Yes, yes, been a while
I promised Varda that I would practice brioche a tète (just doing my bit to make sure the terrorists lose…) and my word is my bond. Sometimes it takes years to get your money but that’s how bonds are.
Anyway, my last batch was pretty enough to do a write up and take some pictures (still not my thing).
Since I can’t both shape and take a picture, you should refer to Varda’s blog (someday I'll figure out how to paste a link..) on the topic of brioche to see photos of me shaping. The basics don’t change, but there are things the pictures don’t show. And so, a list:
First, it takes a lot of tin for just a small amount of dough. My tins are 4” wide at the top, 2.25” at the bottom, and 1.5” high with 10 flutes. This will accommodate 3 oz. of dough – or slightly less – not slightly more. After bad experiences with non-stick tins, I prefer the classic metal ones. We live in the golden age of pan release. Since I have gone with real tin tins, I’ve had no sticking, even when the egg wash drips.
Pre shape round and allow a good amount of time for the pre shapes to chill.
For the final shaping, first shape round. You want this to be as perfect as possible, so use a good amount of pressure as you shape the round. And heed the good advice to “flour your hands, not the bench” for this stage. You want the round to stick just a little to the bench to make it good and tight, but not to your hands which will create flaws in the surface. You can remove any stickage with a bench scraper as you move the ball to its next position. I will reiterate, you want that little ball to be as perfect as possible. Any flaws in it will be flaws in your brioche. I keep an area of the bench flour free for this this step, because things will change in the next.
A lot of us don’t like to (or need to) use a lot of flour on the bench. This changes a bit with brioche. Once it has been rolled into a tight ball, you will want to work on a floured surface as you dip the side of your hand into a puddle of flour and use it to roll the top third of the ball into a “bowling pin” or as I prefer to call it, a “Schmoo” (from Li’l Abner – just how old am I?). Do not be afraid to flour the bench under the dough while you are doing this. You can easily brush off any excess and a little flour on the “neck” will not do harm.
Now, the going gets harder. You want to flour both of your index fingers and set the Schmoo into the tin with its head centered and as straight as possible. Use your index fingers to lightly pull the body dough away from the head so that the head is centered as perfectly as possible. This is a preliminary step. You will be finishing up the head in the next step, so do this lightly, but firmly.
Last comes “the move.” Using your non dominant hand’s thumb, pull the head back and away from the body (and don’t decapitate the thing, but really pull it back.) Using you dominant hand’s well-floured index finger, thrust your finger between the body and the pulled back head firmly – and all the way to the bottom of the tin. You want to make a very clean division between the two parts of the brioche. Give the tin a small turn and repeat. Do not fear the flour! Continue this operation until you see this clear separation all the way around. This is what will give you the nice heads on the brioche, so spend a little time on this.
Egg wash is two eggs, plus one yolk, a dash of salt, and a little bit of water. Beat thoroughly and then strain (if you are fussy.) I have learned how to treat the yolk so that the membrane that can make mixing hard is left in my hand - but the process is a secret...
Proof thoroughly. I can’t overestimate the importance of this. We all love our oven spring on lean loaves (and some enriched loaves) but it is not our friend here. Fully proof the brioche. This last batch was something over three hours in proof. Then egg wash. Twice. Bake.
That’s it. Here are the pictures…
I’d like to say bad things about these, but I really can’t – they are pretty nice.