I haven't done a lot of home baking in 2011. Maybe it's because I was burnt out from the Great Christmas Cookiefest of 2010 or pre-occupied with the half marathon healthiness. But now that things have calmed down, I've been turning to my trusty cookbooks for some at-home fun. I was feeling ambitious last weekend, so I gave Joanne Chang's Flour Bakery Basic Brioche recipe a try. The basic recipe can then be used to make different treats like gooey cinnamon rolls (the ones that beat Bobby Flay's throwdown) and various other morning sweets. I chose the Brioche aux Chocolat and Sugar + Spice Buns.
Fun fun fun! Ever since I started my bread courses at ABC Cooking Studio, I haven't really utilized the dough hook on my Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer. If I bake bread at home, it's a good opportunity to try out the tips and tricks I've learned in class and we always knead by hand. But that's messy. And this recipe is especially messy, calling for 6 eggs and 2 1/2 sticks of butter. Plus, Joanne Chang gives really detailed instructions on making the dough in a mixer, down to the sounds (slap slap slap) and feel (cold playdough) of the dough. Seriously, it's really hard to mess up her recipes. From her book and some magazine interviews, I get the sense that she truly understands what it's like to be a baking hobbyist. She recognizes the motivations, struggles and insecurities we all face when baking at home, alone. Which is my way of saying, get the book.
Of the two, I preferred the Brioche aux Chocolat. The melted chocolate and warm pastry cream center go perfectly together. Again, the pastry cream recipe in the book is so detailed, it is pretty hard to botch. Timing and temperature are key but if you read the instructions a few times beforehand and are well equipped with your ingredients in place, you can't fail.
The basic brioche dough recipe in the book is BIG. Like I said, 6 eggs and 2 1/2 sticks of butter. But that is so that you have a dough large enough to knead properly in a standing mixer, so you can freeze the dough for up to a week and try out the various morning treats over the course of a few days. It really is the gift that keeps on giving.