I’ve been thinking about Paris.
About bumping knees with Mike at the petite tables of the always-packed Bistrot Paul Bert. And wandering the streets in search of good bread. Or shoes. Or both.
So when it was announced that Recipe #4 of the Bread Baker’s Apprentice challenge was brioche, I took it as a sign.
Sure, it seemed silly to be attempting to make brioche for the first time when in a matter of days, I’d be in the land of great brioche. But I wanted to understand it. Just last week, I’d made bagels for the first time, a Herculean task that helped me develop a mammoth respect for a bread I’d often overlooked at breakfast.
So, with one pound of butter and a carton of eggs in hand, I steeled my arteries and was ready to go.
First, you mix yeast and bread flour with whole milk and let it sit for 20 minutes to let the mixture rise.
Next, you add eggs, more bread flour, sugar, salt — and one pound of butter.
Watching the sticks of yellow disappearing into the dough, I began
thinking about all the brioche I’ve eaten over the years. A
truly heart-stopping amount.
For the challenge, however, I had to soldier on.
The next step involved gathering all the dough together and forming a rectangular blob that had to “rest” in the refrigerator for four hours.
As tempted as I was to eat it with a spoon, I decided to let the dough rest and prep the brioche cups.
Since I fell asleep waiting for the dough to finish with its beauty sleep, many, many hours later, baking resumed.
There was the forming of the balls …
… which were rolled out into little logs and then split apart and rolled up again to form two little balls.
The balls were placed, one atop the other, in the greased cups …
More “resting” in the fridge and baking later, voila! The brioche had landed.
I’d like to say that they were as good as they looked. After all, what could be bad about anything with that much butter in it? (Don’t answer that.)
But chewing my way through one, and then another, I lamented the lack of an airy lightness. Somewhere during the kneading, I’d clearly taken a wrong turn.
It got me thinking about that first brioche I’ll have in Paris, and how, if I’m lucky, it’ll fleck my chin with feathery, buttery crumbs. And now that I’ve tasted a beginner’s brioche, it’s just going to taste that much better.