Middle-Class Brioche

When Kirbie (Kirbie’s Cravings) made bubble brioche rolls and brioche bread, it got me to finally take out my copy of Reinhart’s The Bread Baker’s Apprentice and *finally* make his version of Middle-class brioche. So this post is dedicated to Kirbie since she wanted another brioche recipe. I had thought about making the Rich Man’s version but decided to go with the middle of the road the first time around. Maybe it’s just me or maybe it’s because I don’t have any qualms about using (lots of) butter in baked goods but 1 cup of butter (8 oz) didn’t even make me flinch. I decided to only make 12 rolls and the rest into brioche bread.

Reinhart’s recipe doesn’t necessarily call for overnight refrigeration, just that the dough be chilled for at least 4 hours. I went overnight since I had planned it out that way. So as soon as I got up, I took out my eggs and butter. It’s important to have room temperature butter but I also wanted to have the eggs at room temp too. If you’re short on time and need to soften your butter quicker, a trick is to but the butter into smaller pieces and let it warm up at room temperature. The smaller the pieces, the quicker it’ll soften.

My butter was pretty soft by the afternoon but I cut them into smaller pieces for incorporation into the dough. The recipe calls for about a quarter at a time but smaller pieces should incorporate even easier.

To start the sponge, I heated 1/2 cup (4 oz) of whole milk to lukewarm (90 – 100 degrees F). Mixed that with 2 teaspoons (.22 oz) of instant yeast and 1/2 cup (2.25 oz) unbleached bread flour. I measured everything by weight. I used my stand mixer with the paddle attachment to mix everything up very well. Then covered the bowl with plastic wrap and let the sponge ferment for 45 minutes. It was rather cool that day, even in the house, about 68 degrees, so it took a little longer for the sponge to rise and get all bubbly.

While I was waiting for the sponge to do its thing, I prepped the ingredients for the dough. Slightly beaten 5 large eggs.

In a bowl, I mixed together 3 cups (13.75 oz) unbleached bread flour, 2 tablespoons (1 oz) sugar and 1 1/4 teaspoon (.31 oz) salt. I used kosher salt since I was doing it by weight but you can use regular table salt too.

When the sponge was ready, I added the eggs and beat on medium speed with the paddle until smooth. Then I added the flour mixture and continued mixing with the paddle attachment for 2 minutes until all the ingredients were evenly distributed. I scraped down the sides a couple of times during mixing. The dough is VERY sticky and nothing like regular yeast dough. Almost kind of a very thick frosting with some marshmallow fluff in it. Once everything has incorporated, I let the mixture sit for 5 minutes so gluten can develop.

Then I started to incorporate the butter, about a large tablespoon at a time, into the dough on medium speed, still using the paddle. I made sure that the butter was completely incorporated before adding more. With room temperature butter, this doesn’t take too long, a few minutes to get all the butter assimilated. After all the butter is in, mix for another 6 minutes or until the dough is very well mixed on medium speed, scraping a couple of times to get the dough off the sides and paddle. The dough will become very smooth and soft, and very sticky.

I used a quarter sheet pan lined with parchment paper that has been sprayed with oil. The instruction said *lightly* spray but I think I needed more since the dough was so sticky that I had to use a bench scraper to get it off. I transferred the dough onto the parchment paper and spread it out. I sprayed the top of the dough with more oil and then covered with plastic wrap. Into the fridge it went to chill overnight (or at least for 4 hours).

The next day, I got all my pans ready first before taking the dough out of the refrigerator. I dusted my work surface with unbleached bread flour. Keep that flour on hand cuz that dough is still sticky. I generously buttered my muffin pan. I don’t have brioche tins (which are fairly expensive IMO) but I thought the muffin pan worked great. I also generously buttered my loaf pan (9×6). I got my scale out and laid a piece of plastic wrap on top. Took out the dough and with the help of my bench scraper, I measured out 12 1.5-oz portions for the rolls. The rest of the dough would go towards the bread. I chose 1.5 oz since that seemed like the right amount to fill each muffin section about half.

Make sure your hands are very well floured when working with the dough. I rolled each piece into a ball and then with the side of my well dusted hands, I rolled down the ball into a larger and smaller ball, still having both attached. I then used the tips of my fingers to indent the top of the larger ball (smaller ball is near my palm between all my fingers) and then center the small ball on top of the indentation. I made about 1/2 inch indentations.

