But a twee brioche.

I have not baked in two weeks, since I started school, and it’s starting to get to me. At least I think it is. It could be the lack of alcohol and cigarettes I have consumed since I started school. Okay not lack, but severely decreased amount. Which is a good and a bad thing. Yay healthy, blah, blah, blah. Boo, I miss red wine. It gives me migraines, and I just can’t risk missing even one class. We cover such an array of things in one day. I think when you are already educated on what is being taught on any given day, it is even more important to be there. You pick up tips, get answers to things that you may have questioned before, but had 5 different competing answers to, or learn a new, better way to do something. Since you don’t have to spend every brain cell trying to learn  something foreign to you, you can look at the details of a technique or an ingredient. I never put a lid on my pot to sweat vegetables, but Chef did. I thought they would steam, not sweat, and would not release the water necessary to, I don’t know, sweat properly? Sounds ridiculous, but it did prompt the question. All those sciencey things that happen when you are cooking is really what “cooking” is. You, and hopefully your delicious, handicraft-action produces a reaction.  And the reaction is the must-be-there-browned-crunchy-garlic-breadcrumbs that go atop macaroni and cheese. Yes, I could get by if I missed a day, but I would miss all the fiddle-faddle. I would have missed Chef joking about how the 4 hour window in a Viagra commercial (It was before a 60 Minutes story about Jose Andres) is the same as the 4 hour window for your food to be in the danger zone (41*- 135*). In either case after four hours, you are in an emergency situation. There are some things that you just can’t learn from books. A sense of humor is one of them.

Daily knife work has pretty much ended, and we will be putting what we learned (or should have learned) into action, not spending time on just cuts. With hardly any practice in class, unless you are a natural, you will need to practice at home or put in some extra hours at school. We will be tested on cuts in the weeks to come, but I look forward to improving beyond a passing grade.

We started stocks on Friday (tasting and lecture only), tasting vegetable, veal (my favorite), and chicken stock, chicken, lobster, and beef base. Base is the jarred, or cubed stuff that is readily available and most of the time made from the same stuff you would make stock with, but it’s expensive, and can be loaded with MSG, and other additives. Check your labels before you buy. It is called a convenience product for a reason. It is not called house made with fresh, local ingredients and love product. Be cautious.

It will be stockfest soon enough, but for now I will give bubble brioche the stage. It was the first time I made brioche, and the last thing I baked the night before school started. If you don’t eat them all, make french toast the next day. You may never used sliced bread to make french toast again.

Bubble-Top Brioche

makes 12

  • 1/4 cup warm water (110°F to 115°F)
  • 1/4 cup warm whole milk (110°F to 115°F)
  • 3 teaspoons active dry yeast (measured from two 1/4-ounce envelopes)
  • 2 3/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 large egg beaten to blend with 1 teaspoon water (for glaze)

Combine 1/4 cup warm water and warm milk in bowl of heavy-duty mixer fitted with paddle attachment. Sprinkle yeast over and stir to moisten evenly. Let stand until yeast dissolves, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes.

Add flour and salt to yeast mixture. Blend at medium-low speed until shaggy lumps form, scraping down sides of bowl occasionally, 1 to 2 minutes. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating until blended after each addition. Beat in sugar. Increase mixer speed to medium; beat until dough is smooth, about 3 minutes.

Reduce speed to low. Add butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating until blended after each addition, about 4 minutes (dough will be soft and silky). Increase speed to medium-high and beat until dough pulls away from sides of bowl and climbs paddle, 8 to 9 minutes.

Lightly butter large bowl. Scrape dough into bowl. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rise in warm draft-free area until almost doubled in volume, about 1 hour 15 minutes to 1 hour 30 minutes.

Gently deflate dough by lifting around edges, then letting dough fall back into bowl, turning bowl and repeating as needed. Cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap and chill, deflating dough in same way every 30 minutes until dough stops rising, about 2 hours. Chill overnight. (At this point, use the dough to make 12 brioches, or 6 brioches and 1 tart, or 2 tarts.)

Butter 12 standard (1/3-cup) muffin cups. Divide dough into 12 equal pieces; cut each piece into thirds. Roll each small piece between palms into ball. Place 3 balls in each prepared cup (dough will fill cup). Place muffin pan in warm draft-free area; lay sheet of waxed paper over. Let dough rise until light and almost doubled (dough will rise 1/2 inch to 1 inch above top rim of muffin cups), 50 to 60 minutes.

Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 400°F. Place muffin pan on rimmed baking sheet. Gently brush egg glaze over risen dough, being careful that glaze does not drip between dough and pan (which can prevent full expansion in oven). Bake brioches until golden brown, covering with foil if browning too quickly, about 20 minutes. Transfer pan to rack. Cool 10 minutes. Remove brioches from pan. Serve warm or at room temperature.

by Dorie Greenspan
*These are great with butter, whipped cream cheese, and your favorite jam. Maple butter is especially good.