Brioche and Pain Perdu

My first experience of brioche was on a school trip to France when I was 14. Our school was invited to the town hall, and presented there, in the middle of the hall, was a gigantic brioche, made up of loads of ‘dimples’. You tore off a ‘dimple’ (or, if you were me at 14, several), and this was a good size portion of brioche for each person. Light, fluffy, and buttery, this was probably the first step in my love of French cuisine.

Brioche is built in the classic style of French cuisine: “let’s take a normal food, see how much fat we can get into it without it tasting like fat, then eat it”- think foie gras, creamy sauces, puff pastry, or mousses. Brioche is just that, starting with bread as the basic food. To make brioche, instead of the water you put in normal bread, the moisture comes from eggs and butter, or originally Brie-en-Meaux, according to Alexandre Dumas. For each 500g of flour, there is 350g of butter and 6 eggs in the loaf- a serious amount of fat per slice, but you never would have guessed it from the taste and texture. A masterpiece of French culinary engineering.

The process of making brioche is very similar to making bread as well, mixing the dough together, kneading, incorporating the butter, leaving to rise, then baking. However, incorporating the butter is quite a long task, and the original kneading of the dough takes longer, so this can become a greasy task if you don’t have an electric mixer. If you are going to have a go at making some yourself, I would really recommend getting some good quality butter (from supermarkets, I like this butter), as all the taste comes from the butter.

Then, given that brioche is a pretty gratuitous thing to eat anyway, why not go the full mile? Pain perdu, literally “lost bread”, is the French way of using up leftover brioche- not dissimilar in style to the British bread and butter pudding. Unhealthier still, you take your slice of brioche, dip it in egg, then fry it in more butter. Unhealthy, yes, but boy was it good, with rich buttery flavours everywhere. Topped with some brandy soaked peaches I was given last Christmas, and some creme fraiche, it made for a delicious pudding, and one that would be great to serve to guests at a dinner party. I’d definitely make this again, just as long as I had a gym trip planned after eating it.

Brioche

Makes 1 loaf. This will be, as there is a lot of butter to incorporate into the dough. Adapted from a recipe in The Roux Brothers on Patisserie.

Ingredients:
500g strong white bread flour
6 eggs
350g butter, softened
30g sugar
2tsp salt
2tsp dried active yeast
1 egg and 1tbsp milk

Recipe:
1, Make the basic dough. In an electric mixer, mix together the flour, yeast, salt and eggs. Knead together until smooth and elastic, approximately 10 minutes (or 20 minutes by hand).
2. Incorporate the butter. Beat the butter and sugar together. While the electric mixer is on low, gradually incorporate the butter mix into the dough. Leave to rise in a warm place until double in volume, around 2 hours.
3. Cook the brioche. Pre-heat oven to 200ºC. Knock back the brioche by flipping it over with your finger tips a couple of times, then place in a loaf tin. When the oven is up to temperature, brush the top of the loaf with the egg and milk mix. Place the brioche in the oven, and cook for 35-40 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

Pain Perdu

Serves 2. Recipe adapted from one in Gordon Ramsay’s Chef’s Secrets.

Ingredients:
2 slices brioche
1 egg
100g butter
2 peaches
2tsp icing sugar
creme fraiche, to serve

Recipe:
1. Make the peaches. Skin, stone and half the peaches. Sprinkle the icing sugar over them, and briefly fry them in about a quarter of the butter, until beginning to caramelise.
2. Make the pain perdu. Beat the egg, and pour onto a place. Coat each side of the bread in egg, then fry each slice individually in half of the remaining butter.

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Cranberry and Cinnamon Pannetone « oxfood
  2. Trackback: Divin | oxfood

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