December 20, 2017
Brioche is a famous french pastry, something between a bread and a cake, whose recipe dates from the early 15th Century. This French bakers’ pride was perfected over the centuries. Today, fragrant, soft, divine brioche with it’s characteristic shape, is served usually in it’s sweet, but also in salty versions. Whether it is because of the rich ingredients that were very expensive at the time, or for it’s demanding preparation process, brioche has always been a synonym for luxury. The story goes that the sentence: “Let them eat cake” unfairly assigned to Marie Antoinette, was originally:“Let them eat brioche” Whatever the case, if you decide to make brioche, we guarantee all the time and effort will be richly rewarded.
For our holiday feast we chose the salty version of this particular recipe rich in butter, eggs, cream and milk. We definitely consider this baked perfection more of a cake than a bread. It is almost puffy in texture, with a soft middle that melts in the mouth, and goes beautifully with our other perfection, real, homemade ajvar.
And don’t be intimidated by the lengthy preparation or the unusual texture of the dough that while made resembles rather a cake mixture than that of bread. Indeed, on paper, brioche seems more complicated than in reality. Everything you need is plenty of patience for the dough to rise several times and to chill for a long, long time, 6 hours at least, and ideally - a whole day. We made our dough in the afternoon, left it to rise over the next 3 hours, and then cooled it over night. The important thing is to warm it as little as possible during making, which is why it’s better to use a mixer, than to mix it by hand. And resist the temptation to add flour, as runny as the dough may seem. The next day we just used fingers to punch holes to let the excess air out, shaped the cake and let it rise for another 1.5h. And that’s it! We’re even sure that once you’ve tried it, you’ll want to make it again. We know we will.
- Prep: 2 hrs
- Cook: 25 mins
- Yields: 8-10 servings
350g white bread flour
7g dry yeast
4 large eggs
200g unsalted butter at room temperature
30g crystal sugar
5g fine salt
20g coarse sea salt
1-2 sprigs of parsley
200g of ajvar
Day before baking:
Dissolve dry yeast, sugar and one or two tsp of flour in milk that’s warmed at body temperature. Leave it for about 10 minute for the yeast to rise.
Sift flour in a large bowl, add salt, and stir in the yeast mixture with a wooden spoon. Then use a mixer at lowest setting to add 4 eggs and after that, gradually add cubed butter. Keep increasing the speed the more butter you add, to bring all the ingredients together. Dough is ready when it stops sticking to the bowl, after about 8-10 minutes of mixing. At this stage, your dough will resemble cake rather than bread mix, because the butter will make it very soft, but don’t let that tempt you into adding extra flour.
Get a clean glass bowl, oil it, and carefully place the dough in. Then spread oil all over it, cover with cling film and a clean moist cloth, and leave in a warm place for at least 2-3 hours, or long enough for it to double in size, at least. When risen, wrap the dough in cling film and leave in the fridge overnight, or at least for 6 hours in a cool place.
On baking day:
Gently press on the dough to release excess air, then cut it into 5 equal pieces. You can use the kitchen scales to make sure they are roughly the same weight. It will be easier to work with now, as the butter has firmed over night, but be quick anyway and avoid kneading too hard.
Cut each of the 5 parts further into 5 parts, and roll each into a ball. Get your pan ready. Line it with a baking sheet, and place a round cutter mold in the center. Arrange the buns around the mold in two circular rows, leaving 0,5cm space between them. Then cover with a cloth, and leave in a warm place to rise for the next 1.5 - 2h.
Now’s the time to turn your oven on, to 170C if you’re using the fan, or 190C for the classic oven. Spread a mixture of yolk and two tablespoons of water over the buns, and sprinkle with sesame and coarse sea salt. Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes. If the top starts to brown too quickly, cover with aluminum foil for the first 15 minutes, to prevent burning.
As soon as you take it out of the oven, spread a mixture of chopped parsley and olive oil over the brioche generously, and serve with ajvar, pinjur or ljutenica, as you prefer.