While I have been gaining confidence as a baker, I still hold a comfortable amount of trepidation when it comes to certain, okay most, flaky French breads. The idea of attempting a truly perfect croissant makes me break out in a sweat, and honestly I always put buttery brioche on the same pedestal.
Ina Garten can be so convincing, she always seems to confident that I can make something. Even better, unlike a certain sexy Brit, her recipes are very clear and usually work out perfectly with little interpretation. Such is the case with her recipe for Brioche Loaves, which I tweaked and fiddled with to my liking. Once I worked out two uncharacteristic and potentially ruinous typos (to paraphrase a friend, "Put some shoes on and get to proofreading, Ina!"), I set out to make the bread of my dreams.
The epiphany came whilst rolling golden raisins into the dough, "If this works...I could have brioche all the time." And work it did, producing excellently light brioche that was tender and exquisite. I fear we have entered a dark time for my waistline.
I made one brioche loaf and 6 "muffins" of my own design--who needs dear little brioche pans when you have a nice non-stick muffin tin? Next time, unless I need loaf for a particular dish (as I did last night), I will make a whole pan of my delicious muffins--studded with golden raisins and dried cherries, they are the perfect breakfast or mid-afternoon snack.
Brioche Muffins (or Loaves, or both)
makes 12 muffins, or 2 loaves
with thanks to Ina Garten
.5 cup warm water
1 package active dry yeast
3 Tbsp sugar
6 large eggs, at room temperature
4.25 cups unbleached flour (King Arthur is the best)
2 tsp salt
2 sticks butter, very soft (leave it out overnight)
1 egg, for egg wash
1 Tbsp milk, for egg wash
1 cup golden raisins and dried cherries (optional)
Warm the bowl of your mixer with hot water, then dump it out. Mix the yeast, warm water, and sugar in the warmed bowl with a rubber spatula. Let sit for 5 minutes, until it is foamy and the sugar has dissolved. Add the eggs and using the paddle attachment, beat on medium speed for 1 minute, until mixed.
With the mixer on low speed, add 2 cups of the flour, and the salt, and mix for 5 minutes. With the mixer still on low, add two more cups of flour and mix for 5 minutes more. Still on low, add the soft butter in chunks and mix for 2 minutes, occasionally scraping the paddle, for 2 minutes longer.
Switch to the dough hook attachment, and set on low speed again. While the mixer is running, sprinkle in the last quarter cup of flour. Mix on low speed for 3-4 minutes, until well combined and elastic, but still sticky. This is a soft, sticky dough. Scrape the dough into a large buttered bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight.
The next day, allow the dough to sit at room temperature for an hour--it should have risen substantially in the fridge. Grease a 12-muffin tin, if you are making muffins, or two loaf pans. As you see, I did a little of both.
Turn the dough onto a floured surface and cut in half. For muffins: pat each half into a rectangle with the dough about a half inch thick. Spread the raisins and dried cherries evenly over the rectangle, using more if desired. Starting on one of the rectangle's wide ends, roll up into a tight cylinder. The dough may stick, use a pastry scraper or a sharp knife to help loosen it. Pinch the seam closed. Cut each cylinder into 6 equal portions. Stick each dough portion seam side down into the muffin tin. Cover and let rise in a warm spot for 2 hours, until doubled in size.
For loaves: pat each half into a 6x8 rectangle, and roll on the wider side, as instructed above (note: I did not use the fruit in my loaf, but you certainly could if you wanted). Place each cylinder, seam side down, in a loaf pan. Cover and let rise in a warm spot for 2 hours, until doubled in size.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees (as always, I recommend preheating for at least an hour to let the oven heat to a very even temperature). Beat the egg with the milk and brush the tops of the risen muffins (or loaves). Bake the muffins for 25-30 minutes, until they are a deep golden brown. Bake loaves for 30-35 minutes. Let cool briefly in their pans before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. You absolutely MUST eat a muffin while still deliriously warm, if you don't I'm not sure that we can be friends any more.
Once everything has cooled completely it can be wrapped in parchment and stored in a plastic bag for up to three days, or frozen for a month. I'm sorry there aren't more pictures of the baking process, but once I touched the dough it was all over my hands and I just had to get it done. Make brioche this weekend!