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Saturday, December 10, 2011

Fluffy, Silky, Buttery Brioche

So I keep hearing all of this talk about how great brioche is, how it's so buttery and delicious.  Well, I was craving a nice, somewhat sweet bread and since I already made houska/challah I decided to go for brioche.  The funny thing is, I've never actually had brioche before.  In fact, I've never even seen it besides on TV and online.

Well, I actually just took my bread out of the oven and, unfortunately, a small piece got stuck to the bottom of my loaf pan.  I was disappointed, especially considering that I actually sprayed the pan before baking, but that little piece missing gave me a window into just how ridiculously amazing the texture of this bread was.  The bread was soft, airy, silky, and oh-so-good...almost melt-in-your-mouth fluffy and soft.  I cannot wait until this bread cools so I can dig in!  Based on the small piece that I tasted (since it stuck to the pan anyway), this recipe was a 100% success.

I actually used a French recipe for this, but I measured out everything using my measuring cups and spoons after I weighed out the metric volume amounts.  I had my doubts about this recipe because there is a TON of butter, and you feel like there's no way there is even enough bread for all of that butter, but there is!  Yummy, yummy, yummy!  It's sort of like when you make a good, flaky buttermilk biscuit--you feel like "where on earth is all of this butter going to fit?" but once you bake it, you're just like, "mmmmm, perfection."

Well, here you go!  Cheers to me for not being forgetful or lazy and actually measuring to convert from metric for once!  Enjoy :)

1. 7 TB warm milk
2. 2-1/2  tsp dry yeast (use what you prefer, but note that double acting will taste a bit yeasty)
3. 3c + 3 TB all purpose flour (you may need to add more based on feel of the dough.  It will be soft and sticky before the first rising)
4. 4 TB sugar
5. 1-1/4 tsp salt
6. 5 eggs, gently beaten
7. 2 sticks + 2 TB room temperature butter, cut into small pieces (I actually ended up cutting 1 TB or two from the total butter amount because I was scared, and it actually turned out perfect.)

1. Dissolve the yeast in the warm milk in a medium-sized bowl, stirring with a whisk.  Allow to proof for 10 minutes in a warm place.

2. Combine the flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl.

3. Add the eggs and the yeast mixture and mix (you can do this by hand if you don't have a machine).  You should have a soft, sticky dough.

4. Knead the dough intensively for 15 minutes so that it will be smooth and elastic.

5.  Stud the dough with the butter pieces and knead until the butter is well-incorporated

6. Place the ball of dough in a large, greased bowl and cover with greased plastic wrap.  Refrigerate and allow to rise overnight.  The goal is to have it double in size, but it is recommended to let it rise overnight for optimum results.

7. Preheat oven to 350F

8. Punch down the down dough until it reaches its original volume.  Form the bread into the desired loaf shape and place into a greased pan and cover with greased plastic.  Allow to rise in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours.
         *If you want the same loaf shape as photographed above, divide the dough into 8 equal pieces and place close together in a loaf pan, as pictured.  If you have a scale, weighing the balls for equal weight would be ideal; otherwise, simply divi out balls that look about the same size.

9. Remove plastic and brush the top of the bread with egg wash.  I did mine with yolk and a little water only since the yolk creates a sweet, rich glaze which goes well with brioche.  The original recipe just calls for a regular egg wash with a whole egg.

10. Bake in greased pan for 45 minutes.  Your brioche will be very dark on the top, maybe a little darker than photographed because I had to bake an extra 15 minutes from when I took the photograph to get the bake time that the original recipe called for.  Oops :).

11.  Let cool for at least one hour.  Enjoy!


To store, wrap the bread  loaf itself (not with the pan, just the loaf) up really well in plastic and, if possible, store inside a large container for optimal freshness.  Fresh bread lasts about 3-5 days.

Bread generally freezes well, so freezing half for later use may be a great idea, even if you plan to eat it within the same week.  Simply thaw on the counter.  You can also refrigerate the loaf in an air-tight container, which is what I do after the first 24-48 hours.

The original recipe says that brioche dough also freezes very well, but not to freeze it for too long.  I'd recommend wrapping it up well in plastic, then in foil before putting in a Ziplock to protect from freezer burn.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Wonderfully Rich and Delicious Shrimp Stock

I am an NPR fanatic.  Back when I was in grad school, I didn't have cable, and I was just fine was it because I'd just keep my NPR on all day long, and I just loved it.  There was always something new and interesting on the "Dianne Rehm Show" or "The Story," plenty of hilarious moments on "Wait Wait Don't Tell Me," "Car Talk," and "The Moth."  One particular show that I fell in love with is "The Splendid Table."  Host Lynne Rossetto Kasper always shared such great recipes, and I loved hearing her creative suggestions for callers in recipe ruts.  Her recipes always sounded so amazing, yet they were never overly complicated.

As a regular listener of "The Splendid Table," I had mentally bookmarked a number of Lynne's mouth-watering recipes.  One of those recipes was the Rustic Shrimp Bisque shared by Melissa Clark.  Today, I finally had the chance to try the recipe and WOW!!  Talk about an easy recipe that packs some shockingly serious flavor!  In just 3 simple steps and 20 short minutes you can have a wonderful, restaurant-quality shrimp stock for soups, bisques, or seafood rice dishes.

As usual, since I didn't have a few of the ingredients (the wine and the brandy) I substituted with whatever I had around.  Below is the recipe that I used.  The original recipe can be found at the link at the bottom of the page.  Enjoy!

1. shells from 1lb or so of shrimp, well-rinsed
2. 1 TB of butter
3. 2/3 c beer (I used Modelo)
4. 1 TB of cachaca (Brazilian sugar cane alcohol) or white rum
5. 6 cups of water
6. 1 clove of garlic
7. 1 bay leaf
8. 3 sprigs fresh time, or 1 pinch of dried thyme
9. salt and pepper to taste

1. Melt butter in a medium sauce pot and cook shrimp shells over high heat, stirring frequently, until lightly browned.  This should take about 3 minutes.

2. Add beer and cachaca and continue cooking over high heat until the alcohol is almost evaporated.

3. Once the alcohol has nearly evaporated, add 6 cups of water, bay leaf, thyme, garlic, salt, and pepper.  Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes.

4. Strain shrimp stock into a bowl, pressing the shells before discarding them.

References: The Splendid Table