Friday, 18 April 2008

Brioche

I think it is probably impossible to reproduce at home the brioche you can buy in the boulangerie-pâtisserie, but you can certainly produce something with more character than the supermarket version.

Brioche these days is well-known for being the 'cake' Marie-Antoinette suggested the populace ate in the absence of bread (although some sources point out that as an Austrian, she may actually have referred to Kugelhopf). C'est la même farine - the issue is she was having a blonde day and they are leavened breads enriched with egg and fat to produce a treat, not everyday fare, unless you were rich.

I used Andrew Whitley's recipe from Bread Matters. Like Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's Meat, this is part polemic, part recipe collection, aptly subtitled 'the state of modern breadmaking and a definitive guide to baking your own'. I can recommend it, although you may never be able to face supermarket bread again. The discussion and instructions for brioche covers six pages (the recipe proper takes up four of these). He begins by saying: 'Making brioche by hand is an experience: it's pleasantly energetic, and quite a challenge to incorporate so much butter into a seemingly unwilling dough. Eating it is the reward for trusting in a favourable result when all the evidence seems to suggest disaster. Doing it yourself means that you can avoid the strange compound fats that are used to eke out expensive dairy butter in [supermarket] brioche, not to mention the gratuitous additives that make it look good and 'keep' for an improbably long time. If you make it yourself, you can eat it genuinely fresh.'Incorporating the butter into the dough is done by squishing and stretching the mixture between the hands for about 15 minutes. It is not kneaded on the bench like an ordinary bread.It's a good idea to prove the dough overnight in the fridge. It makes it more manageable when shaping for the tin, and means you can produce it warm for breakfast. It is not necessary ( or worth it for home baking) to put the dough in a special brioche mould. Here I have made four mounds which will merge together somewhat once proved and cooked. Simon was worried that the tin was not very photogenic, but my feeling is that it is an honest, good quality, well-used tin.The end result looks and tastes rather like fruitless, spiceless Chelsea buns (but better than that sounds). This brioche is not sweet, but ideal for tearing up and dipping into chocolat chaud* before eating.

Susan

*The hot chocolate is in a mug made by my Australian potter friends Ricky, Elise and Gillian.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hi Susan, Someone once told me, the best hot chocolate they ever tasted was made by sticking a "flake" into a mug of hot milk, haven't tried it myself but sounds like a real indulgence....Margaret

Susan and Simon said...

I doubt if Flakes have enough actual chocolate in them to make really decent hot chocolate. We favour Poulain drinking chocolate and if we have any in the house I usually add a square of good chocolate (70% or above cocoa solids) and a slurp of cream. I don't think you can get Poulain outside of France, although it is now made by Cadbury Schweppes. Some day I will have to try making hot chocolate the Spanish way, with water - which sounds really unpromising, but gives you a great chocolate sludge to dip your breakfast pastry of choice into.
Susan

chm said...

I'll have a piece of your brioche anytime with hot tea in that lovely cup. Australia is not as far as it looks!

Louise said...

Susan, I believe if you offered your brioche and thick hot chocolate out your (Plailly) front door every morning, people would show up in droves, Euros in hand.

Louise said...

Preuilly, not Plailly! I was having a flashback.

Susan and Simon said...

chm - I'm a bit disturbed that you would choose tea over chocolate, but since you are planning to go to Australia to do it, perhaps you intend trying the Tim Tam straw (look it up - you'll either be amused or grossed out :-)

Louise - thanks for your faith, but I think in matters like this, there is always going to be a French person who can do it better than me.
Susan

wcs said...

They look delicious. Will you be serving them with champagne at elevensies?

chm said...

That Tim Tam thing sounds great. I must confess that for breakfast when in France, I dip my fresh baguette into a nice, hot cup of Lapsang Souchong.
If and when [sigh] I go to Australia, I'll definitely try a Tim Tam. But, this time, Australia is much, much farther than it looks! Crossing the US and the Atlantic and back is almost too much for me already!

Susan and Simon said...

wcs - you lush ;-) I don't think combining brioche and crémant would do either of them any favours. Might experiment with cheesy brioche just for you though.
chm - yes, getting to Australia from here is one of the world's least fun journeys.
Baguette and Lapsang Souchong...hmm...wouldn't you be better off just having burnt toast? :-) I do have a packet of Lapsang Souchong in the cupboard at all times - but it's not for drinking - it's for faking that 'just off the barbeque' flavour. I grind it to a powder and rub it in to meat with various spices.
Susan

wcs said...

I don't live 30 mins. away from Loches for nothing...