Being told by an equally immature and giggly schoolgirl that someone we both knew had “a bun in the oven”, would have us spluttering and tittering like the fatheads we were. I didn’t know what it meant or alluded to, other than in the literal sense believing that we knew lots of people, usually girls, who enjoyed baking. It must have been a funny ‘ha-ha’ hobby, if it had everyone giggling so much. Fortunately I grew up and learnt better. So without the slightest titter, I am confident to tell you that as I write, I have a bun in the oven – five in fact.
I’m making brioche – that wonderful French slightly sweet yeasty bread, rich with butter and eggs. I hadn’t made it before this last month, believing it to be temperamental and hard work, which it certainly is not.
Reputably a favourite breakfast dish in France with its soft texture, rich flavours and colour, brioche allows you to consume a packet of butter almost singlehandedly. Baked as a loaf, sliced and served toasted with even more melted butter and marmalade or jam is an absolutely must for Sunday breakfast. Brioche also makes beyond-belief French toast served with crème fraîche and summer fruits or berries or sprinkled with cinnamon sugar or maple syrup. Brioche buns are traditionally cooked in fluted tins with a topknot – I don’t have any of these so the buns currently baking are in muffin cases having placed a small ball of dough on the top to match the style.
Many recipes use brioche as a base to a dish, in puddings particularly (in a bread and butter pudding, it’s a must). However, replacing some of the butter with cheese makes savoury brioche. This is a quite a different thing – equally delicious however, served with wild mushrooms, spinach, duck, chicken livers; bacon – all sorts of things.
Anyway, where has this brioche devotee in me come from? I was recently asked to Sunday lunch with friends – offering to bring something, as I politely like to do but usually regret, the friends suggested ‘pudding’ for five. My heart sank. I’m not a pudding person. These friends are fans of Ottolenghi, a phenomenal chef developing wonderful Mediterranean creations. So I reverted to one of his first cookbooks with the uninspiring title The Cookbook. My copy is splattered and covered in notes having made most of my niece’s wedding reception evening party dishes for 150 guests from this book. I decided to make Ottolenghi’s brioche galette for my host and fellow guests. This ‘substantial treat’ uses a brioche base, mascarpone and crème fraîche filling with icing sugar and crushed star anise, topped with fresh figs, berries and with a crumble mix. Cooked till just golden. Whoa…. FAB-UL-OUS.
Of all the brioche recipes I have tried – and believe me there have been many recently – this works and, whilst it only makes a small loaf, is ideal for most uses.
Makes a small loaf (500g), approx 5 small buns or one base for a galette or tart.
Approx. £1.45 when all ingredients purchased in Ludwell.
2 tbsp lukewarm water
1 tsp active dried yeast
190g strong white flour, plus extra for dusting
½ tsp salt
20g caster sugar
2 medium fresh eggs, at room temperature, plus 1 egg beaten for glaze
75g cold unsalted butter, cut into small dice
1. Put the lukewarm water together with the yeast in the warmed bowl of an electric mixer. Gently stir or swish about until the yeast dissolves. Leave for 10 minutes for the yeast to activate.
2. Add all the rest of the ingredients apart from the butter and work together with a wooden spoon or spatula.
3. Using the dough hook on your electric mixer, attach the bowl to the machine and work on a low speed for around 3–4 minutes. The dough will become smooth and sticky.
4. Scrape the dough off the sides of the bowl and increase the speed to medium high and slowly start adding the cold butter pieces. This is a slow gradual process and could take up to six minutes – scrape down the sides if required to get a good mix.
5. Once all the butter is in keep working until the dough is shiny and smooth and comes away from the sides of the bowl (possibly another 4–5 minutes).
6. Remove the dough from the bowl and place in a very lightly oiled plastic container or bowl. Cover with cling film and leave at room temperature for 1 hour.
7. Place the dough, still covered in the fridge for 16 hours minimum – up to 24 hours
8. Don’t expect the dough to change in size over this time – it’s still fine.
9. Prepare your tin (500g loaf tin – individual tins or muffin cases; flat tray for a ‘free-form’ tart or galette), by brushing lightly with melted butter or line with greaseproof paper.
10. Place the dough in the centre of a lightly flour dusted work-surface; knock down carefully (punch it gently!) then shape into the size of your tin/tins.
11. Place the dough inside the tins and cover with cling film. Leave your dough at room temperature in its tin for 1–2 hours or until twice its size.
Preheat the oven – 170°C / Gas Mark 3 / AGA roasting oven with cold shelf on middle rack
12. Brush the dough lightly with the beaten egg and place in the hot oven for 15 minutes (loaf – check after 8 minutes if making buns) – test with a skewer which should come out clean and dry.
13. Remove from the oven and when cool enough to handle, take out of the tin to cool completely.
Toast, dunk or eat as you like – as always it’s ….truly, truly scrumptious.
These musings and recipes are gleaned from The Donhead Digest with the permission of AIF, their author.
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