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This year I decided to give the gift of food for Christmas. Not just any food. Delicious treats made by yours truly. And made with love to boot. I remember when Charlotte was quite young and asking me how come the food I made for her tasted so good. I replied that it was because I had made it with love. Love makes everything taste great. Even Emma knows that everything mama makes is made with love.

I started with a most delicious bread. Brioche. A French bread with a dark, flaky crust and rich, tender, buttery interior. And I mean buttery. With just a hint of sweetness, this versatile bread can serve as breakfast with jam slathered over a slice. Or French Toast, Oh…! A super-rich grilled cheese sandwich for lunch. A snack in the mid-afternoon with a nice cappuccino. A thick slice with a bowl of soup at dinner time. Even  dessert… brioche, fresh figs, honey and custard baked in the oven and oozing with yumminess.

I came across an interesting fact on the brioche. In the 1700’s Marie Antoinette told the peasants of France, “If they have no bread, let them eat cake.” Apparently, this was a mistranslation. In French, she tells them to eat brioche. “S’ils n’ont plus de pain, qu’ils mangent de la brioche”.

I worked with a recipe from “Martha Stewarts’ Baking Handbook”, with a few of my own changes. The recipe calls for fresh yeast, which I did not feel comfortable working with, therefore I used dry yeast. I also changed the oven temperature the second time around, making for a less dry crust and interior.

  • 5 tablespoons lukewarm milk (100 to 115 degrees)
  • 5 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 1 pound 2 ounces all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon coarse salt
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, slightly softened
  • 1/4 cup superfine sugar
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 tablespoon milk

Begin by warming the milk until it reaches between 110 and 115 on a thermometer. Add the yeast and set aside. Weigh the flour and add it to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment, along with salt and eggs.

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Add the yeast mixture and mix on low speed to combine and knead, about 5 minutes. Scrape down sides of bowl with a spatula and knead on medium speed until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes.

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In a large bowl, mix together butter and sugar.

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Add a few small pieces of butter mixture to dough; with the mixer on low, add remaining butter mixture, a little bit at a time. I made sure the butter was worked into the dough before adding more. When all the butter mixture has been added, increase speed to medium and continue mixing until smooth, shiny, comes away from the sides of the bowl and is elastic, about 10 minutes.

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Butter a large bowl and transfer the dough into it. Cover with plastic wrap and a dish towel and let rise in a warm place until it has doubled, about 2 hours.

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Lift dough from bowl and drop back into the bowl to deflate; repeat this 2 more times. Cover the bowl and place in the fridge to chill for at least 8 hours and up to overnight. I leave mine in overnight and continue with the recipe first thing in the morning.

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Butter 2 loaf pans. Divide dough into 2 equal pieces. Divide each piece of dough into 8 equal pieces, forming each into a ball and placing each ball into a loaf pan, side by side.

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Whisk egg yolk and milk in a small bowl and brush the rolls lightly with this mixture. Put the rest aside. Spray 2 pieces of plastic wrap with non-stick cooking spray and cover the pans, spray-side down. Let rise in a warm place until doubled, from 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

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Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Brush each loaf again, very lightly so as not to deflate the brioche, with the remaining egg mixture. Place pans in the oven and bake for 15 minutes, until it begins to turn a golden colour. Lower the oven temperature to 350 and bake an additional 20 to 25 minutes. Mine were done after 25 minutes. Let cool in pans for 5 minutes. Remove from pans and place on a wire rack to cool completely.

How good does that look? Charlotte said it was the best bread EVER!

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I wrapped the brioche and attached a Christmas ornament.

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I then put together a gift basket which consisted of the brioche, a jar of Lemon Curd to spread over a nice slab of brioche, Jack Daniels Bacon Jam for a scrumptious grilled cheese sandwich, a Salted-Caramel Sauce to pour over vanilla ice-cream and Mojito Jelly to spread over crackers and cheese.

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Who wouldn’t want to receive this delectable gift for Christmas?

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Wishing you all the very best in the New Year!!