Highly enriched dough tip
The onset of the holidays makes me want to get back to brioche, panettone and other highly enriched breads. When you bake a highly enriched dough with lots of butter and egg yolks, there is always the challenge of dough temperature. When you incorporate the butter into the mix you want a cool dough so the butter is physically incorporated and not simply melted. On the other hand, since most highly enriched doughs are made with commercial yeast, you want a warm dough to give the yeast the environment in which it likes to grow, especially when it has to fight against the fats in the butter, milk and egg yolks. Here is my simple solution to this problem.
Before I start the mix I take a very heavy ceramic bowl, or a properly sized ceramic crock would do, and fill it with very warm water. I let the mass of the ceramic absorb the heat. Then, when I am finished mixing, I turn the bulk dough out into the now warm crock and the dough warms quickly from contact with the residual heat in the crock rather than slowing getting warmed from convection from the ambient air. It would be hard to measure but I am guessing the crockery is about 110 when I put the dough in.
Here is a picture of a simple brioche that I did over the weekend with this technique. Sorry.. shiny egg wash glaze and slant'y Fall sun are tough on the iPhone photographer. The dough was slightly warm to the touch when I shaped the loaves and VERY active. This technique is also important for those of you who, like me, tend to prefer a slightly cool house in the winter. I have a home made proof box that gets up to 90 but that initial warming of the dough from the crockery is what makes the difference.