Cooler evenings, lengthening shadows and the slightest hint of crimson on the maple trees can mean only one thing… autumn in New England is rapidly approaching! While some here may view the onset of autumn with trepidation, being the harbinger of the New England winter which can oftentimes be quite brutal, to me autumn is a season of anticipation. The cooler weather now makes it an ideal time to delve into one of my favorite types of baked goods… Viennoiserie. Viennoiserie is that class of leavened baked goods that is sweetened with sugar and enriched by butter and eggs. Included in this category are croissants, danish and brioche.
Brioche is known for its richness, and can be found with a butter content ranging from 20% (baker’s percentage) all the way up to 80% and higher! The formula used here has a butter content of 50% and is an adaptation of the one described in Hamelman’s Bread: A Baker’s Book of Techniques and Recipes. However, before attempting this formula, one word of caution is in order… proceed only if you are looking for an excuse to replace your home stand mixer. The dough, before butter incorporation, is so tight that hand mixing is out of the question. Even at speed 2, my stand mixer labored, got quite hot and almost began to smoke under the strain. However, once the butter was incorporated and the dough was allowed to mix further for quite some time, a beautifully soft and satiny dough was obtained.
- 680 g Heartland Mill All-Purpose Flour
- 65 g Water
- 340 g Eggs (6 Large Eggs)
- 15 g Salt
- 80 g Sugar
- 1½ Tsp. Instant Yeast
- 340 g Butter (3 Sticks)
Into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a spiral dough hook is added the flour, salt, sugar and yeast. Into a separate bowl is added the water and eggs, both coming directly from the refrigerator, and this mixture is whisked just to combine. With the mixer running on speed 2, the egg and water mixture is added to the mixer bowl and all the ingredients are allowed to combine. Once a tight dough is formed, the mixer is set to speed 3 (warning: this will probably void your mixer’s warranty) and it is allowed to continue mixing to fully develop the gluten, approximately 10-15 minutes. While this mixing is ongoing, a rolling pin is used to pound the butter, which has just been removed from the refrigerator, to soften it while still keeping it cold. The butter is then cut into small pieces and slowly added to the dough after the gluten has been fully developed, still mixing on speed 3. After mixing for approximately 20 minutes, the butter becomes fully incorporated and the dough becomes soft and satiny, with the ability to be stretched into a thin windowpane.
The dough is then covered with plastic wrap and allowed to ferment for 1 hour at room temperature (~72ºF). After this time, the dough is given a turn (see the video here), placed back into the mixer bowl, covered with plastic wrap and placed in the refrigerator overnight. One or two times during its refrigeration, the dough should be gently degassed.
The next morning, grease three 8½”x4½” bread pans. Remove the dough from the mixing bowl and divide into 18 pieces, each 80 g. Shape each piece into a tight ball and place in the bread pans as shown below:
The dough is then covered with plastic wrap and allowed to proof for 3 hours at 74ºF. After this time, the dough has risen so that it almost fills the bread pan:
The surface of the dough balls is then brushed with egg wash and the loaves are baked in a 375ºF oven under steam for 15 minutes, after which time the steam cover is removed, the temperature is reduced to 350ºF and the loaves are allowed to bake a further 25 minutes, to a deep mahogany color. The loaves are then immediately removed from their pans and allowed to cool. The resulting brioche has a light, almost feathery crumb: