Friday, March 6, 2015

Adventures in Brioche-Makin' (with recipe)

In the hectic side project that is dealing with my life, I have temporarily forgotten to update my little corner of the Internet.

Today, with my apologies, I offer you all a glimpse of the activity that I have been working at for the past month or so: brioche baking.

The urge to make my own brioche started from mere curiosity. I wanted to embark on the journey of making this traditional French bread...and balked at the idea that the entire process would take around fourteen hours.

However, most of the time in question involved waiting for the dough to rise.

Making a brioche (without a machine, mind you) can at times be frustrating, especially when the result you envisioned is far from the reality.

I offer, as an example, photographic evidence of what I entitle Brioche #1.

I won't sugarcoat my actions: Brioche #1 was a failure from the very beginning. I had used too much liquid which gave the dough a very fluid consistency, even after having dumped extra flour on it.

According to some tips that I had read, the brioche dough needed to proof for approximately ten hours in the refrigerator. Since my fridge's capacity to chill items proves highly effective, I worried that the temperature would slow down the yeast. Despite my better knowledge, I covered the bowl with a damp towel and set it in the fridge.

Ten hours later, the dough had hardened and the stiff towel formed a statue making an interesting cloth interpretation of a small table.

After waiting four extra hours for the dough to de-frost, it became runny once again, albeit in double of its original volume.

When I finally deemed the dough ready for shaping (after fourteen hours), I greased a pan with a knob of unsalted butter and divided the dough. As I found the braided technique too daunting for the first try, I thought that I would instead make five pull-apart briochins. I covered the pan with some aluminum foil and nestled it into the mini counter-top oven that has the bad habit of burning everything.

I started out with this:
If you look closely, the dough's appearance is not at all smooth...

Three hours later: more rising and covered in an egg wash

...And ended up with this.

I only *wish* that I could have had a photo of the look of disappointment on my face when I saw this brioche come out of the oven.

C'est la vie.

However, this failure did not deter me from trying again. I made Brioches #2 (success), #3 (nice form, but the dough was too hard), #4 (pretty good), and finally #5 (success).

I am glad to say that with Brioche #5's achievement, I feel confident enough to post a lesson on how to try to make your own brioche at home. 

A fair warning: I have the horrible tendency to eyeball the ingredients. I also learned how to make the brioche using grams and Celsius; sorry about that, fellow Imperial-unit users. 

Brioche- no machine required

200 grams of wheat flour
2 eggs
75 to 85-ish grams of softened salted butter
30 mL-ish of warm milk
2 teaspoons of cassonade (brown/turbinado sugar)
1 sachet/5 grams of brioche yeast (regular dry yeast works as well, but the taste will change)
Some salt to taste (but not too much since the butter already contains salt)

Egg wash + Pan
1 egg yolk
A splash of milk
Some extra butter to grease the pan

Large bowl
Wooden spoon
Damp towel
Basting brush
A firm grasp of sanity
Killer flexor and extensor muscles

1. Divide the butter into little squares. I do this first to allow for the butter to soften.

2. In a bowl, mix the dry ingredients.

3. Add the warm milk and stir with a fork. The milk shouldn't be too hot; otherwise, it might kill the yeast.

4. Add eggs and mix with a wooden spoon.

The mixture will look very sticky at this point. If it looks/feels TOO dry, don't be afraid to add just a smidgen of milk.

5. Incorporate the butter into the dough in three parts. Use a fork to crush the butter.

6. Try to mix dough with a wooden spoon.

7. Give up and use hands. Thus commences the battle with the sticky dough to make it do what you want.

8. After a while, the dough will start form stringy strands but still remain horribly sticky. Keep battling.

9. Get a stiff pain in your lower arm. Shake arm for a few seconds before you resume the battle to mix the enemy.

10. Eventually, you'll notice that the strands will look more like a homogeneous mass as they start to cling to each other to form a ball. The dough will start sticking less and less to the surface you are working on (and your hands).

11. Knead dough and form it into a ball that has a slight even sheen from the glistening mixture of butter and wheat.

Kinda like this (this picture of Brioche #2 will have to serve as a substitute as I hadn't thought of taking a picture of Brioche #5 during this step)

12. Cover the bowl with a damp (not dripping) towel and place it near a heat source/in a room with no drafts.

13. Allow for 7 to 10 hours for the dough to proof. Yes. Really.

14. After the 7 to 10 hours have passed, dump the risen dough onto a surface and flatten it.

15. Divide the flattened dough into three segments

16. Roll each segment into a long tube.

 17. Align the three tubes to braid them.

18. Braid as if it were soft, stretchy hair.

 19. Transfer the braided dough to the buttered pan.

That's what I get for having a small pan that fits into the mini counter-top oven...
 20. Cover the pan with a damp towel and let the bread rise for three more hours.


Be patient.

21. Once it has risen, cover it with the egg wash using a basting brush.

22. Bake at 200 degrees Celsius for 40 minutes. 

(For those of you using a mini counter-top oven like me, cover the bread with some aluminum foil and uncover during the last ten minutes to allow the bread to brown.)

23. Allow the bread to cool off for two hours before nomming.

24. Nom.

Barb the French Bean