“The smell of good bread baking, like the sound of lightly flowing water, is indescribable in its evocation of innocence and delight..
Don't they look pretty? Okay, not beautiful maybe but cute? Pretty little breads called Brioche.
For those of you who aren't aware, brioche is an enriched bread as along with the basic ingredients like flour, water, salt and sugar it contains additional ones, butter and eggs. The amount of these ingredients used varies from recipe to recipe. You can add as much butter as you like but it needs to be at least 20 percent of the flour weight to be called as brioche. A really rich and buttery brioche even has 100 percent butter !!
I prefer light breads that are easy on the stomach and have therefore used about 25 percent butter for this recipe. Please feel free to add in more butter if you want to :) You'll find numerous recipes for Brioche that are made with sponges or other pre-ferments, some even without them using the direct dough method. I have used the sponge method here for these beauties.
As many as there are variations in the ingredients and the method used to make Brioche, so are the shapes. You can bake it in a loaf tin, as a round loaf or any other shape that you can imagine. For me, I like to go the old fashioned way. Brioche a tete is what I made, you'll need a special fluted brioche mold (shown in the image below) for them. The molds are available in quite a few sizes, the one that I used is about half a cup measure (I used water to measure). Since I had only 10 of these and the recipe makes about 14, I used 4 plain ones of about the same size.
Let's get ready to make Brioche!
Recipe Source: Peter Reinhart's Bread Baker's Apprentice.
Makes 14 Brioches
For the Sponge
60 grams / 2 ounces bread flour / strong white flour
2 teaspoons instant yeast
1/2 cup whole milk, lukewarm
For the Dough
4 large eggs at room temperature and slightly beaten
430 grams / 15 ounces bread flour / strong white flour
30 grams / 1 ounce granulated sugar
1 plus 1/4 teaspoons regular salt
110 grams / 4 ounces unsalted butter at room temperature
1 egg whisked until frothy for egg glaze
To make the sponge, stir together the flour and yeast in a large mixing bowl or in the bowl of an electric mixer. Stir in the milk until all the flour is hydrated. Cover with plastic wrap and ferment for 30 to 45 minutes or until the sponge rises and then falls when the bowl is tapped.
To make the dough, add the eggs to the sponge and whisk or beat on medium speed with the paddle attachment until smooth. In a separate bowl, stir together flour, sugar and salt. Add this mixture to the sponge and eggs and stir or mix with the paddle attachment on low speed for two minutes until all the ingredients are hydrated and evenly distributed.
Let this mixture rest for 5 minutes. Using a large spoon or the hook attachment on medium speed, add the butter a quarter at a time, waiting till each addition is assimilated.
Transfer the dough to the counter and knead for about 10 minutes, adding a teaspoon of flour if needed, until the dough is very smooth and soft but not too sticky. Alternatively, using the dough hook and on low speed, knead it for about 6 to 8 minutes or until the dough is is very well mixed and clears the side and bottom of the bowl.
Lightly oil a large bowl and rotate the dough in the bowl so as to coat the dough with oil. Cover the bowl with a cling film and let it rest at room temperature until the dough has doubled in size about 90 minutes.
Lightly spray or brush each brioche mold with oil. Remove the dough from the bowl and divide it in 14 equal sized pieces. Shape each piece into a round and smooth it by pressing the ball to expel any air bubbles. Now form your palm into a cup shape and roll the ball against the counter with the help of the palm until it forms a smooth and round ball.
Now divide each ball into a large and small ball by rolling it down with the edge of your hand, but not all the way through the dough as shown in the pic below:
Place the shaped ball into the oiled brioche mold and use the tips of your fingers to indent the top and to round and center the smaller ball.
Lightly spray or brush each shaped dough piece with oil and cover loosely with cling film. Proof the dough until it nearly fills the molds, about 90 mins to 2 hours. Gently brush the tops with the beaten egg and loosely cover again with the cling film. Continue proofing for another 15 to 30 minutes or until the dough fills the molds.
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C / 400 degrees F. Place all the molds in a baking sheet and place it in the preheated oven on the middle rack. Bake until the brioches are golden brown and sound hollow when tapped at the bottom. Alternatively, you can check if the bread is done with a food thermometer as well. It should register at least 90 degrees C / 180 degrees F.
Remove the brioches from the molds and place on a wire rack to cool. Enjoy these pretty little beauties slathered with jam, butter or whatever else you like, Nutella maybe? :)
Storage Suggestions: Brioches can be stored at room temperature in a ziplock bag for up to 2 days.