#13, Rich & Poor Brioche Loaves
No bread recipe, or any kind of recipe for that matter, is ever completely consistent; even the most stringently-traditional and stuck-to formulae can and have been made with slight differences throughout the years. Well, except for maybe poundcake… I mean come on it’s all the same weight and measure, so simple!
But anyways, by now no one can really expect there to be ONE recipe for any style of bread; plenty of cooks have made their own adjustments in preferred amounts of flour, water, yeast, butter, etc. That’s not taking into account the different KINDS and strains of these ingredients used, using water vs milk vs buttermilk, butter vs margarine vs oil, and all different changes that can be made and yet yield a final product that holds the same proper name and category. So by now, when you see two different recipes for one thing, you don’t bat much of an eyelash.
Thus led to my intrigue months back when I first looked at the Brioche section, only to find that it has been categorized into 3 different ‘types,’ based purely on the amount of certain ingredients used (obviously this isn’t counting the many breads in the same style or derived from brioche, often mixed with dried fruit, nuts, meat+cheese, or other tasty goodies). These different ‘styles,’ so named historically for the type of people who could actually afford to make, or have it made, for them, are logically called thus: Poor Man’s Brioche, Middle-Class Brioche, and Rich Man’s Brioche. The moment I flipped through these sections of the book, I knew that one of the weeks I just HAD to make two of these and document the actual results and differences. And here I am, coming up to a weekend without any set culinary plans, still not in the mood for a hearth bread or something fancy, I’d say it’s about time to put these recipes to use.
To do this, I simply plan to make a couple mini-loaves of each recipe to preserve similar baking conditions. And because they look so adorable!!! Plus, despite the tradition to make ‘brioche a tete’ which I so want to follow, basically a specially high-angled and large-fluted cupcake molded bread with a cute extra ball of bread on top like a cherry, it’s a shape often reserved just for the Rich and sometimes Middle Class varieties. You know, since it’s so fancy and all that.
But I love sliced cuts of brioche, especially for French Toast or just awesome sandwiches, so loaves it is!
Poor and Rich Man’s Brioche
2 cups/ 9.15oz Bread Flour
½ Tb/0.17oz Dry Yeast
¼ cup/2oz Whole Milk, Lukewarm
2 ½ Large/4.15oz Eggs, beaten
1¼ Tb/0.65oz Sugar
¾ tsp/0.19oz Salt
1 cup/8oz Unsalted Butter, Room Temp
1 Egg, whisked frothy, for Wash
2 cups/ 9.15oz Bread Flour
1 tsp/0.11oz Dry Yeast
¼ cup/2oz Whole Milk, Lukewarm
2 Large/3.3oz Eggs, beaten
1 Tb/0.5oz Sugar
5/8 tsp/0.16oz Salt
¼ cup/2oz Unsalted Butter, Room Temp
1 Egg, whisked frothy, for Wash
- Combine ¼ cup of Flour, the Dry Yeast, and the Milk in mixer bowl; cover w/ plastic and let the sponge sit about 20 minutes (30-45 for Poor Man’s) until it’s bubbly and risen
- Move to stand mixer with paddle attachment and add in the Eggs, beating on low until smooth
- Mix together and add in the remaining flour, Sugar, and Salt, mixing on medium until everthing is fully incorporated and moistened
- Let sit 5 minutes to let gluten rest
- Add in ¼ of the Butter, beating on medium speed until evenly distributed. Continue adding remaining butter, ¼ at a time, until all has been fully incorporated, scraping down sides of bowl as needed
- For Rich Man’s: continue mixing on medium speed 2-6 minutes, until ‘smooth and soft,’ scraping down as needed
- Cover baking sheet w/ parchment paper, misting w/ spray oil, and dump dough in middle. Spread out in a small rectangle, spray w/ more oil, cover plastic wrap, and transfer to refrigerator to sit overnight or a minimum of 4 hours
- For Poor Man’s: transfer dough to counter or switch to dough hook, kneading about 10 minutes until ‘smooth and soft’ while not too sticky to work with, or clears from the side and bottom of the pan
- Transfer to lightly oiled bowl, cover w/ plastic and bulk ferment up to 90 minutes or until double in size
- When either dough is ready, remove onto counter, cutting in half or whatever sizes desired for loaf pans
- Working on a lightly floured surface while it’s still cold (for Rich Man’s, Poor can just be turned as-is onto clean work surface), roll into a Loaf shape as discussed Here.
