BBA Challenge #4: Brioche

Published January 8, 2012 by livinggraciously

There is nothing nutritionally redeeming about brioche. It’s basically baked butter–a succulent slice of heart attack. But it was the next bread, so if I was going to do this right, I needed to bake brioche.

The bread once again started with a sponge, a short preferment to get the yeast beasties at work and develop some flavor. I don’t know how much flavor contribution can really be had in 20 minutes of fermentation, but I am determined to follow the directions.

Except I sort of missed the part where the dough had to chill overnight and so got up very early to start the bread and didn’t caffeinate first, and the wheels were coming off the cart pretty darned early.

I think I was still trying to get my head around the whole pound of butter that was going into the bread. And five eggs.

The second direction is to add the rest of the flour and the eggs, and then let the whole thing rest for five minutes so that the gluten can develop.  I got through the mixing, but missed the five minutes part. Instead, I started adding in the butter.

It’s a lot of butter, added one stick at a time.

I have this strange determination to do this whole challenge without using my mixer. Don’t ask me why; I’m just amused by the notion. Brioche, however, is not a bread conducive to hand kneading. In fact, it was rather like kneading a batch of cookie dough:

A very messy operation. And once I had incorporated all the butter, I was supposed to continue kneading for another 5 or so minutes before spreading it on a parchment-lined cookie sheet and putting it in the fridge.

The key phrase here is supposed to. I kind of missed that part, and when I got the dough back out it was still a slippery, formless mess.

Now, there are special brioche pans that make this bread a very special and lovely presentation, but at I am not anticipating much brioche in my future, I opted to go with loaves. The recipe said that it would make three loaves, but I only had enough dough for two, and there was no way that I could “form the loaves according to the [usual instructions].” That would require, you know, form. Which this bread was sadly lacking. I wrestled the two lumps into vaguely loaf-like shapes and smooshed them into the pans, where they were supposed to spend two hours rising.

An hour and a half later, there was no sign of any rising going on.

At this rate, there was no way that anything resembling edible bread was coming from this mess, so I figured I didn’t have anything to lose. I dumped the two loaves back out and began kneading them again. This time, miraculously, gluten did develop. I reformed the loaves and put them back in the pans and gave them another 90 minutes. They hadn’t risen much, but there was some sign of life, so I figured I didn’t have anything to lose and popped them into the preheated oven.

Astoundingly, both loaves sprang nicely in the oven, and came out looking like actual loaves of bread rather than buttery bricks.

The resulting loaf had a rather dense but very tender crumb, and was delicious.

I took a loaf to dinner at a friend’s house, and gave him the leftovers. Our loaf is slowly diminishing, but at about 500 calories a slice, slowly isn’t slowly enough. I’m thinking I should freeze it and only take it out for special occasions.

Because otherwise the special occasion will be our funerals. From the coronaries brought on by this bread!

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