Saturday, June 6, 2009

BBA Challenge #4: Brioche

One of the strangest things about working in Metric is that you come across the strangest things. Butter in Germany is sold in 250g packages (two sticks in the States, plus a tablespoon, about). Milk is sold in liters. Flour and sugar kilogram packages. Although, yes, that is a bit of packaging, it sure beats lugging home 5lb. bags of flour. Then again, when you are lugging 4,5kg of flour, it doesn't really matter.

Eggs are the strangest thing I have encountered here because they are not sold by the dozen, what with the Metric system and all.

That's ten, count 'em, ten eggs! Oddly enough, the small package contains six eggs instead of five, so go figure.

In any case, I made the Middle-Class Brioche because I didn't want to add large amounts of butter to the bread. While I am a huge fan of butter as an ingredient, I rarely spread it on bread, and I didn't want the bread to be too buttery.

I weighed five medium eggs with the shell. Jumbo and large eggs are hard to come by, maybe because the production is different. Medium seems to be the standard size. I got Bodenhaltung Eier, which means the hens were allowed to run around. There are four types of eggs in the EU, and almost all eggs are stamped with their origin details. The other three types are: Organic, Free-Range, Free-Run and Caged. In this case, they were marked 2-NL- and then the code for the place they came from. 2 for Free-run and NL for The Netherlands.

For the Brioche, I used my standard bread flour: Weizenmehl Type 812. Most flour sold here is Type 405, which corresponds to bleached all-purpose flour. It's best for cakes, but I've never had success with it for bread. I actually bought a kilo of Type 550 organic flour, in case I didn't have enough, but luckily, I had enough, with 50 grams left over. This flour is also from the Mehlstübchen, a specialty flour store near the house.

I started the Brioche last Wednesday, after work. Here's the sponge with the yeast, flour and milk. The sponge was done at 20:00, so I marked it for my reference. Somehow, I forgot to buy whole milk, so I ended up using 0,1% milk. That's right. Zero comma one percent. I guess it has to do with some legal thing that milk cannot be sold as fat-free if there is even the slight possibility that it will have fat in it, so they label it with the maximum minimum.

And here it is forty-five minutes later. The bad lighting is because of the position of the lamp in relation to the height of the bowl. Or something.

I added the sponge, eggs, flour and sugar to the DLX.

The real test would be if the butter would incorporate well, as I had heard horror stories of cold butter clumping in the machine. Apparently a Kitchen-Aid is better for cold butter, so I made sure the butter was at room temperature.

There's a pocket of air in that bowl, so it looks like more butter than it is. This was 227 grams. One thing about technique here. I cut the cold butter into chunks and smeared it along the sides of the bowl. I do this to increase the surface area of the butter that needs to be softened so that the butter loses its coldness quicker.

Even though Peter Reinhart recommends adding the butter a quarter at a time and waiting until it is completely assimilated before adding the next quarter, I really could have added it all at once. The butter disappeared within seconds and was fully incorporated within a minute or two.

The other great thing about the Electrolux Assistent DLX/N26/AKM4110W is that it has a scraper built in. There was a recommendation to scrape down the sides of the bowl, and the machine did this beautifully. I did stick in a rubber spatula to get a clean scrape, but this seemed like a mere formality. I cannot recommend sticking in spatulas, tools, or even your whole hand into the mixer for legal reasons, however.

Because I do not yet have any sheet pans, I figured a pizza pan would be the best next thing. And since the dough would be shaped, I didn't see why I couldn't just make a circle instead of the rectangle recommended in the book.

I put the dough in the fridge and decided to bake it the next evening. However, I had to work late, and by the time we were done with dinner, it was 21:00. I didn't want to be up late baking so I decided to wait a bit longer and get up at 6:00 the next morning.

The next morning I woke up at fifteen to six and took the dough out of the fridge. Much to my surprise it had risen about 50 percent.

I got out the brioche pans and set to work.

The dough was actually a bit sticky and very cold, so it was not much fun shaping the two loaves into the pans. I got these pans at Coledampf's CulturCentrum in Wilmersdorf.

I also made two small brioches to sample, as I had already planned to give the loaves away, and I didn't want to bake without having at least eaten some.

Unfortunately, the mini brioches came out lopsided, but looked like little chicks. I thought it was a bit cute, but was a bit disappointed that they didn't come out like the larger ones.

The loaves themselves were majestic.

Because the oven overbrowns and because I had no foil to make a tent and because it seems like the oven is perenially hotter up top than at the bottom, I lowered the rack to the bottom. Final temperapure of the loaves was 190F.

The egg wash turned out beautiful. There was some splitting, and it looked beautiful peeking out. The crumb was also lovely.

I must say that I am not a huge fan of brioche, but it was definitely delicious.

Next is Casatiello! I will be making it with veggie sausage and hopefully smoked Scamorza cheese.


  1. Looks great! I made an almond filled ring and never got to taste the brioche on its own. Next time...I made the casatiello with sundried tomatoes (I am a veggie)and a meat version for neighbors. Excited to see how it turns out with veggie sausage...I will be back! Happy Baking..

  2. Nice write-up, and beautiful looking loaves! I had never made brioche before; I really liked it. The Poor Man's made great French toast and bread pudding.

  3. VERY tasty looking. Great job!
    Nice baking along with you,

  4. These look awesome! I love the giant brioches...they really are majestic!

  5. Scraping down the bowl was an interesting part for me. I had no desire to stop the mixer so I just randomly stuck in my spatula and pushed down hoping to avoid the spinning KA paddle of death. Never hurt myself or the spatula but had some close calls.

    I love that mixer and when I burn my KA up (it is ineviatable with this bread baking) I will have to look at that one.

    I like them better as chicks and I think it gives them more of a home made feel.

    Nicely done and on to butter mixed with cheese and meat. My body is starting to revolt.

  6. Beautiful! I love the write up and pictures also.

  7. Nice photos! Your instructions are so clear, and I love the photos!