Who doesn't love brioche? Who doesn't love cinnamon and sugar? Who doesn't love a fancy braided loaf of bread? Unless you're the peculiar person who doesn't like any of the above, you're definitely going to love this bread. And it's a good thing, too, because it makes one huge loaf, which is just as well, because if you're going to spend a few hours trying to get this buttery, sticky dough to do what you want it to do, you might as well have something to show for it.
We've made brioche dough plenty of times before, but this is the first time we've doubled the recipe. This means that you get to mix in two sticks of butter instead of just one.
This is the burning question with brioche dough: how much flour to use when you're working with the dough? If you don't use enough, you're going to be in big trouble because the dough will stick to your hands, the countertop, and anything else it touches. It's like a horror movie: The Brioche Blob. If you use too much, you'll sacrifice some of the airy, light texture.
It's surprisingly easy to roll it out into a very large circle. (Jim was afraid I'd run out of counter space before I got the requisite 20-22-inch diameter).
I include this photo just to prove that I really did strain the egg. I'll admit that when I first read this instruction, I thought, "I am not going to strain an egg. That's just one step too many." I may have sounded less delicate than this, but I can't say for sure. Then I read the warning about using the least amount of egg glue possible, to avoid making the dough any harder to work with than necessary. I figured that straining it might save me from myself, and it did. I ended up using all the egg I'd strained and wishing I had more. Sure enough, though, the egg ended up liquifying the cinnamon-sugar mixture. If I'd used more, it would have been awful.
I used a bench scraper instead of a ruler. It worked fine. It worked as well as a ruler would have, anyway, which is not necessarily "fine." The dough stubbornly stuck to the countertop, and the bench scraper and I had to together first tried to coddle it and then finally just gave it firm orders to cooperate. Actually, neither technique worked that well, but we finally got it rolled up.
You can see that, even rolled up into a cylinder, the dough still wants to cling to the counter.
At this point, you attack the cylinder of dough with a sharp chef's knife. Really? How bizarre, I thought. But then I saw how cool it was going to look. The recipe says it was originally a savory bread from the Caucasus. I'm very curious to find out what ingredients a savory version would have. I'm also curious to find out how to spell the caucasus, which are not like caucuses. (It looks like I did spell it right). Little known fact: Minnesota is one of the few states that gets its delegates through precinct caucuses instead of a binding primary. Caucuses are very boring because they're pure democracy, which seems to encourage people who have obscure bones to pick to come and pick them in public.
Starting to braid the split cylinder. I was very doubtful that this was going to work out.
But it did, more or less, although it was tricky to move the dough from the counter into the springform pan. Luckily, I just bought a 10-inch springform pan last month to make Jim's birthday cake. Luckily, it was nonstick, and I figured this bread would give it a chance to prove its mettle.
And so it did.
The only thing I didn't like was the big center of plain dough. Jim said it was just the thing to contrast with the swirls. He was just trying to get on my good side so I wouldn't give all the bread away.
The bread tastes as good as it looks--delicate, light and flavorful, with the added pizzazz of sugar and cinnamon. I used four teaspoons of Vietnamese cinnamon, and thought it was just the right amount. I go back and forth between greed (wishing I'd put cinnamon and sugar on top of the bread too, instead of just on the insides), and practicality (being glad I didn't, so loose sugar didn't spill everywhere as I was eating it). In the end, I satisfied my greedy side by simply taking another slice of bread.