Beautiful Brioche

What better time to try out a long awaited recipe for Brioche than an ‘ice day’?  There is an ice storm on the way and every school and business for over 100 miles in each direction is closed.  Even the base is closed (essential personnel only report to work today – everyone thinks that they are so essential to their own office but most are so happy on days like today to not be too essential!). I’ll be blogging this recipe as I get to each step today.  I have never tried this recipe so it could be a total disaster!  But I have a good feeling about this one..

It’s no secret that I may a huge fan of The Great British Bake Off show.  I’ve watched all of the available seasons over and over and learn and notice something new each time.  For my birthday in December, my husband bought me a cook book that I had asked for.  The book is called Crumb by Ruby Tandoh and it is easily my favorite cookbook EVER! I tend to read cookbooks the way most people read novels.  But this one I have poured over, repeatedly reading and re-reading the recipes, notes, and advice.  I quite simply love it.

Of all the recipes in the book, the one I wanted to try first is Ruby’s Brioche.  I adore the buttery, rich flavor a great brioche.  Just this last September I spent the month of September in Biloxi, Mississippi at Keesler AFB for a class.  With no husband or kids to cook for, I planned to spend the month eating healthy and working out every day.  Well, the workouts happened (almost every day!) but the fresh French brioche that is so readily available that close to New Orleans sabotaged my healthy eating attempts!  It was just too good to avoid.  As a matter of fact, the grocery stores had very little mass produced bread loaves.  Most of what they sold was fresh baked bread from local bakeries.  So of course I ate brioche daily!

This morning I woke up at 2am and couldn’t go back to sleep so, of course, I decided to make the recipe that I have been looking forward to the most from Ruby’s book.  Brioche takes time.  I like to knead my bread by hand.  Sure, it makes a mess but I like to feel the bread as the gluten develops.  You can tell when it’s ready and, honestly, it’s just fun and therapeutic.  After kneading this dough for a while, you mix in the butter which is a bit weird.  The dough that has developed gluten during a 10 to 12 minute kneading does not readily accept the butter.  Just ignore the mess and keep going.  Squishing and squeezing until the dough and butter are mixed was probably the most fun I have ever had with dough.  Trust me, just enjoy the process!!

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Mix the butter with the dough by hand a little at a time.

Just so you see the time involved, I’ll let you know the timeline to complete this recipe.  When I got up a 2 am, I took the butter, eggs and milk out of the frig because I like all of my ingredients to be at room temperature before I start.  At about 3:45 am I starting mixing the ingredients, kneading and playing with this wonderful dough. It was about 4:20am when I put it in the bowl, covered it and left it for it’s first rise.  Now, it is 6:20 and it has doubled in size and is ready to go in the frig for a very long rest.

Most bread can benefit from a rest in the frig but it is crucial for brioche.  This is when the yeast goes dormant and the flavors develop.  So be patient and give it as long as you can.  Ruby recommends between 6 and 18 hours.  Then there will be another rise at room temperature.  This is why I chose today for this recipe. I have time!  Time to let it rise and rest and rise again before finally baking it. And then most likely eating most of it before going to bed tonight!  What can I say, I can’t resist a fresh baked loaf!!

So I just punched down the dough, covered it tightly again and put it in the frig.  It was wetter than I expected when I punched it down – it stuck to my knuckles which usually doesn’t happen when I bake bread.  Maybe I didn’t knead enough and develop enough gluten? We’ll see! Like I said, I’m blogging this after each step so you’ll know when I do if this is a success or failure!!  I plan to take the bread out of the frig around 3:30pm for it’s final rise so that I can bake it in time for dinner. That will 9 hours for it develop.  We shall see if that is enough!!

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UPDATE:  Still no sleep but I’m REALLY looking forward to eating this bread!  It came out of the frig at about 3:30.  If I had any patience at all, I would have let it rest longer to give it time to build up a great flavor.  But 9 hours in the frig was as long as I could wait!

So I greased an 8 inch spring form pan and layered parchment paper in the bottom.  Then I pried the very cold and firm dough out of the bowl and pressed it into the pan, covered it and it is rising and, if I’m honest, driving me crazy!  I’m hungry and more than a little sleepy and some warm, freshly baked brioche is about the best comfort food I can think of right now!

FINAL UPDATE:  My brioche did not rise the way I expected.  It is a bit humid in the house due to all the rain/ice/snow outside but I keep it warm in here, for sure!  (I hate being cold – just can’t handle it and neither can bread dough!)  So this loaf was left to rise longer than called for in Ruby’s recipe but that happens with bread.  Temperature and humidity levels affect how the dough behaves so much!  Once it was almost doubled in size, I baked it up, cooled it and cut off a piece.  OK, I’ll be honest, I didn’t wait until it was completely cooled.  I just couldn’t!  The flavor was good, it was well baked and a beautiful brown color.  But it was also a bit dry.  I have read that that can happen in doughs with lots of butter.  That’s a bit contrary to what I thought would happen and I’m not at all sure for the reasoning behind that but I will be reading more to figure it out!  I plan to make Ruby’s Brioche many more times until I get it right!

Note: I don’t plan to share Ruby’s recipe here on the blog since I feel that it is her’s and she is sharing it in her cookbook to sell books!  I know they say that lists of ingredients are not copyright, but to get the recipe in it’s entirety, but Ruby’s book, Crumb.  I promise, you won’t regret it!

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