Snowstorms aren't always a bad thing. Friday's bad storm meant that I couldn't get to work easily and ended up working from home. I'm sort of limited to what I can do at home, so I was left with some free time on my hands. Downtime at home is a lot more fun than downtime at work. You can get away with a lot of crap. You can drink wine with lunch, take naps, watch TV, and when you're forced to work, you can do it naked (not that I would do any of that of course ;-)) .
I decided to spend some of that down time accomplishing one of those New Year's Resolutions I haven't tackled yet. In other words, I decided to bake something I have never baked before, and do something with yeast. I'm never home long enough these days to wait for breads and rolls to rise.
Emeline and Helene have been writing blogs in recent weeks about doughnuts and doughnuts were really on my mind. I considered it, but I thought it might be better to do something that wasn't deep fried. I wasn't sure I had enough oil in the house to fry doughnuts in anyway and I wasn't going out in the snow to buy more.
I pulled out my ginormous copy of Baking With Julia and started searching through the recipes. I came across a recipe for brioche. That fit the bill on two levels. It was something with yeast, and it was something I have never made before. I still had to go out and buy milk for it, but I could get milk at CVS down the street (walking distance). We were good to go.
I cranked up Beirut on the stereo (awesome disc) and got down to business.
I was thrilled to finally pull out my totally unused dough hook. Do you know I've had that Kitchen Aid for over six years (it was a wedding present), but have never used the dough hook? I have also had that cookbook for at least ten years and haven't made many of recipes because of my lack of a dough hook.
There was a warning sticker on the dough hook saying not to use it at any speed other than 2. That was worrisome since I was supposed to vary the speeds at different points in the mixing. I did attempt to change speeds once or twice. My mixer didn't overheat - even after the 15 minute mixing periods.
I didn't get nervous when the dough fell apart after I added the butter, but I did get nervous about how it came together. Although the dough did wrap itself nicely around the hook, I never got that heavy slapping in the bowl. The dough was always soft and sticky.
The multiple risings got on my nerves a bit. My dough was slow to rise and didn't rise as high as I had hoped. The first rising was slow and less than overwhelming. The second rising was the same. When I shaped the dough and put the little balls in the pan, I thought they looked utterly pathetic. I had no idea how they would ever form a nice, cohesive loaf. Well, I just tried to have faith and by the end of two hours, the balls had expanded and formed one big unit.
The resulting loaf wasn't as tall as I had hoped, but the texture was lovely. You could smell the butter while it was baking. When the first loaf came out of the oven, the first thing I did was make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich out of it (with tran-fat pb and HFCS strawberry preserves - so naughty!). It was perfect. I considering making some french toast with some of the slices, but I think I prefer eating it "raw" just spread with pb&j or some butter.
I took the third loaf to work. My coworkers are a little more suspicious of it. They like it better when I make cookies and cake and brownies.
I have made another resolution to be better about putting details of actual recipes instead of just saying what I did and what I did it with. So I will put the recipe down here.
I should be more like my fellow bloggers and be kind enough to use actual photos in my blog. The problem is my husband is keeper of the digital camera, while my cameras are all of the film variety. I should get a cheap digial of my own so I can take and upload my own food photos.
So without further ado I present...
Julia's Brioche Recipe
Make the starter:
1/3 cup warm whole milk (100- 110 degrees F)
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 large egg
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
Put all ingredients, except for 1 cup of the flour, in the bowl of mixer and use a spatula to gently blend the ingredients together.
Sprinkle the remaining cup of flour on top. Let rest for about 30 minutes. The flour on top will crack when it's ready.
Now you're ready for The Dough:
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
4 large eggs , lightly beaten, room temp
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (approx)
6 ounces unsalted butter , room temperature
Add the sugar, salt, eggs and one cup of the flour to the sponge. Set the bowl into the mixer with the dough hook and beat on low speed for a minute or two. The ingredients should look as if they're just coming together. Keep the mixer running and stir in 1/2 cup of flour.
Increase mixer speed to medium and keep mixing for about 15 minutes. The dough should come together and wrap itself around the hook and slap around the sides of the bowl.
Work the butter until it's the same soft consistency of the dough. Put the mixer on low and incorporate a few tablespoons at a time into the dough. The dough should fall apart at this point.
Raise the speed of the mixer to medium high for a minute and then lower it to medium until the dough comes together again. If dough doesn't come together, add one more tablespoon of flour. The dough will be sticky, but still cool.
Place dough in a large buttered bowl and cover with buttered plastic wrap. Let rise in the at room temperature for about 2-2.5 hours or until doubled in bulk.
When dough has risen, deflate it by lifting the edges gently with your fingers and letting it fall back into the bowl. Do this around the circumference of the dough Cover the bowl with plastic wrap again and refrigerate for at least 4-6 hours. It will be ready for any brioche recipe. (I'm hoping to make sticky buns with it the next time.)
To make the loaves:
Divide dough into three sections and butter 3 loaf pans.
Divide a section of dough into 6 equal pieces and roll them into balls. Place the balls in two rows in the pans. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for two hours or until doubled in bulk.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Brush the top of the dough with egg wash. Use a pair of scissors to snip an x into each ball. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden.
Let cool to room temperature and enjoy.