn't sink).
And being slashed (it didn't collapse.)
It just turned into a shiny, perfectly browned loaf of bread. I've learned to let bread brown an extra five minutes past the time I first think it's done. The loaf with a burnished brown exterior seems to have a deeper taste than the loaf that's a mild golden brown. The danger is obvious--you can end up with a burned loaf of bread. However, unlike a burned pie crust, which really can't be salvaged, a burned loaf of bread can merely have the offending crusts removed.
Sorry that there are no shots of the interior of the loaf. Just as I was about to cut off a slice and let Woody try it, (yes, Woody is here again, and we are making Woody's Black and White Brownies as I type--he's waiting for the cream cheese to soften and I'm finishing up here). As I was about to cut into the loaf, I remembered that I had book club on Tuesday and my assignment was to bring bread. So I put it in the freezer so it would stay fresh for a few days.
I look forward to seeing what you did with your brioche, and I hope you love it as much as I do.