Sunday, November 26, 2006

Almond Brioche and Stephanie's Beer Bread

foodblog 1221

This past weekend, I made my first attempt at brioche. Almond brioche, to be precise - after seeing a mention of this creation on Rorie's blog, Milk and Honey. I love brioche because it has the buttery sweet flavor of a pastry, without being quite as sugary or indulgent as a croissant or cinnamon roll. Almond brioche just takes it to the next level without quite going over the top. It seems like the perfect holiday indulgence to me.

I started with the recipe in Joy of Cooking, and my own very rudimentary knowledge of yeast breads, gained in my baking classes. All was going well until I put the dough in the microwave (not turned on, of course) for its first rise. I chose this spot because the microwave is in a cabinet above the oven, and I figured it would be a nice warm spot.

Unfortunately, I then went to take a nice hot bath, and promptly forgot about the dough. By the time I retrieved it it had "overrisen." Apparently this can cause the dough to collapse, which it had not done yet, but it deflated in a hurry when I went to punch it down. I wasn't sure what this would do to the finished product, so I read up on the internet and in the primer section on bread in the Joy of Cooking. I learned that overrising causes the gluten in the dough to overstretch and results in a less elastic dough with a dry crumb and "an unpleasant beery taste." Hmmmm. I decided to go ahead and see what would happen. I slapped the dough down and put it through its second rise in the refrigerator. Since it was a little overactivated, it didn't take long to double. I went ahead and shaped the dough and put it back in the fridge overnight to proof.

I was a little concerned that it hadn't risen much by the next morning, but I took the individual brioches out of the fridge and put them back in the microwave, over the preheating oven, to finish rising. They rose nicely, and I went ahead and baked them.

The finished product looked beautiful, smelled good and tasted ok, but the texture was definitely affected by the overrising. It was a bit dry - more like cake - and did have a bit of the yeasty taste, though it wasn't quite "beery." I think the copious amounts of butter and sugar in the dough probably helped with that. The almond paste/frangipane I concocted for the filling was delicious, and I am quite confident (particularly given the source of the recipe) that if you do it right the finished product would be great. Accordingly, I will go ahead and post the recipe, even though it didn't quite turn out perfect for me.

The next recipe is definitely "beery" - but in a good way. My friend Stephanie brought this to a recent supper club gathering and it was a big hit paired with some Curried Butternut Squash Soup.

foodblog 1223

Almond Brioche
(adapted from "The Joy of Cooking")

1 package dry yeast (2.25 teaspoons)
1/3 cup whole milk, heated to between 105 and 115 degrees F.
1 cup all purpose flour
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
3 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp whole milk
1 tsp salt
1 3/4 cups bread flour
1 1/2 sticks of butter, softened

almond filling
1/2 cup almond meal (ground whole almonds)
1 Tbsp corn syrup
1 Tbsp powdered sugar
1 Tbsp flour
1 Tbsp egg white (about half of an egg white)
1/8 tsp almond extract
a little water
slivered or sliced toasted almonds

egg wash
1 egg, lightly beaten

Place the yeast and warmed milk in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, and allow to stand until the yeast is dissolved. Add the flour, eggs, sugar, the 2 Tbsp of milk and salt, and mix until well blended. Gradually add the bread flour and incorporate on low speed.

Switch to the dough hook, and knead the dough in the mixer for about 7 to 10 minutes, until the dough cleans the sides of the bowl. Add the butter, and continue to knead the dough until the butter is fully incorporated, scraping down the bowl as needed.

Place the dough in a large buttered bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place (75 to 85 degrees) until it has doubled in volume - about 1 and 1/2 hours.

Punch the dough down, knead it briefly, and refrigerate, covered, for 4 to 12 hours, until it doubles in volume, then punch it down and shape it using the instructions below. If it has not doubled in volume, let it finish rising in a warm place - then refrigerate for thirty minutes before shaping.

While the dough is rising, make the almond filling by simply stirring the ingredients together. If it is too thick, add a little water.

To shape the doug, use a dough cutter or bench scraper to divide the dough into twelve evenly sized balls. Lightly oil your brioche tins (I used cooking spray) and place them on a half sheet pan.

Take each ball and pinch off 1/3 of the dough. Roll the smaller pieces into balls, and set aside. Roll the larger pieces into balls and press them into the brioche tins, making a depression in the center for the almond filling. Add the filling, pressing it down and spreading it with your fingers or a spoon. Place one of the smaller dough balls on top, nestling it into the depression. Brush each formed brioche with the egg wash. Cover the tray of brioche with a piece of oiled plastic wrap and either let rise at room temperature until doubled in volume, or refrigerate overnight and allow to come to room temp and finish rising in the morning. Before baking, brush each brioche carefully with egg wash again, and sprinkle with slivered or sliced almonds.

Bake at 375 degrees, or until deep brown and a knife or tester inserted in one in the center comes out clean. Unmold the brioches onto a rack, and allow to cool. Serve slightly warm.

foodblog 1042

Stephanie's Beer Bread
(from Cooking Light)

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup diced onion
3 cups all-purpose flour (about 13 1/2 ounces)
3 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (4 ounces) grated fontina cheese
1 (12-ounce) bottle beer (such as amber ale) Cooking spray
1/4 cup butter, melted and divided

Preheat oven to 375°.
Heat olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add onion, and sauté 6 minutes or until tender.
Cool to room temperature.

Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups, and level with a knife. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a bowl; make a well in center of mixture. Add onion, cheese, and beer; stir just until moist.

Spoon batter into a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan coated with cooking spray; drizzle evenly with 2 tablespoons butter. Bake at 375° for 35 minutes; brush with remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Bake an additional 23 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 5 minutes in pan on a wire rack; remove from pan. Cool completely on wire rack.

Yield: 16 servings (serving size: 1 slice)

CALORIES 149 (30% from fat); FAT 5g (sat 2.3g,mono 2.1g,poly 0.3g); PROTEIN 3.5g; CHOLESTEROL 12mg; CALCIUM 61mg; SODIUM 259mg; FIBER 0.8g; IRON 1.2mg; CARBOHYDRATE 22.2g

Bon Appetit!


  1. The brioche look so good! ANd I wouldn't refuse the beer bread either...

  2. OH wonderful bread! Lovely photos, perfect golden tummy is growling.

  3. Wow! You seem like a real perfectionist when it comes to your brioche. One reason I really like brioche doughs (rich doughs) is because they are sort of you can manage that beer taste since you made a sweet compliment (almond filling) and the crumb can be a little cakey dry because all that butter in the recipe makes the top so nice and tasty brown.
    You shouldn't be so hard on yourself! I think your brioche look really wonderful. Thanks for your post!

  4. Nice. Nice. Nice. Will definitely try them both. My mom like brioche. It's great to have a home recipe of making brioche.

  5. This looks devine!