Kitchen Adventures: Brilliant Brioche

Happiness is a warm loaf of bread.

There is a reason why I will never lose weight in time for bikini season this year–it’s brioche. It’s buttery, light, melt-in-your-mouth goodness, and I just can’t get enough. Now that I know how to make it successfully, well, I can just kiss goodbye any chance of  shrinking my muffin top for good.

Over the holiday weekend, I finally carved out some time–and you do need plenty of time for this project–to make brioche from my favorite pastry book, Flour: Spectacular Recipes from Boston’s Flour Bakery + Cafe. I’ve made several waistline-busting batches of goodies from this book already, including Double Apple Pie, and all of them turned out swimmingly, so I expected no less from Joanne Chang’s brioche recipe.

As far as pastries go, brioche is sort of an odd duck in that it’s pastry-like bread. Or bread-like pastry, whichever you prefer. Apparently, the first recorded use of the word brioche was in 1404 (whoa!) but the origin of the word itself isn’t quite clear.

According to FoodTimeline.org, there are several theories, but my favorite is the one from Larousse Gastronomique, which says that brioche gets its name from Brie, since brioche was originally made with the famous cheese.  I like this idea best because my favorite Filipino pastry, ensaymada, is pretty much like brioche, except it’s topped with a thick, creamy, sugary frosting and shredded cheese. Fodder for a future kitchen adventure, perhaps?

The Philippines' answer to brioche. Via Recipes.Wikia.com

Another fun fact about brioche is that it’s tied to the infamous quote that’s often attributed to Marie-Antoinette. You know the one:  “Let them eat cake!” In French, it translates to “”Qu’ils mangent de la brioche!” a quote that the French queen reportedly said after hearing about famines in the French countryside in pre-Revolutionary France. It’s long since been a phrase associated with callous insensitivity to the plight of the working class, but the sad part is, Marie Antoinette apparently didn’t say it.

Marie Antoinette lost her head for brioche in a bad way. (via Biography.com)

The quote actually appeared in Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s book Confessions, which came out when Marie Antoinette was only nine years old, and there’s no record that she said it herself during her reign. Of course, 18th-century folks didn’t have the Googles back then, so that fact didn’t help when the angry bourgeoisie stormed the castle and sent her to the guillotine (ouch). The misattribution still persists to this day though, even with the interwebs. C’est la vie, I suppose.

Anyway. I digress. The brioche-making experience was pretty fun. The process involves mixing the dough, letting it proof in the fridge overnight, dividing the batch in half, shaping each section into rectangles, folding them up and placing them in two loaf pans. After the dough has had enough time to rise, you brush the tops with an egg wash, pop them in the oven, and 35 minutes later, you’ve got yourself two loaves of heaven. Also, the buttery air in your house will smell so good, you’ll want to eat it.

I immediately sliced off several pieces, slathered on my mother-in-law’s amazing homemade raspberry preserves (made with fruit from her own raspberry patch in Minnesota!), made myself a cup of vanilla rooibos, and I was a happy girl. Guess who’s going to be eating brioche every morning this week?

Screw it. If I gain a little more of a belly because of this amazing treat, so be it. Anyway, French women don’t get fat, right? Does the same go for women who eat French food? One can only hope.

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1 Comment

Filed under Food, kitchen adventures

One response to “Kitchen Adventures: Brilliant Brioche

  1. Coleen

    The bread looks wonderful! Thanks for the raspberry jam publicity, too. You can read more about the amazing/frightful raspberry patch in my new book, All the World in a Blade of Quack: Reclaiming a Garden/Growing a Garden. It’ll be coming out in June–just as the raspberries are ripening (oh dear.)

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