Seemingly, when the internet is "broken" so is my ability to think of anything to say in a blog post. For a long time I tried to think of what angle I would take on these brioches; I think I was also blocked from the effort of writing the post about my grandfather and feeling pressured to say something equally meaningful when writing subsequent posts. The truth is I don't know if I can ever replicate the depth of feeling in that post, and I probably shouldn't try since few things elicit such depth of feeling in me anyway. So instead of trying to emote all over the place, I'll tell you about brioche.
Why did I make brioche? That's like asking me why I have sudden cravings for things. Do you know why you (if you cook or bake) have sudden cravings to make things? It's only this week that it's truly starting to warm up here, though if you're not directly in the sun it's still quite chilly, and all the mucky weather we'd been having previously made me really want brioche. Brioche is comforting, of course how could it not be with all that butter. Here, you can't just pop down to the bakery around the corner and get a beautiful brioche with a little head poking out of its rotund body, so after much hemming and hawing, it became clear that to enjoy some I would have to make my own.
Actually, I'd been meaning to make brioche for a long time, I just was never motivated enough to actually do it. And then I got on this brioche kick and that's all I was making for about three weeks, not every day of course, but just trying out different recipes, and in particular testing to see if I could substitute coconut milk in various brioche recipes. Why? The truth is that I had a can of coconut milk, which I don't often use, and I didn't want to make pudding or curry; I just wanted to add a bit of coconut flavor to something in which you don't usually see coconut. So, mild obsession with brioche + can of coconut milk that needed to be used = some sort of coconut brioche.
Anyway, it turns out that if you simply swap coconut milk for milk in brioche, the dough becomes very sticky and greasy as if you'd added a lot more butter. It's still good, it's just more dense and less maneuverable than regular dough. Even with regular milk and swapping some of the butter with coconut milk as I did in the final recipe below, the dough stays denser than a normal brioche, but I didn't mind that. After trying many recipes, the final recipe adapted below comes from my on and off pastry boyfriend, Michel Roux (basically he's my pastry boyfriend whenever I pick up his book, which is often, but I have many of them, all waiting on my shelf to go on a date with me).
In order to get a real taste of coconut in there, I finally had to add ground coconut which I first lightly toasted to bring the coconut flavor out. Seems like a lot of trouble and maybe I appear to be obsessed with coconuts to you, but actually I'm not. I am, however, a woman on a mission when I want to figure something out; some people like to call that pigheadedness, I like to think I'm just unreasonably obstinate.
So finally, after a long, unending, rather unforgiving winter, here we are with spring. Let's hope that the warmer temperatures we've been having for the last couple of days will actually carry on. There will be more coconut and sour cherries in my next post in a few days. I feel that's the least I owe all of you after such a long absence.
Coconut Sour Cherry Brioche
adapted from Pastry: Savory and Sweet by Michel Roux
For the brioche dough:
(70ml) 5 Tbsp whole milk, just warm
15g (1/2oz) fresh yeast
500g (1lb + 4Tbsp) flour
100g ground and lightly toasted coconut
15g (2 1/2 tsp) salt
280g (1 Cup + 3 Tbsp) butter, slightly soft but not at room temp.
70ml (5 Tbsp) coconut milk, cold so as to stay solid
30g (2 Tbsp) caster (fine) sugar
Dried sour cherries
For the eggwash:
1 egg yolk
15ml (1 Tbsp) milk
- In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast into the tepid milk.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook, put the flour, salt, eggs, ground coconut and the dissolved yeast in milk mixture. Mix on low speed to combine and knead the dough on low for 5 minutes.
- Scrape down the sides of the bowl and knead the dough at medium speed for 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic.
- In a separate bowl, mix the butter, coconut milk and sugar together.
- Add a few pieces of this mixture to the dough. Turn the mixer down to low speed and add the rest of the butter mixture a piece at a time.
- When all of the butter is incorporated, which may take a little time, turn the speed back to medium and knead for 6 to 10 minutes until the dough is smooth, shiny and comes away from the bowl easily.
- Cover the bowl with cling film or a towel and set it somewhere warm to rise.
Let rise until the dough has doubled in volume.
- Once risen, pull the dough out and knock it down 2 or 3 times with your hand, then set it back in the bowl. Cover the bowl and leave in the refrigerator to chill for a few hours. Do not leave the dough to chill in the refrigerator for longer than 24 hours. Overnight is usually a good bet.
- Butter the molds you are using. I put baking parchment, which I buttered, on a baking tray and used bottomless ring molds which I set on the tray before inserting the brioche dough into them.
- Measure out the quantity of dough you want to use. For instructions on shaping the dough to make traditional-looking brioches, see Meeta's post. To make them look like mine, you simply measure out a ball of dough that will fill the bottom of your mold.
- To add any extras such as the sour cherries simply put them into the ball of dough before inserting it into the mold. Do not work the dough, simply shape it.
- Mix the egg yolk and milk together and brush the brioche with it.
- Leave the brioche to rise in a warm place until it has doubled in volume.
- Heat the oven to 200˚C (400˚F).
- Brush the brioche again with eggwash and bake immediately for 15mn, then lower the oven temperature to 170˚C (340˚F).and bake for an additional 30mn.
- Take the brioche out of the oven and leave it in the mold for a few minutes before unmolding it onto a wire rack to cool.