"OK ! Who said that ?" Clue – you'll have to be either a historian or a really mad foodie freak and as this is a food blog, I'm guessing that you will be the latter. OK! It is widely believed that it was uttered by Marie Antoinette, the final "Queen of France" whose husband Louis XVI, was the last king of France, deposed during the French Revolution. Apparently, she said it in condemnation of the complaining poor, who wanted bread, but perhaps someone should have pointed out that making cake requires more expensive ingredients than traditional bread and if they cannot afford bread, then they certainly cannot afford to buy cake ingredients like eggs, sugar and lots of butter. Alright, enough history – what exactly does this phrase mean and what does it relate to ? Strictly translated, the word "cake" translates back into French as BRIOCHE.
Yep ! the "Queen" of all breads in that although it resembles a bread strictly speaking, it is made with ingredients that you will find more in a cake, like lots of butter, eggs and some sugar…. I guess you are beginning to see the connection right ? I hope so ?
Now, to make this lovely invention, I'm going to try a very step-by-step approach with lots of pictures. One reason for this is that I like taking pictures, but seriously, because it is a thrilling bread to make I think it is nice to capture every moment. So some rules of the game – I must confess, this is one bread where gadgets work, because of the very sticky ingredients, it is less messier to make this using a food mixer (not a food processor). Sure, you can make this with your hand, but it will be really greasy and smell of butter and eggs for hours, so stay home and don't shake anyone's hands. Also, because it is always nice to have such a bread freshly baked for the morning, it is better to start making it the evening or night before and for this, make sure you have enough space in your fridge to store the bread in a container. Finally, you will glad to know that there are two versions for making brioche – one is quite rich, where you are encouraged to use almost equal amounts of flour and butter (as evident in the Cooks Book by DK), the other one encourages a half quantity of butter against the flour and this is the one that I tend to use.
Here we go. First, place 500g of plain flour (strong white is best) together with 15g of fresh yeast, 70g of caster sugar, 1 teaspoon of salt and 2 eggs into the food mixer on medium speed. Continue mixing until the dough begins to come together, after which add another 2 eggs and 250g of softened butter, cut into chunks. The dough should be mixed until it seriously hugs the dough hook, whereby when you stop the mixer and lift the top of the mixer, the dough will hold onto the dough hook, refusing to leave. Scrape this back into the bowl and cover with cling film for about 2 hours. Then take out and work the dough on a floured surface (if not it will stick) to deflate it, then place back into a bowl, cover again and put it into the fridge overnight.
To have for breakfast wake up early enough, like 2 hours before you intend to eat it and shape as you want. When I make brioche, I always make two versions, Briochettes in 4 French fluted tins and one as a Brioche Nanterre loaf. For Briochettes, cut with a very sharp knife, 4 pieces about 15 cm each. From each of this piece, remove a small bit that you can roll into a ball about the size of the top of your thumb, place the larger piece into well buttered/greased fluted tins, dent the centre with your thumb print and place the small dough balls into the hole – glaze with a one egg mixture.
For the Brioche Nanterre loafs, cut the remaining dough into 4 equal pieces and roll into a rectangular shape, place into a well greased loaf tin, side by side so that they are touching. Now cut very gently the top of each piece, using sharp scissors, a cross – glaze with egg mixture.
Leave both versions for one hour to rise, put the oven on 180C and bake for 20 minutes for the Nanterre, checking regularly and on 200C for about 10 minutes for the Briochettes.
For the Nanterre, you should get a nice rich yellowish glaze peeping through a nice brown crust.
For the Briochettes, they should puff up and when you insert a stick inside, it should be dryish but not heavy. Once they are ready, place onto a wire rack for about 5 minutes to cool and serve and you will be the star of the family or friends if you can get them to come to yours early enough for breakfast, but with this type of bread, I'm sure they will be racing over to yours. My kids start fighting for the briochettes, which are really cute – them and the briochettes of course.
If you don't finish the bread within 2 days, you can toast the loaf version, top with a bit of butter and jam and if you love contrast, top with cheddar cheese. To really spoil yourself the French way, soak slices of Brioche in an egg mixture, fry and serve with jam for "French Bread".
So in summary you need,
500g plain flour
70g caster sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg for the glaze
15g fresh yeast (or one 7g pack of dry active yeast)
Fluted tins (optional)
Inspired by a recipe in DKs The Cook's Book.