As I sit here in the wee hours of the morning scouring the internet for cheap flights to NYC, I’m reminiscing about the last time I was in the Big Apple. The city that never sleeps feels like a second home to me, and it’s nice to know that I can skip all the tourist traps and focus my attention elsewhere. Besides visiting my dear friend from university, I also love to discover new places to stuff my face, shop for vintage clothes and check out the latest MOMA exhibit. I used to be swept away by all the celebrity restaurants in Manhatten, but during my last visit I took Brooklyn by storm. From the flea market of food that is Smorgasburg to the infamous fried chicken at the Brooklyn Bowl, I placed some serious effort into filling my belly with the best of this borough. The most memorable brunch I ate however, was hidden away in a little nook in Prospect Heights called 606 R&D. Their scrambled egg sandwich with ham, gruyere and caramelized onion on brioche was a fistful of savory protein balanced out nicely with the sweetness from the onions and fresh bun.
Brioche has definitely claimed a place in my top five fave breads (along with croissants, baguettes, bagels and Persian barbari flatbread) and my taste buds dance whenever the buttery flakiness takes hold of a burger or is turned into French toast. This French bread, along with croissants belong to a subgroup of leavened delights called Viennoiserie a term that originated from Austria and literally means “things of Vienna”. Viennoiseries are baked breakfast goods or snacks that are made in the same way as bread but have more of a pastry-like quality due to the sinful additions of cream, eggs and higher quantities of sugar, milk and butter. While I’ve made homemade bread successfully, I had never attempted brioche. I turned to my baking bible – Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook. The recipe looked intimidating, but I was feeling patient and in the mood for a baking project. Most of the time is spent waiting on the dough, with roughly two hours of actual prep, so the process is actually pretty relaxing and ultimately very satisfying.
One should note that you do need to chill the dough overnight, so this is a good baking project for a lazy weekend.
As with any baking, a kitchen scale is essential, and while my mother kneaded bread by hand, my Kitchen Aid mixer is a blessing and my baking in general has improved since I started using an electric mixer.
I didn’t have brioche molds, so I used 3 (x 6) muffin tins and even though they turned out more muffin like in appearance – they are all brioche in taste and texture.
In the second part of the recipe, what you will essentially be molding out of the larger piece of dough is a mini bean bag chair for the smaller piece to sit in, and this, when baked will result in the classic brioche shape.
I was quite pleased with the final product! My “muffin” brioche tasted sweet, rich and was puffy with a golden, flaky crust, just as I remembered from my Brooklyn brunch brioche. Now that I can make my own brioche, I can’t wait to start creating some breakfast sandwiches, the possibilities are endless! To be continued…
Martha Stewart's Brioche
- 1/3 cup warm water
- 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
- 1 1/2 cups 9 ounces bread floor, plus more for dusting
- 3/4 cup 5 ounces pastry flour
- 1 1/4 sticks unsalted butter cold, cut into pieces, plus more for the pans
- 4 large eggs cold, plus 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon nonfat dry milk
- 1 teaspoon salt
- canola oil for plastic wrap
Make the dough: In a medium bowl, sprinkle yeast over the warm water; stir with a fork until dissolved. Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. Add 2 ounces bread flour; stir until well combined. Cover with a clean kitchen towel; let rise in a warm spot until doubled in bulk and bubbles appear on the surface, about 1 hour.
Place remaining 7 ounces bread flour and the pastry flour in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook. Add the butter, eggs, sugar, and the dry milk, and beat on low speed until well combined, about 5 minutes. Add the yeast mixture; beat on low speed for 5 minutes. Sprinkle in salt; beat on medium speed until dough is smooth, shiny, and elastic, about 5 minutes more.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap; immediately place in freezer for 30 minutes (to prevent the dough from rising too quickly). Remove from freezer; punch down dough in bowl. Fold sides into the center, and invert, so dough is smooth side up. Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate at least 10 hours or overnight.
Butter 3 x small muffin tins and set aside. Divide the dough into 18 equal pieces. Working with a few pieces at a time (returning the rest of the dough to the refrigerator), divide each piece in two, making one twice as big as the other.
One a lightly floured surface, roll the larger piece into a round ball using the cupped palm of your hand. Press your thumb into the center of the ball to form a deep well. Then rotate your thumb to widen the hole. Shape the smaller piece into a teardrop. With lightly floured fingers, press the tip of the teardrop gently into the bottom of the hole. Place in a prepared mold. Repeat with remaining dough.
Drape the dough pieces with a well-oiled piece of plastic wrap. Set aside in a warm, nondrafty place until fully doubled in bulk for 1-3 hours.
Preheat oven to 375F.
Just before baking, brush dough gently but generously with the beaten egg. Place tins in center of oven, and bake until deep golden brown, 8 to 12 minutes. Immediately remove brioches from muffin tins, and cool on wire rack.