Sunday 1 August 2010

Let them eat brioche, manatee brioche

Manatee brioche: ugly but tasty

On hearing that peasants in her empire didn't even have bread to eat, legend has it that Marie Antoinette responded:
"Qu'ils mangent de la brioche!"
This is usually translated to "let them eat cake!" but what Mademoiselle Antoinette was actually referring to was the decadent sweet buttery rich bread brioche.

Ooo la la, brioche! Amazing on its own, heated with a little bit of jam or dunked in egg and fried as pain perdue (aka the ultimate french toast) brioche is a wonder of baking - rich from lashings of butter and egg yolks but also feathery light from multiple risings.  The french really know how to make their pastries, non?

Now before I go any further, I have a confession to make.  I might bake a lot.  I might even have the word baking in the title of my blog, but until this brioche I had never baked with yeast before.  There it is - my dirty little secret.  Quelle horreur!

I knew that I had to get over this impasse soon, so on my weekly shop, I put a bottle of yeast in my trolley thinking that if it was sitting in the pantry, I'd feel bad about not using it.  I did.  The bottle sat there staring at me every time I opened the pantry door.

Use me, use me! It would whisper.  Are you chicken or something...bogukkukuk?

It's not so much that I'm scared, I'd explain, I just don't have enough time to sit around and wait for something to rise and I don't have a stand mixer and my arms are too puny for kneading...any excuse for why I shouldn't, wouldn't make bread.

Until last week, when I plucked up the courage to bake brioche.  I thought I'd stick some dark chocolate in the middle and make some kind of love child between pain au chocolat and a brioche bun but ended up making some blueberry jam scrolls as well.

The process was so not as daunting as I had imagined.  The dough didn't seem to need much kneading and watching the dough puff up and double in size was totally satisfying.  Some I lovingly shaped to imitate pain au chocolat and some I put in a muffin tin as suggested by Madame le Clerc.

They puffed up and went golden brown in the oven and filled the kitchen with the most mouth watering smell of buttery yeasty goodness.  When they came out though, they were - well lets not mince words here - fugly.  In fact I think they might have been the ugliest things I have ever baked.  They looked like manatees.



Brioches only a mother could love 

(manatee images from here, here and here)

But I was so proud of myself that I didn't care.  I did it.  I've baked with yeast and you know what, I even liked it.

However there is definitely room for improvement.  There are a few things I would like to improve on other than the appearance. Now this could be my inner fat kid talking but I thought they could have been much sweeter and more buttery. The texture however was pretty spot on: fluffy, light and soft as air.

I've definitely caught the bread bug though so watch out for more bread making adventures coming this way!

Chocolate Brioches and Bluberry Brioches

from Cafe @ Home by Julie le Clerc

Makes around 12 buns

1/4 cup warm water
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 Tablespoons white sugar
4 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk, warm (microwaved for around 10 sec)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
150 g unsalted butter, softened
1 egg lightly beaten for egg wash

For chocolate brioches:
around 3 squares of dark chocolate per bun

For blueberry brioches:
around 1 Tablespoon of blueberry jam per bun

1. Place warm water in  a bowl.  Sprinkle yeast and sugar and leave for around 5 minutes in a warm place.  The mixture should start to foam.

2. Combine flour and salt in a large bowl.  Add the yeast mixture, milk, eggs, yolks and mix to form a sticky dough.  Add butter a couple of cubes at a time and knead in.  Plonk dough out on a lightly floured bench and knead for around 5 minutes until the dough is glossy and smooth.

3.  Lightly oil a large bowl and place dough in the bowl.  Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for about an hour in a warm place.  At this stage you can place the dough in the fridge (e.g. overnight) to bake later.  When you are ready to bake, knock back the dough slightly and knead a few times.

4.  Chocolate brioche: divide up the dough in to 12 blobs for 12 buns for chocolate buns and wrap a piece of chocolate in the middle and either place straight on a lined baking tray like a pain au chocolat or in a muffin tin.

5. Blueberry brioche spirals: roll out the dough into a rectangle and spread the jam on the surface of the dough. Roll into a log and cut slices around 1.5 inches thick.  Place in greased muffin tin. (I didn't do this properly and ended up with the manatee brioche so if I had followed the instructions they would have been much better looking).

6. Let the buns rise for 20 minutes.  Preheat the oven to 190oC.

7.  Brush brioche with egg wash (beaten egg) and bake for 15 - 20 minutes until golden brown.

Great toasted the next day in a panini grill or microwaved for 10-15 seconds on high.

Bon appetit!


  1. You sick, sick people. How could kill, nevertheless, eat a manatee!

  2. Ummmmm guess I need to clarify that no manatees were harmed in the making of these brioches?



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