If you’ve ever made chocolate truffles, marmalade or quiche you’ll know that feeling of a simultaneously sinking heart and quickening pulse – as The Truth is revealed to you. Once you’ve read the list of ingredients (usually including butter, sugar, or cream – or all three if you’re lucky) it’s no wonder these foods tastes so good. Like Eve eating the apple of knowledge, the postlapsarian slide into realisation is sweet, but irreversible.
Tonight I made brioche – which it turns out it mostly flour and butter: 340g butter to 500g of flour. That’s pretty much a 2:3 ratio – which is a lot of butter. (I love butter: read this.)
I was driven to make this satanic incarnation of butter after eating some shop-bought brioche. In my usual mixture of ego and curiosity, I looked at the ingredients and thought – I could make these! I did the same with Jaffa Cakes. And macaron… and now I find myself in the same post-cooking haze at ll o’clock at night, wondering why I bothered! There are three proving stages. We aren’t going to eat these bad boys until THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW!!
The basic recipe involves mixing fresh yeast into warm milk, then whisking that with some eggs into a mound of flour. This creates possibly the stickiest substance known to man: if superglue where to have a culinary equivalent, this is it. I tried to mix the dough in my food processor, but when the smell of burning rubber overtook the scent of fresh yeast, I thought better of it. The sticky dough had somehow managed to get down the central shaft of the mixer and was winding its way around the mechanism (I don’t think the recipe’s recommended ‘preparation time’ included cleaning this complicated mess up).
Once you’ve finished breaking your kitchen utensils, you whisk unmentionable amounts of butter with sugar, and then rub the butter into the dough. I tried to do this on the work surface, but ended up moving to a bowl as obscene quantities of greasiness was oozing even further around my kitchen than the stickiness.
I am struggling to find a way to describe what it feels like to rub butter into an already rich dough. It made me laugh with the excess of it; digging your hands into a bowl of butter, taking a handful, and then squishing it between your fingers as you massage it into the dough. Argh! You’re just not meant to deal with butter by the handful – it’s so wrong. I loved it!!
At this point you leave the dough to rise for eight hours. Yes: 340g of butter has the same effect on yeast as it does on your coronary arteries – it slows it right down. The butter clogs up the yeast’s raising properties, which means you have to leave the dough to prove for 8 hours, 4 and then another 2 hours. Because I was at work, I ended up leaving it overnight, knocking it back and leaving it all day, shaping it, and then leaving it over night again.
I started making the brioche on Tuesday night, and we had them for breakfast on Thursday morning.
8.15am Thursday morning: Coffee and homemade brioche… I’m in love.
I used the recipe from my Leith’s Cookery book, but here is a simpler one from the BBC. I’m going to try the quick one next time, so see if the results are the same. Let’s face it, you’ve got to be some kinda wannabe foodie to even think of making brioche in the first place: here is the most honest account of making brioche I found!