Brioche (at last)

I decided to wait no more but to start working on my tutorial or notes rather, on Brioche (bree-OHSH). I had my virgin attempt using Francois Payard‘s recipe from his book Chocolate Epiphany and loved the loaf of rich, tender bread. It was decided then that I should bake Brioche again and create different baked goods using the master recipe.

Brioche is made from a rich dough and it’s so called because of its high fat content which comprises a generous amount of eggs and butter. This high ratio of fat makes this dough difficult to work with, but the flavour is well worth the effort. Like all yeast breads, it begins with water, yeast, flour and salt.

The general procedure for mixing brioche dough:

1. Have all ingredients at room temperature.

2. Hydrate the yeast, then combine it with the flour, salt, sugar and eggs. Mix until a soft dough or sponge is formed. This step gives the fermentation a head start. which in turn gives the finished bread a more pronounced flavour.

3. Knead the dough on medium speed for 15 to 20 minutes until it is smooth and shiny.

4. Add the butter in small increments, kneading until the butter is incorporated before adding more. Continue this process until all of the butter has been absorbed into the dough, approximately 8 to 15 minutes.

5. Cover the dough and ferment at room temperature until doubled. This second fermentation is usually referred to as rising or doubling. The longer this process takes, the more flavour develops in the dough.

6. Punch down the dough, then cover and refrigerate overnight. Punching, which is actually a brief knead (not literally punch!) or fold, deflate the dough, expelling carbon dioxide that has built up and letting fresh oxygen in to feed the yeast, prolonging the fermentation. The dough then doubles again, usually in the refrigerator.

7. Divide and mold the chilled brioche dough into desired shapes. Brush with egg wash or cover lightly and proof until doubled in volume. Do not proof brioche in a very warm place; the butter may melt out of the dough before proofing is complete. Professional bakers use a proof box, in which the heat and humidity can be controlled. At home, we can create a similar environment by simply covering the loaf with oiled plastic wrap.

8. Bake in a moderate oven until the crust is deep golden brown. Cool in pans on racks for 10 minutes to prevent the loaves from collapsing, then remove the bread from the pans and finish cooling on racks.

Source: The Secrets of Baking by Sherry Yard & On Baking: A textbook of baking and pastry fundamentals by Sarah R. Labensky, Priscilla Martel and Eddy Van Damme.

For this basic brioche, I’m using Chef Joanne Chang’s recipe from Flour since I’ll be baking other brioche treats from the same cookbook. =)

Basic Brioche (Joanne Chang’s Flour cookbook)

315g unbleached all-purpose flour
340g bread flour
3 1/ 4 tsp active dry yeast
82g sugar
1 tbsp kosher salt
120g cold water
5 eggs
310g unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into 10 to 12 pieces

1. In a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine the all-purpose flour, bread flour, yeast, sugar, salt, water and eggs. Beat on low speed for 3 to 4 minutes or until all of the ingredients have come together. Stop the mixer as needed to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl to make sure all of the flour is incorporated into the wet ingredients. Once the dough has come together, beat on low speed for another 3 to 4 minutes. The dough will be very stiff and seem quite dry.

2. On low speed (2), add the butter one piece at a time, mixing after each addition until it disappears into the dough. Then, continue mixing on low speed for about 10 minutes, stopping the mixer occasionally to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl.

3. Once the butter is completely incorporated, turn up the speed to medium, and beat for another 15 minutes, or until the dough becomes sticky, soft and somewhat shiny. Then turn the speed to medium-high and beat for about 1 minute (the mixer’s motor gets hot!). You should hear the sough make a slap-slap-slap sound as it hits the sides of the bowl.

4. Place the sough on a large bowl and cover it with plastic wrap, pressing the wrap directly onto the surface of the dough. Let the dough proof in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours or up to overnight.

At the same time, I prepared the pastry cream too so that the next day, I could proceed to making Brioche Au Chocolat. Using the recipe from her cookbook again…

Pastry cream

300g milk
100g sugar
30g cake flour
1/2 tsp kosher salt
4 egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla extract

What do you do with the egg whites then? Guess what? Macarons!

1. In a saucepan, scald the milk over medium-high heat (bubbles start to form around the edge of the pan, but the milk is not boiling). While the milk is heating, in a small bowl, stir together the sugar, flour, and salt. (Mixing the flour with the sugar will prevent the flour from clumping when you add it to the egg yolks). In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks until blended, then slowly whisk in the flour mixture. The mixture will be thick and pasty.

2. Remove the milk from the heat and slowly add it to the egg-flour mixture, a little at a time, whisking constantly. When all of the milk has been incorporated, return the contents of the bowl to the saucepan and place over medium heat. Whisk continuously and vigorously for about 3 minutes, or until the mixture thickens and comes to a boil.

3. Pour the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a small heat-proof bowl. Stir in the vanilla, then cover with plastic wrap, placing it directly on the surface of the cream. This will prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or until cold, or up to 3 days.

Let’s continue with it tomorrow!