- Lightly spray oil your mini-loaf pans and move dough inside, misting the top w/ more oil before cover w/ plastic wrap
- Proof 1 ½ – 2 hours for Rich dough and 1 hour for Poor, until the dough fills the pans (well, as much as you can get them to)
- 15-30 minutes before baking, thoroughly brush the exposed tops and sides of each dough w/ egg wash. Turn oven to 375F while you’re at it
- Place in oven and bake 20-45 minutes, depending, until golden brown and hollow sounding when thumped
- Remove onto cooling rack for up to a couple hours, or slice when hot to enjoy with extra butter or whatever form one desires
What Have I Learned This Time?
Not from the book or the process of making brioche, but just out of curiosity for this one aspect of bread making I had been wondering about for quite a while. Why is it that ALL the recipes advocate solely cooling, I mean the bread tastes SO good hot right out of the oven? Is there a reason for it?
Well, there is. Apart from the POSSIBILITY of needing the time for the carry-over heat to cook it fully, thus if one cut in immediately part of the bread would still be gummy (though I call bull, since if it’s baked properly this shouldn’t be an issue at all), the main consideration is a process called Starch Retrogradation. These deals both with the water content moving back evenly from the center of the loaf and towards the crust (sort of like why one rests meats on the counter 5+ minutes before slicing), along with the starch’s texture/properties and proteins setting up, developing its ideal crumb after that 1-2 hour cooling period. Cutting this early allows a lot of the steam to escape and can potentially interrupt this whole process.
Thus so many bakers heavily stress and push you to walk away from the bread once out of the oven, hit family members’ hands with spoon, etc, as they advocate how much better the bread will be. But I call bulls#^*! on that, because I don’t care what anyone says, there is no time that bread will ever taste that good hot compared to right out of the oven. Tell me how you can reproduce that flavor and experience, because it’s good toasted or warmed up in an oven but it’s not THAT good. That said, I’ll never eat all of the bread while it’s warm, so from now on I plan on making sure I take some proper steps so that I can enjoy the best of both worlds. Besides just making sure I can make at least two different loaves/boules/whatever for my adventures, I’ll likely just always have one smaller, mini version of the bread that I myself can enjoy hot out of the oven while the bulk of the rest cools slowly over the hours. Not only does this mean I get to experience the majority of my bread in the ‘ideal’ state for proper judgment, but also that I don’t gorge myself on half of it right after it comes out of the oven… cuz you know I do that, and if you were a real person you would too.
Holy! No wonder it’s a ‘Rich Man’s’ dough, trying to shape that bastard after it chilled overnight felt like I was working with pure butter! Though I’m not sure it should have… truthfully I think I may have under ‘kneaded’ it, but I blame the recipe for that. Seriously, the rich man recipe never directs one to change between paddle and dough hook, likely because it’s so soft after the butter, but next time I think I’m going to. I really could NOT tell if it was truly the ‘soft and smooth’ texture the recipe desired, unlike the Poor Man where it’s very easy to see after kneading, and I think having that dough-hook-element will really help me to identify. But despite the soft bready interior, I’m sure it was under-beaten, cuz the crust just felt TOO flaky, like when you try eating a pie dough right after it’s been baked. Needed some more dough-like gluten development to help it smooth out. Also, think a little lower temperature would have been better, seems to need a longer, slower bake for that highly fat-slathered gluten to get cooked and set.
That said, clear difference between the two, but not necessarily better vs worse! First off, I can’t believe this is a ‘poor man’s’ bread, it’s so rich and good… but I guess it’d be more a special occasion thing anyway. Once cooled, I could confirm that this really is THE style most often seen sold in stores.And I see what the author means as to its strength in using for wrapping things and multiple other dough applications; it’s a very soft and easy-to-shape, handle-able dough, yet not sticky at all. I can’t wait to use this or the Middle Class dough in the future for a fun tart or something.
But damn that super soft, buttery texture of the rich version. It may need a more delicate hand to cut, maybe it’ll be easier to handle when done perfectly and cooled (it was, and in fact it became a little more difficult to tell the difference between the two, besides that not-so-satisfying too-flaky crust), but I can’t even think of things I wanna do with it besides shove it in my mouth. I’m sure there’s stuff, but the brain is rather tunnel-visioned at the moment. Either way, two great enriched breads that I will thoroughly enjoy over the next day or two, if it lasts that long.
Does the Dough Like Me Yet?
Apparently I’m a man of the people, as the high-class snobs have briefly turned their nose up at me. Still led to a pretty hot, buttery three-way at the end of the day!