After spending the morning on work-related conference calls (we’re working from home due to the severe weather in the NorthEast), moving all of my outdoor furniture indoors, and carefully reading weather reports and viewing graphical wind representations, I took some time to make brioche. You may think this is bizarre, however, the methodic nature of baking calms me, sets me to rights, brings me back to the world of the rational and sensible. So when I hear frantic meteorologists predicting that this storm is unlike anything we’ve ever seen, when I hear words like devastation, evacuation, flooding, I try to find center, remain calm and collected.
I invite you to try this buttery loaf with a fragrant light interior and a glossy tanned exterior. The loaf reminds me of the 1980s Ban de Soleil commercials, where a lithe model drapes her tawny legs on the sand, tosses on her hat and shades. This is a Ban de Soleil loaf, my friends, in its decadence and beautiful hue. Brioche made in a loaf tin is known as brioche nanterre, where four balls of dough (instead of two) are nestled into a tin, allowing them to bloom. Granted, the butter count is pretty lofty, however this isn’t a brioche for the weak of heart. This is a simple, divine loaf, which should be married with creamy butter, cheese or preserves.
INGREDIENTS: Recipe courtesy of Michael Paul’s Sweet Paris
2 1/2 tsp dried yeast (1 packet)
2 tbsp lukewarm water
2 tbsp caster (superfine) sugar
250g (2 cups) bread flour
1/2 tsp kosher salt
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
225g (80z, 1 stick) unsalted butter, diced, at room temperature
For the glaze: 1 egg
Sprinkle the yeast into the water in a bowl and leave in a warm place for 5 minutes until bubbles appear.
In a separate bowl, combine the sugar, flour and salt. Pour the flour and yeast mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. Mix on a low speed and then add the eggs. Beat on low for one minute and then increase the speed to high for 10 minutes until the dough comes away from the sides of the bowl. You will be tempted to pause before 10 minutes. A word of advice: RESIST TEMPTATION. Add the butter gradually and beat for another 5 minutes until the dough is glossy and elastic.
Transfer the dough to a large bowl, cover with a tea towel and leave at room temperature for 2 hours until the dough has doubled in size. Lightly flour the surface of your counter, and lift the sticky risen dough and divide into four equal pieces. Roll each piece into a ball, kneading it until smooth. For those of you not familiar with the kneading technique, it’s simple. With one hand, grab the back of the dough with your fingers and push it back out with the heel of your hand.
Place the four balls closely, side-by-side, in a lightly buttered loaf tin approximately 9×4 inches. Cover again with a damp cloth and leave at room temperature for 1/2 hour. Pre-heat the oven to 180C/350F. When ready to bake, using a pair of scissors, cut a cross in each ball before glazing. For the glaze, beat the egg and brush over the top.
Bake for 20-25 minutes until well-risen and golden brown (be careful to not overcook! I took mine out after 20 minutes), then cool on a wire rack. Serve while still warm with creamy French butter, preserves, or a hunk of your favorite cheese.