For the bread, I used the same shaping method as I use for a basic white bread, although I found shaping the brioche dough a little easier. I used Reinhart’s oven proof box improvisation since I didn’t want to cover the top of the rolls with plastic wrap since I didn’t want to smush the top caps in any way.  I put both the muffin pan and loaf pan in the oven (heat off) and then added a bowl of boiling water to a rack underneath the pans, then closed the door. I figured this would increase the temp a bit above room temperature but I wanted to make sure the top of the dough didn’t get dried out and prevent rising. It took about 2.5 hours for the rolls to nearly fill the molds and about 3 hours for the loaf.

For the rolls, I beat one egg with a whisk until it was frothy and gently brushed the tops with it. I didn’t egg wash the loaf dough yet since it hadn’t completely proofing yet. This time, I did cover the muffin pan with plastic wrap that had been sprayed with oil since I had to leave pan out to preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. And since the loaf still need more proofing time, I switched to the microwave as a proof box for the rest of the proofing time while I baked the rolls. Same set up, heat up a cup of water in the microwave then add the loaf pan next to it and close the door.

I baked the rolls for 15 minutes until the internal temperature reached 180 degrees F. I removed it from the oven and out of the pan, directly onto a cooling rack. The little guys popped right out! I had to wait the 20 minutes of cooling before I dug into one (or two or three). I tried various spreads with it, one of them a strawberry preserve my MIL made for me a while back. It was really good.

I also had it with peanut butter but didn’t like it since the PB was overwhelming and I couldn’t taste the brioche. I liked it with Nutella, butter and Laughing Cow cheese. It was pretty good on its own too. The roll was a little more crumblier that I had expected but I can certainly taste the butter.

For the bread, after it almost filled the loaf pan, I did the egg wash and then back into the oven to finish proofing, about another 30 minutes. I preheated the oven to 375 degrees F and then baked the bread for 35 minutes until the internal temperature reached 190 degrees F. If you noticed for the bread which would also apply to larger shapes, the oven temperature is lower while the internal temparture is a bit higher. Sorry the picture of the bread is so washed out but you can see the lightness of the inside. I had a smoked turkey sandwich on it as well as cinnamon toast for breakfast. Delicious!

So there you have it, brioche for the middle class. I think I’ll try making the Rich Man’s version for special occasions. 

On a slightly off note, I thought it would interesting to show a picture of my favorite kitchen tool which I’ve had for almost 2 decades. It’s my Graham Kerr “Bash and Chop” bench scraper. Does anyone remember or know who Graham KerrThe Galloping Gourmet is? I remember watching his shows on PBS (along with Jeff Smith, The Frugal Gourmet). If you know of him, did you know he’s a James Beard Foundation awardee? Although some of the ruler and letterings have worn off and a little bent at the bottom, this is still one of my favorite. I don’t chop with it but I’ve smashed with it and use it for dough scraping. The trivia behind this tool is that Kerr supposedly help design it with Progressive. Although Kerr’s name is no longer on the item, you can still get this under the Progressive Stainless Steel Bash, Chop, and Scoop Cutter name.

It’s pouring in San Diego today. Stay safe and dry. Have a fabulous week!

13 Comments

    • Hi Kirbie! I was pleased that most of tye top caps turned out pretty good but there were a few really ugly ones. This “middle class” didn’t have as much butter as the rich man’s version. There’s also a poor man’s version tto with less butter.

  1. that’s beautiful brioche there! seems like a lot of work but with very nice results!

    btw, the frugal gourmet dude was later accused of sexually harassing former male chefs (when they were teens)! ewwww! pervo. his career ended shortly after (late 90s).

    • Thanks CC! I didn’t think making the brioche was any more work than any of the other yeast breads I’ve made but it did take a bit longer. I doubt this is something I’d make other than special occassions not so much the time and preplanning but the fact that brioche doesn’t keep well like other breads. Thank goodness my MIL is helping me eat it all.

      Yeah, I remember hearing about the harrassment stuff on the news about Smith. I was so dissappointed and disgusted but I still have 3 or 4 of his cookbooks from way back when.

    • Thanks Nate! Whew, it was a long time ago. It’s funny watching Kerr’s show now on the Cooking Channel. He was cooky but kind of fun to watch. I don’t think I’ve ever really made any of his dishes come to think of it. I’ve made a few Smith’s recipes but then his cookbooks were one of the first cookbook series that I purchased as a young lassy.

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