Qu’ils mangent de la brioche.
(not quite “Let them eat cake”. More like “Let them eat really rich buttery yeasted bread”)
Okay Marie Antoinette, if you insist.
When I was in Paris, I ate my weight in brioche. It’s astounding how something packed with butter and eggs can taste like it is made out of air. Proof: my dad commented offhandedly after tasting this brioche how airy it was, and that I must’ve not used a lot of butter. (I chortled. Chortled.)
Ethereally light, cloud-like, melt-in-your mouth– to me, that’s the sign of a superb brioche.
Brioche is incredibly versatile, as it forms a base for other pastries (tarte tropézienne, craquelin, brioche des rois), or it can be shaped differently: as brioche à tête, or brioche nanterre; sandwich pastry cream and chocolate chips in between and you’ll have brioche au chocolat. Brioche bread pudding, brioche french toast, brioche burger buns… dream on.
Marie was definitely on to something.
I was going for bioche à tête, but I “streamlined” the recipe (aka. skipped the overnight refrigeration and did two rises instead). I thought I knew what I was doing, but the dough thought otherwise. It was too soft to handle, really too soft, and I couldn’t shape it. It became brioche sans tête. Which is quite appropriate, I think.
So I did what I always do– shove it in the oven and hope for the best.
The brioche was light, with a honeycomb texture. The marzipan (I’ll get into that later– I’m really excited about it) sank to the bottom, and I originally intended to have it swirled throughout, but like I said before, the dough turned out to be a literal flop.
I added 1 tsp of almond extract into the dough, because I was wary about almond extract overwhelming the taste buds, but it ended up being undetectable in the baked bread.
But something about it left me unsatisfied. It was exactly that: light, honeycomb texture. Perfect for soaking up custard for french toast. But I think it was that… for lack of a better way to describe it… that stringy glutinous chew that I missed. There was really no substance to it. Maybe I shouldn’t have skipped the refrigeration.
So I consider this brioche, trial number one. I feel like I’m very, very close.
The marzipan– can we PLEASE talk about this marzipan.
Sometimes when I’m on the bus trying to study, my mind will wander and run a marathon around an idea before I can realize that it was gone. I had just been staring at the same word on the same page for a good ten minutes.
So why not take condensed milk, add almond flour, and reduce it down on the stove until it’s caramelized and delicious?! And then add almond extract?! (off heat, of course).
And then I fell asleep on the bus. Woke up, took a note of that idea on my phone (I wish I did something more romantic like take a pocketbook out of my pocket and write down the idea with a fountain pen), and I had to wait an agonizing week until I had time to put my idea to the test.
It turned out really well, except the whole mixture thickened up while reducing before it could caramelize like I envisioned in my head. Next time, I think I’ll try adding more condensed milk, and seeing if reducing it over lower heat can bring some caramelization to the marzipan.
I feel a bit pretentious to call it “genius”, but Food52 does it all the time. I want to be a genius…
Adapted from butterandbrioche
- 240g all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
- 25g granulated sugar
- 5g salt
- 7g instant yeast sachet
- 70mL milk
- 2 large eggs, plus 1 egg yolk, at room temperature
- 125g unsalted butter, cubed at room temperature
- 1 large egg yolk, whisked
- 1/4 cup chopped dark chocolate
- 1/4 cup almond flakes
- flaky sea salt
- 1 can (300mL) condensed milk (low fat is fine)
- 150g almond flour
- 1 tsp pure almond extract
- In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, heat 300mL condensed milk, stirring frequently, until it starts to simmer.
- Add in the almond flour. Stir over medium heat until the mixture has thickened to a paste-like consistency. It may take around 4-6 minutes.
- Take off the heat and allow to cool.
- Once cool, stir in 1 tsp almond extract. Store in refrigerator if you’re making this ahead.
- In a bowl of a stand-alone mixer fitted with a dough hook, place the flour, sugar, salt and yeast. On a slow speed mix the dry ingredients. Once combined, add the milk and eggs and continue to mix on a slow speed for 2 minutes. Switch to a medium speed and mix for a further 6-8 minutes. The dough will be soft, smooth and elastic.
- Add the cubes of softened butter piece by piece and continue to mix until the butter is thoroughly incorporated, roughly 5 minutes. Scrape down the bowl to ensure even dispersion.
- Place the kneaded dough in a lightly oiled large bowl and allow to rise for 2 hours at room temperature (not too hot, otherwise the butter will melt, like mine did).
- For best results, refrigerate dough overnight.
- After the first rise (+ optional overnight rise), punch down the dough.
- If you want it “shaped” like mine, simply roll into a ball, place it into large greased brioche tin, and press dollops of marizipan into the bread.
- If you want it evenly dispersed and babka-swirl-like, roll the dough into a rectangle until it’s 1/8 inch thick, and spread on an even layer of marizipan. Starting with the long side towards you, roll into a tight log. Split the log in half lengthwise, and twist the two halves together. Place in a loaf tin.
- Brush the top of the loaf with egg wash and sprinkle chocolate chunks, salt, and almond flakes to your liking (optional but delicious: toss the almond flakes with a pinch of cinnamon and nutmeg).
- Allow a second rise of 1-2 hours, until the dough has doubled in size. You should notice a formed ‘skin’ when lightly touched.
- Preheat an oven to 350°F.
- Bake for 20-30 minutes, or until golden and a skewer inserted into the tallest part comes out clean.
- Leave to cool in the tin for 5 minutes, before turning out onto a wire rack.
- Brioche is best fresh out of the oven, so enjoy!!