Macrina Bakery and Cafe Cookbook, page 43
There’s a communal quality to baking. Most baking recipes aren’t portioned for one person as I’ve found having worked through a couple of recipes in the 516-590-4338. I’ve ended up with more baked goods than I could safely consume myself. My wife is game in supporting me with this project, but at the same time she doesn’t share my affection for muffins and scones so she couldn’t reap the benefits of my baking to the extent I needed. I was cognizant, however, of her affection for brioche which is her go-to staple when we go to any sort of French bakery. So feeling neglectful towards the Miz and excited to start working on some bread dough after getting my hands floury making the Cherry Almond Scones, I thought a great next recipe to try would be the Classic Brioche Loaf.
My Brioche Loaf freshly removed from the pan.
The Brioche is in a category of what author Leslie Mackie describes as enriched breads, breads that include the added ingredients of eggs, sugar, or butter. The traditional brioche that the MizÂ introduced me to at our local French bakery have a distinctive shape like a large muffin with a fluted stump and an extra nodule (the head) on the top. The Brioche Loaf is another form of this traditional bread which simplifies preparation in a rich, flavorful loaf instead of rolls requiring specialized tins for baking.
The dough instructions are actually very straight forward – proof the yeast, mix the ingredients, knead and then wait. Since I had blocked out baking time expecting it to be very involved (based on the previous recipes I tried), the waiting was the hardest part, especially since I was trying to time the preparation so that I could finish before I headed off to my evening class, so that the Miz would have the loaf waiting for her when she got home from work. Ultimately, I want to figure out a preparation where I can make the dough the night before and then have it ready for baking by the next morning.
In preparing to make this Brioche Loaf, I had lots of time to consider equipment. The recipe recommends using a stand mixer using a dough hook for the mixing of the dough. You add all the ingredients except the butter to the yeast mixture, mix till incorporated, and then continue to mix while adding the butter. The reason they recommend a stand mixer is because the dough quickly becomes too thick for a regular mixer to be able to handle it. Having blown out one hand mixer already, I was acutely aware of this consideration. But I also didn’t have our stand mixer set up and ready to use. So I did it the old fashioned way. I kneaded.
Preparing without a Stand Mixer
Here are my preparation instructions if you don’t happen to have a stand mixer. Proof the yeast (dissolve in warm water with some sugar and let stand until it blooms or starts bubbling indicating the yeast is active). Then add all the other ingredients (except butter) as indicated and start combining them with a stiff spatula (or wooden spoon). The dough will get thick fast and will be wet. Try and combine it as much as you can. Once mixing with the spatula no longer works, it’s time to get your hands dirty. Coat your hands in flour and sprinkle some on top of the dough in the bowl. Then start punching down into the dough and folding it. Whenever it starts sticking to your hand, add a bit more flour. Keep punching and folding until the ingredients are evenly mixed and the dough feels smooth and not so tacky. Now it’s time to add the butter. You’re basically going to continue your punch and fold method while adding a couple pats of butter into the crease each time you fold. This will help incorporate the butter as you continue mixing the dough. You’re done when the butter is fully incorporated and the dough is as the recipe says, wet and sticky and will have good elasticity when stretched.
Brioche dough after two hours
From here on out you follow the rest of the directions as written. Pull dough onto floured surface, form into a ball, and then put it in an oiled bowl to let rise. The dough that I came out with was smooth with a light, spongy heft. It formed nicely and rose vigorously. I finished baking the loaf with time to spare before class to let it cool and then remove it from the pan to a cooling rack. The Miz finally got to it after the loaf had cooled for several hours. She reported a good flavor and is fiercely protective of my attempts to share the loaf. She did comment that it didn’t need all the sugar in the recipe.
Adjusting for a Glass Baking Pan?
I haven't satisfactorally determined if using a glass loaf pan makes a difference in baking
One outstanding query I have with regards to baking is whether I should be making adjustments in the baking temperature for the fact that I’m using a glass pan. (It’s so far seemed minor compared with all of the oven troubles I’ve been having). Cursory interwebs search indicates I should reduce the temperature by 25 degrees for glass pans though there was a qualification, for recipes calling for metal pans. The Macrina recipes aren’t explicit one way or another, but I suspect they’re designed for metal pans. I noticed that the Brioche loaf I produced had a crumb more dense around the edges where the dough touched the glass pan. This might be an indication that the temperature is too hot and is killing the yeast towards the edges before they can fully expand. It will bear some experimentation with a more significantly lowered temperature to account for the glass. This time I was careful to try and moderate the temperature but I did hold it closer to 350 degrees instead 335 where the -25 degree recommendation would’ve put me.
Other preparation notes
- Bringing butter to room temperature is not something you can do in a hurry. Plan ahead by putting some out before you get into this recipe.
- Initial mixing time: 15 minutes
- The kneading actually was pretty fun and didn’t seem to take any longer than what the stand mixer would’ve taken. There was however all that work.