Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Golden Brioche

I have been on a bread making kick lately; partially inspired by the goal I stated a while ago on my to cook/bake list, and partially because I'm trying to minimize the amount of processed foods that come into my house. My transformation to crunchy hippie is nearly complete!

Anyway, this delicious, buttery brioche was made for the purpose of trying to recreate a sandwich I had in Chicago that knocked my socks off. I started it on Saturday afternoon at around 3 and it finished baking about 24 hours later, and if that's not a lot of freaking effort for a sandwich that took me about 2 minutes to eat, I don't know how to make more of an effort.

It was also totally worth it.

I was a little nervous it wouldn't turn out. I mean, look at these:

They were supposed to rise to fill the pan within two hours. That didn't really happen, particularly not with the pan on the bottom. I'd say they probably doubled in size, but that still wasn't nearly large enough. Since I didn't need three loaves of brioche (I didn't really need two either, but this was the best looking recipe I could find) I made the other third of the dough into bubble-top brioche rolls. These, at least, looked a little more promising in the pan:

(A note about the pan: it's as old as I am (if not older) and I inherited it from my mom when I moved into my first apartment. It's so well seasoned you barely have to grease it, and I love the size.

Anyway, the rolls turned out wonderfully, so I had a little more hope for the bread after that.

The loafs were totally different sizes; the small one never really rose, while the larger one took off once in the oven. They both taste even better than the rolls, though, so I don't care that they didn't rise like I expected. I would declare this recipe completely worth the three sticks (!)  of butter it contains.

(And here's a sneak peek at the reason I made the bread in the first place.)

Golden Brioche
Adapted from Epicurious

1/3 c. warm water (105 to 115 degrees F)
1/3 c. warm milk (105 to 115 degrees F)
2 envelopes dry yeast (4 1/2 tsp from a larger container)
3 3/4 c. all purpose flour
2 tsp. salt
3 large eggs
1/4 c. sugar
1 1/2 c. (3 sticks) unsalted butter, each stick cut into 4 pieces, room temperature (This last part is very important)

1 egg, beaten to blend with 1 tablespoon water (for glaze)

Place 1/3 c. warm water, warm milk, and yeast in a bowl of a standing heavy-duty mixer; stir until yeast dissolves (this took about 2 minutes). Fit mixer with dough hook. Add flour and salt to bowl; mix on low speed just until flour is moistened, about 10 seconds. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl. Beat in 3 eggs on low speed, then add sugar. Increase speed to medium and beat until dough comes together, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to low. Add butter, 1 piece at a time, beating until each piece is almost incorporated before adding next (dough will be soft and batter-like). Increase speed to medium-high and beat until dough pulls away from sides of bowl, about 7 minutes.

Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rise at room temperature until almost doubled in volume, about 1 hour. Lift up dough around edges and allow dough to fall and deflate in bowl. Cover bowl with plastic and chill until dough stops rising, lifting up dough around edges and allowing dough to fall and deflate in bowl every 30 minutes, about 2 hours total. Cover bowl with plastic; chill dough overnight.

Butter and flour 3 normal-sized bread pans (my two were different sizes, and I only have two, so that's also why I made the rolls). Divide dough into 3 equal pieces. For each loaf, cut one of the pieces into four equal pieces. Roll each into a short log, about the width of your loaf pan. Arrange logs crosswise in bottom of each prepared loaf pan. Cover pans with waxed paper. Let loaves rise at room temperature until dough almost fills pans, about 2 hours. (I let mine rise 3 hours and it had not almost filled pans, but it was time to bake them so we could have dinner at a normal time.)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Gently brush top of loaves with egg glaze. Bake until loaves are golden brown and sound hollow when tapped, about 30 minutes. Cool in pans on racks 15 minutes. Turn loaves out onto racks; cool at least 1 hour.

(For the rolls, cut the piece into 6 equal pieces and each of those pieces into 3 pieces, which you then roll into balls, placing 3 balls in each cup. Allow to rise for about an hour or two, until the dough has risen above the rim of the pan by about 1/2 to 1 inch. Glaze with egg mixture. Bake at 400 degrees F for 20 minutes. Let cool in pan on rack for 10 minutes, then turn out onto rack.)

If you'd like to freeze a loaf, cool completely then wrap each loaf in foil; place in resealable plastic bags and freeze up to one month. Rewarm thawed loaves wrapped in foil in 350 degree F oven for about 15 minutes, if desired.

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