petite brioche

Every now and then I come across something that tastes so good, I just know it can’t be good for me. I try to convince myself that I really shouldn’t know how it’s made or what goes in it, cause after all, ignorance can be bliss. Do I really need to know how much butter goes into a croissant? or in that slice of red velvet cake from my favorite bakery? or how much cream is in that heavenly chocolate mousse? For better or for worse, culinary school didn’t give me an option =P

After surviving almost a year in Paris and who knows how many pounds of butter we went through, there were really only two moments in pastry class that fazed me… both occurred during first term. (I suppose after we got through the initial shock, adding butter by the brick became second nature to us.) The first moment came on the day I used almost an entire pound of butter to frost a cake. Seriously, since that day, I haven’t been able to go near buttercream, and I honestly don’t think I’ll be able to enjoy buttercream frosting ever again. I’m thinking though, it’s a good thing ;)

Now, I hate to have to admit it, but the second moment came on the day I learned how to make brioche by hand. Yea, apparently I didn’t know that brioche meant butter bread =P There was so much butter involved and since we were kneading it by hand, it got so messy that it really really did not look appetizing at all. But of course, the French do know a thing or two about butter and at the end, we were left with a dough so soft and smooth, just like a baby’s bottom =) On top of that, when we finally got the brioche baking in oven, the entire room smelled as good as a bakery and in less than half an hour, we had freshly baked brioche of all shapes and sizes ready to be devoured!

I ate one (cause who can say no to freshly baked brioche?) and ended up freezing the rest =P When one of my fellow classmates asked if I would ever consider making brioche at home, without any hesitation, I said no. I had two very good reasons… I knew exactly how much butter goes into it and working the butter into the dough is a dirty job and near impossible! So, why in the world would I make brioche again? Well, that night right before I went to bed, I had a quick chat with Anthony, who was thousands of miles away, and when I told him we made brioche today, his immediate response was, “Make it for me, please!” I couldn’t say no to him, even over the phone… the things we gotta do in the name of Love =P

Now, a year later, I find myself back in the kitchen, making brioche by hand =) You can certainly prepare the dough using a stand mixer with a dough hook, but I feel like if I’m going to be eating butter bread, a little bit of a workout beforehand would be good ;) And plus, by making the dough by hand, that special someone will be able to taste all the love you put into it!

A good brioche is undoubtedly defined by the quality and quantity of butter, so try not to be too conservative here. After all, brioche without all that butter really isn’t brioche. A rich man’s brioche calls for nearly equal parts flour and butter, which is a very scary thought, and I just couldn’t do that to Anthony’s health =P A poor man’s brioche uses considerably less butter but lacks a bit in flavor, and so I kinda settled in between the two extremes. I suppose this brioche would be fit for the middle class ;)

You can certainly add a few more dabs of butter and bump it up to the upper middle class, but working just one stick of butter into the dough is quite an undertaking in itself. Just remember, things will get messy at first, but it’ll all be worth it in the end =) Use one hand as a hook to lift up the dough and pound it onto the work surface. Once it hits the surface, use the palm of your hand to roll up the dough. Grab it again and pound it back. It’s quite a workout so if you do get tired, switch to your other hand. Once you start adding in the butter, no matter how hard you try to keep the butter wrapped inside the dough, it will come out and make a mess, so just accept it =P Your only option is to keep kneading to work the butter into the dough and eventually everything will come together… I promise.

Brioche is nearly impossible to resist when it comes fresh out of the oven and that’s exactly why I wanted to make petite brioche. If you were baking a whole loaf, you’d have to wait an hour or two to let it cool before you could slice into it without it crumbling. But that’s so not the case for these petite brioche =) Once they’re cool enough to handle, grab one (before they magically disappear) and start breaking bread with a loved one. Freshly baked brioche with a spoonful of homemade marmalade and a nice cup of cafe au lait… can’t you just smell the love in the air? ;)




PREP TIME 1 Hr
COOK TIME 15 Min
READY IN 12 Hr
   
SERVINGS 6 petite brioche

 

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup (125 grams) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 cup (127 grams) bread flour
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons sugar
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, slightly softened, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
   
  butter, softened, for the molds
1 egg, beaten for egg wash
1/4 cup sugar nibs, optional

  

EQUIPMENT:

Whisk
Pastry scraper
Knife
Large 6-cup muffin pan
Pastry brush
Mixing bowls

 

DIRECTIONS:

  • Mix. Beat the eggs in a mixing bowl and stir in the instant yeast. Set aside. In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flours, salt, and sugar. Add in the beaten egg mixture and stir to combine. Using a pastry scraper, transfer the mixture to a clean, floured work surface. Set the softened, cubed butter on the side.
  • Fraisage. Form the dough by smearing parts of the unformed dough across the work surface with the heel or palm of your hand. With your other hand, using a pastry scraper, gather up the smeared parts and repeat this process until you can use a pastry scraper to fold the dough back upon itself and work the dough with your hands. (The dough will be sticky at this point but will become smoother with kneading. Lightly dust with flour if too sticky to handle.)
  • Knead. Using one hand as a hook, lift up the dough and pound it back onto the work surface. Continue kneading this way to develop the elasticity, about 10 minutes.
  • Knead some more. Create a well in the middle of the dough and place a 3-4 pieces of butter inside. Wrap up the butter and continue to knead the dough. Once the butter is fully incorporated, create another well and add a few more pieces of butter until all of the butter is incorporated into the dough. (The dough will be extremely sticky and messy in the beginning so use a pastry scraper as an aid. Eventually, once all of the butter is incorporated, the dough will become extremely smooth and soft as a baby’s bottom. Just remember to keep lifting up the dough and pounding it back onto the work surface. The whole process will take about 30 minutes.)
  • Let rise. Lightly butter a large mixing bowl. Place the ball of dough in the bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm area for 1-2 hours until double in volume. Gently punch down the dough and turn the dough onto its other side. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and chill in the fridge overnight.
  • Shape the dough. Lightly butter a 6-cup large muffin pan. Divide the brioche dough into 6 pieces (about 88 grams each) and cut each into thirds. Roll each small piece into a round and place 3 rounds snuggly in each cup. Lightly brush just the tops of each with egg wash. Let rise in a warm area until double in volume, about 1-1/2 to 2 hours.
  • Bake. Position a rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly brush just the tops with another layer of egg wash, being careful not to get any on the sides of the pan. Sprinkle the tops with sugar nibs, if using, and bake until puffed and golden brown, about 15-20 minutes. (Alternatively, once out of the oven, unmold and brush the tops with simple syrup, made by boiling equal parts water and sugar.) Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool slightly. Enjoy warm or at room temperature.


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