Tuesday, March 26, 2013

brioche and spring snow

our window view on Monday.

A few weeks ago, my area was predicted to see one seemingly last final snow of the season.  We were scheduled for several inches over night and in preparation, schools, offices and businesses closed down.  My work was closed pre-emptively.  And then the city waited for it.  And waited.  And the snow never came.  Essentially, the city ground to a halt for... rain.

looks more like Christmas is coming than Easter is coming.

It was much more than rain yesterday, however.  Somehow under the radar, Sunday evening and Monday morning were predicted 1-3" of snow.  Not getting wide media coverage, however, many in my city woke up to a wintery surprise yesterday morning!  Disconcerting because the calendar says it now is spring, this (hopefully) is the last big snow of the season.  And for her efforts, we were awarded only a delayed opening at work this time.

I'm dreaming of a white... Easter?

 Although I could have accomplished more at home with a closure, the delay made possible the. most. delicious. brioche I have ever eaten.

Brioche is a wet dough, requiring overnight refrigeration for the easiest manipulation.  Not knowing about the snow, I easily assembled this dough in my Kitchenaid stand mixer on Sunday night and with the delayed opening, I had time to pull the dough out, shape it and let it rise this morning.

I rushed home on my lunch break to pop my risen brioche loaves in the oven.  I'm very lucky to be able to get home for lunch most days.  With just 40 minutes of baking time, I was able to pull the most beautiful loaves from the oven right before I had to head back to work.

soft and buttery, the edge of the loaf gives you an idea of what's inside.
an egg and milk wash gives the exterior of these loaves a beautiful crust.

Thinking about this bread the rest of the afternoon had me itching for quitting time.  You can be sure the first thing I did when I arrived home was to cut into one of these puppies... and share a taste with Mark.

The dreamy inside.
beautiful, soft, buttery crumb

It was fantastic as-is; the eggs and butter give this loaf great texture and flavor.  A plain slice is a real treat, as, I'm sure, would be a toasted slice.  We slathered ours with butter and strawberry preserves, and limited ourselves to one slice.  Thank goodness the recipe makes two loaves.

adapted from The River Cottage Bread Handbook
yield: 2 small loaves

3 cups plus 2 tablespoons white bread flour (or 400g)
1 1/2 tsp rapid rise yeast (5g)
2 tsp sea salt (10g)
6 Tbsp warm buttermilk*
2 Tbsp powdered sugar
7 Tbsp softened butter (unsalted)
4 beaten eggs
semolina flour, for dusting*

for eggwash
1 beaten egg
2 Tbsp fat free milk*

In a stand mixer with dough hook, combine all ingredients.  I find it is easiest to use my kitchen scale with the mixer bowl for the fewest additional kitchen utensils.  This way, I can simply spoon or sprinkle in ingredients and use no measuring cups/spoons.  Mix on low for 10 minutes, until smooth and shiny.

Carefully shape dough in a round, place in a bowl, cover with plastic and refrigerate over night.

In the morning, divide the dough in half and form two loaf shapes.  Dust with semolina, to prevent dough from sticking.  Let rise, covered, for 3-4 hours (it will take longer to proof because dough is cold).  I dusted my loaves and let rise right on my baking stone, covered with plastic wrap for a little over 4 hours.

Preheat oven to 425, and brush loaves with eggwash (mix 1 beaten egg and 2 Tbsp of milk).  Bake for 10 minutes at 425, then lower oven temperature to 375 for an additional 30 minutes.  Cool on wire rack completely before slicing.

*a note about semolina and the milks.  you can use whatever type of milk you have on hand.  I had buttermilk, so I used it.  I also like semolina on the exterior of my baked goods (think of the crumbs on an English muffin), but you could use extra bread flour if that is what you have, and any kind of milk, both in the dough and for the wash.

brioche, butter and strawberry preserves. heavenly.

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