When you are crazy for sourdough and obsessed with brioche, it’s a given that eventually, a sourdough brioche must be made.
At least, it was a given for me. My husband told me my “love of all things sourdough” was being taken too far when I interrupted his reading to tell him of my great plans. I informed him that commercial yeast is, in the timeline of bread making, a recent innovation that is predated by brioche. As a good lawyer, I bolstered my thesis with the facts, noting that the most accurate translation of Marie Antoinette’s infamous comment was, “let them eat brioche.” (Yes, people, this is my takeaway lesson for you from the French Revolution). He made a face, so I ignored him.
The recipe I used was Chad Robertson’s recipe from Tartine Bread, a great book I’ve talked about before. In direct contrast to most of that volume’s recipes, which don’t even need to kneaded, this one absolutely requires a stand mixer–how else could you smoothly incorporate a full pound of butter?
Besides the astounding quantities of butter and the use of nearly a dozen eggs, this recipe requires both a sourdough starter and a poolish (a mixture of flour, water, and a pinch of instant yeast that is allowed to ferment overnight and develop extra flavor). It’s a lot of bowls, but by no means difficult. It all comes together in a stand mixer, with the butter beaten in at the end. The dough is wet, sticky, glistening and almost taffy-like in appearance. Funnily enough, for a dough that weighs a full six pounds, it hardly seemed to tax my mixer at all (much to my relief)–presumably because it is indeed such a soft, pliant dough.
The dough is folded down a few times during bulk fermentation, but because it uses both instant yeast and wild yeast, it had no trouble kicking back and making itself comfortable in my oversize, 6-quart bread rising bucket. (Finally–I feel like that purchase was justified). The use of instant yeast is also what makes the dough hold up well for freezing for a later use. And thankfully so: it’s a relief you don’t have to bake six loaves of brioche all at once.
Four pounds are in the freezer, and the remaining two pounds made their way into my brioche molds, where formed into the traditional shape, they happily continued to grow. My loaves baked up wonderfully, though I’m afraid that they did brown a bit more than I would have liked. Although–this may not have been an error on my part; Robertson explains that at he and his wife’s bakery, they intentionally brown their goods more than the typical bakeshop. (I think these might have turned out more nicely if I had remembered the egg wash at the end as well. But after cracking open 10 eggs, I must have subconsciously decided that enough was enough).
Verdict? I love having extra dough in the freezer, asking merely to be defrosted and shaped. I love the luxury of this recipe, full of so many possibilties: though I’d never tire of an honest, simple brioche, the kugelhopf variation is tempting me. And I love using both sourdough and poolish, giving the dough depth of flavor and extended shelf life.
But most importantly I love eating it smeared with jam. And my husband does too–and though he’s may not be willing to say as much, the several slices that he enjoyed were admission enough.
I hate to be a downer and not give you any recipe, but I’d have to suggest having a look at the book–the instructions are so detailed and each step so lovingly photographed I’d hardly do it justice. I’d even say that it’s well worth a slot on your Christmas wish list.
And…if you are at all interested in sourdough bread baking (and you should be), make sure you help celebrate “Doughvember” hosted by Pinch My Salt and Salty Seattle. It’s new and unusual uses of sourdough that are precisely the focus, and this could be just the tip of the iceberg. I’m making this bread in the spirit of stretching my sourdough skills, and am looking forward to seeing what else everyone creates.
Update: I just noticed that I did not mask well in my first photo the fact that my son took a little nibble out of the brioche. Helpers in the kitchen sometimes extract their price, I guess.