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random musings of a crazy cat lady

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Recipe Geek (Yuppie Food Snob Edition): Brioche

Recently, I was reading an online advice column, and someone wrote in about her formerly cool bohemian friend who started dating an investment banker and turned into a boring yuppie food snob who preferred eating homemade brioche to hanging out on the couch drinking beer like she used to enjoy doing. So, if any of you wrote in about me and just threw in the part about the investment banker to throw me off, knock it off!
I admit to being a foodie and occasionally a food snob, but so far that hasn't hindered my enjoyment of hanging out drinking beer with friends. Besides, I've never made brioche until now.
Brioche is a rich bread, with a lot of eggs and butter. You can bake it in loaf pans or in a fluted pan, or as rolls. You can also roll it out and fill it with chocolate chips or use it a the base for more pastry-like stuff such as cinnamon rolls, or coffee-cake. It's a little bit unusual in that it both has a lot of gluten and a lot of butter. The dough is kneaded extensively prior to adding the butter, to really let the gluten develop. Taste-wise, it's like a cross between croissants and challah.
So of course, being a boring yuppie foodie, my first response to the advice column was not that the friend was a boring yuppie foodie, but that I'd been meaning to make some brioche in my new mixer. I used the recipe in the book that came with the mixer. It's a two-day process. I started it last night. The recipe calls for a LOT of mixing (30 minutes). I would not want to knead it by hand. That's why I've never made it before. You make a sponge, then add a bunch of eggs and flour and beat the crap out of it with the mixer. I was distracted and forgot to add one of the aliquots of flour at the right time, so mine got even more mixing. After that, a ton of butter is added, a few tablespoons at a time. You then beat the shit out of it for a few more minutes, then let it rise. While the mixer was doing its thing, I wrote my previous blog post, talked to my mom on the phone and drank a Mike's Hard Lemonade (see - there's hope for me yet!). The mixer held up great and didn't overheat.
After it rises, you put it in the fridge overnight to cool off. After a few hours in the fridge, it had risen a lot. I punched it down. This morning, it had doubled in size again, even though it's pretty cold in my fridge. There's some serious gluten action going on in this bread, due to all the mixing and also due to me using bread flour instead of all-purpose. I punched it down, divided it into three portions, and froze one of the dough balls. (All the recipes in the mixer book are sized for the big mixer, so the one I used was 1 1/2 times bigger than the one on the web.) I shaped the other two dough balls and set them in loaf pans and let them rise for about an hour and a half or so. I then glazed them with an egg yolk wash and put them in the oven.After about 15 minutes, they had doubled in size (again) and were starting to get glossy and brown on top. Ten minutes later, they had risen even more, hit the oven rack above, and sagged down on one side. D'ohh! I shouldn't have let them rise so much!
After the loaves were done baking, I let them cool. They shrunk a little bit but not much. It was very tasty - eggy but not too eggy, and very buttery. Nonetheless, I'll probably go with fewer egg yolks/more whole eggs if I make it again. I'll probably also use all-purpose flour.

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