As Promised – A Better Brioche
I should’ve known. I shouldn’t still be surprised after all these years. OOOF COURSE! What other secret weapons do professional bakers hold against us besides their senseless guilt towards adding a couple sticks more of butter into everything? It turns out I too, can bake an obscenely rich, absurdly moist and stringy brioche at home if I just blindfold my conscience, steady my shaking hands, and let go of ALLLL THAT BUTTER into the mixer while shaking off the image of cellulite-on-the-beach in my head. Steady now, Mandy. Steady now. The road to greatness isn’t without sacrifice…
I also should’ve known that the moment I stick my head into the world of brioche would mark the point of no return. It started out as an innocent attempt to rekindle with a harmless childhood delight, the red bean buns. And from there, it took on a life of its own and became an obsessive quest for a better brioche dough like a junkie hungering for the purer narcotics. So this is how an addiction forms – a “gateway”, then a cliff… So now I’m falling… no I’m NOT at the bottom yet com’n, that would be a croissant… So now I’m falling blissfully into the abyss of butter and planning to drag a few also-weak-minded victims down with me. Come ON GUYS! Take a few sniff of this buttery insanity infused with palm sugar coconut flavah!! Yeah that’s right. Inhaaaale… Don’t worry. It’s not addictive…
….. OK FINE, it is addictive so make it at your own peril. This dough is adapted from the famous Boston bakery – Flour and is used to make their famous threw-down-Bobby-Flay sticky buns. Well, I think aside from the millions of sticky/cinnamon buns recipes out there, the world really doesn’t need another demonstration from me. So I made a slight variation – a braided brioche loaf with coconut milk and palm sugar glaze, which will give the brioche a beautiful, amber-color sheen. It is less sweet than the traditional sticky/cinnamon buns, but it will FILL the kitchen with wonderful, coconut and palm sugar aroma… Yes, I admit that these 2 ingredients are slightly off of the sold-at-your-corner-grocery category, but nowadays major supermarkets all carry coconut milk, and palm sugar can be easily found on the all-powerful WWW. So there’s really no excuses for not making an effort. And I promise that it’s worth it.
I understand that it’s completely natural if anyone feels the need to stuff in some crushed nuts, or raisins, or coconut flakes or whatever justly things that goes into a brioche. I for one, hate nuts. It’s the ONE thing on EARTH that I’m NOT allergic to and I hate it. It isn’t so funny when life has a sense of humor. Nooot funny, Life! And raisins… I’m not that fond of raisins either. Well, I think they taste like wine and no, that’s NOT a good thing for me. Coconut flakes would obviously enhance the coconut flavor but….. OK I know why! I just don’t like things I have to chew through in my brioche, OK. As in my ice creams. What’s up with hiding something inside melt-in-my-mouth that would break up my teeth? I don’t get that. So I’m gonna keep it pure. Just stringy, moist, buttery, fluffy, slightly chewy and sweet. I’m a girl with simple needs.
Brioche Dough: adapted from Flour
- 175 g of all purpose flour
- 170 g of bread flour
- 1 1/2 tsp of dry yeast
- 5 tbsp of sugar
- 1/2 tbsp of kosher salt
- 1/4 cup of cold water
- 3 large eggs
- 155 g of unsalted butter, room temperature
Palm Sugar Coconut Goo:
- 2 cups of coconut milk
- 100 g of palm sugar
- 1/3 tsp of fine sea salt
A little heads up. This dough needs to sit in the fridge for at least 6 hours to overnight to “develop its flavor”. So keep that in mind. I won’t include it in my “GNBT” category because during this time I could obviously walk away and do other things. So find relief in the fact that it won’t consume the whole day, but it can’t be made the last minute either.
Combine flour, dry yeast, sugar, salt (dry ingredients) + eggs and water (wet ingredients) in a stand mixer with the pedal attachment and mix on low for 3 min. The dough will seem dry and tumble a little in the mixer. Dice the butter into 10 ~ 12 pieces, and add into the mixer 1 piece at a time. Do not add the next piece until the previous one is completely incorporated into the dough. I find it helpful to stop the mixer from time to time and scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl to help the dough to form. Once all the butter is incorporated, change the pedal attachment to a dough hook, and mix on medium for 3 min. The dough may seem really sticky and wet and questionable, but just keep the mixer working and it will slowly come together and pull away from the bowl. After 3 min, increase the speed to medium high and work the dough for another 7 to 10 min until an elastic, smooth dough forms. The dough will start “slapping” the side of the mixer bowl and making “flap flap” sounds.
This dough will be soft, but should be able to be picked up in one piece. If it’s needed today, cover the dough with a kitchen towel and let it proof under room temperature for 1 hour, then leave in the fridge for another 5 ~6 hours. If it’s needed tomorrow, then after the mixing, just cover the dough with plastic wrap and leave in the fridge overnight.
1 hour before making the brioche, prepare the palm sugar + coconut goo. Combine coconut milk, palm sugar (they usually come in cylindrical shape so cut them in pieces before using) and sea salt in a sauce pot and reduce by 2/3 under low heat while stirring occasionally. There will be 1/3 of the original volume left and it should be slightly thick. There. Easy.
When the dough is ready to be rolled out. Preheat the oven on 375ºF/190ºC. Lightly flour the working surface and rolling pin. Cut the dough in half, and roll 1 piece out into a (relatively) 14″ x 10″/40 x 30 cm rectangle. Be as anal as you like but mine looks more like an oval than a rectangle. Apply a layer of the palm sugar goo on top, then cut into 3 long strips. Twist the strips by a few turns and braid the twisted strips together like a ponytail. The palm sugar goo will run all over the place and it WILL be messy but that’s fine. The point is to drench each strips in the goo.
Repeat the same steps with the other half of the dough. In a round baking pan, interlock the two braided brioche dough like 2 half circles hooking onto each other, and tuck the pointy ends underneath. Apply another layer of palm sugar goo on top and lift the braids slightly to let the goo seep into the loaf (be quite generous about it), then cover with a clean towel and let it proof again under room temperature for 30 min. It should be poofy but not doubled.
Before it goes into the oven, base the entire loaf with more palm sugar goo. Bake in the oven under 375ºF/190ºC for 20 min until browned, then lower the temperature down to 340ºF/170ºC for 30 min or until baked through. During this time, re-base the loaf with more palm sugar goo for 2 ~ 3 times until all the goo is applied onto the loaf. The goo will bubble up and form a shiny coating.
Warm and pungent. Stringy and moist. Happiness…