Sunday, October 03, 2010

Classic Brioche Loaf

This bread is actually Part I of a cake: namely, the Caramelized Pineapple Pudding Cakes, the October 4, 2010 cake featured on Heavenly Cake Place. In the recipe for the pudding cakes, which are more like bread pudding than cake (and that's not a bad thing), Rose gives you permission to buy brioche rather than make it. But there was no way I was going to miss out on the chance to have even part of a loaf of brioche around the house. In fact, my only regret is that I didn't make two loaves, since it's a very small recipe and would have doubled easily.
Like many of Rose's bread recipes, this one starts out with a sponge. It only sounds complicated. It's simply a whisked-together mixture of, in this case, water, flour, yeast, sugar, and an egg. On top of this batter-like mixture goes flour, sugar, salt, and a bit more yeast. After a few hours, you can see the sponge start to bubble up under the flour. This is satisfying, because you know that something yeasty is going on. You can mix up the dough after a few hours or you can put it in the refrigerator to await your convenience. Although brioche has a French name, it's not at all hoity-toity. In fact, you can boss it around to your heart's content.
When you feel like it, in hours or days, you make the dough. Mix the sponge with a few more eggs and a stick of butter with the dough hook for a good five minutes. (You could do it without a stand mixture, but it would be difficult). It's sticky, but after a few more hours in the refrigerator, it becomes easier to handle.
After the dough has both risen and been refrigerated for a while, it's time to put it on a floured counter, pat it into a rectangle, and give it a business-letter turn. Repeat. Then it's wrapped loosely in plastic wrap and put back in the refrigerator. How long? Whatever fits your schedule.
This is what it looks like after some time in the refrigerator--soft and puffy. It's chilled enough so that it's pretty easy to handle.
It gets shaped into a loaf, and, after it's risen just above the top of the loaf pan, you slash it down the middle.

With an egg-yolk glaze, the loaf comes out of the oven looking super-shiny and appetizing.

The cake is going to need about 2/3 of a loaf, leaving us only a few slices to have as wonderful toast, or as just plain bread. And I mean plain: Jim had a slice with no butter, no jam, no nothing, and pronounced it rich, slightly sweet, and highly satisfying.