I am still cooking from James Morton’s book Brilliant Bread. James is the most common sense baker around and his recipes really work. This time, I tried his Super-Fast Brioche and it was pretty fast. From mixing to eating in half a day.
I tweaked the recipe a bit and made a lovely Christmas version with sour cherries and cranberries. And as the dough is a bit tricky to use as it’s really sticky, I put the first prove in the fridge to make the dough firm up and make it easier to handle. You can also make a normal brioche loaf without the fruit and spices.
The texture was incredibly light and airy, somewhere between cake and bread. Which make sense of Marie Antoinette’s “Let them eat brioche” – not cake as the popular saying goes – Qu’ils mangent de la brioche“. And I used my wonderful sourdough starter, going strong after 6 months! I cannot recommend highly enough using sourdough starter in bread recipes where instant yeast is also used.
Here is James’ recipe, with my tweaks:
100g white sourdough starter (1-2 days after feeding) see here for how to make a sourdough starter
170g plain flour 30g strong white flour
One 7g sachet instant yeast
40g caster sugar ( I used 40g, double the sugar that James has in his recipe for a slightly sweeter brioche)
3 free-range eggs
125g butter, softened and cubed
A handful of sour cherries
A handful of dried cranberries
I/4 tsp each of cinnamon and nutmeg
1 more free-range egg, for glazing at the end
Preheat oven to 220 degrees C, 200 degrees C fan-forced and very heavily grease (with butter) and line a loaf tin.
Using a wooden spoon or electric mixer, beat together all dough ingredients except the butter. (I used my KitchenAid with the dough hook.) Keep beating very vigorously – probably around 5-10 minutes – and you can see the dough become more elastic and stringy. If you are very competent with dough handling, you can attempt some stretches and folds. Beat in the butter until fully incorporated and the dough is totally smooth, another 5 minutes. You will notice the dough change – it will become firmer. Using hands or a dough scraper, fold the dough over into the middle of your bowl, tightening it.
Cover and rest for 30 minutes at room temperature. Using your hands or a dough scraper again, fold the sides of the dough into the middle, working your way all around the bowl several times. You will see the dough tightening – you want to help it hold its shape at the end.
Cover and prove the dough for at least 2 hours in the fridge. Remove from the fridge and get ready to shape. The dough should have firmed up enough to shape it into a loaf to go into the tin, for a regular brioche, or roll it and fill with fruit and spices and then shape for a Christmas version.
For regular brioche, fold the dough into a loaf shape and put into the buttered tin. Be careful with handling – it’s still a fragile dough, even after being in the fridge.
For Christmas brioche, put your chilled proved dough onto a floured board and gently stretch to a rectangle. Don’t go too thin – just stretch the dough large enough to be able to fold it over a couple of times with the filling. Scatter the cherries and cranberries and spices onto the dough then fold over 1/3 from the top, and then fold the dough over onto the remaining 1/3 of the dough. Carefully transfer to the very well buttered tin.
Prove for a final 1 hour. The dough should be light and fragile, but springy on top when prodded. Eggwash the top of the loaf, and turn the oven down to 200 degrees C, 180 degrees C fan-forced, and bake for 40 minutes until dark brown on top.
When cooked, cool in the tin for for a few minutes, then carefully turn out onto a wire rack. It should be OK, but you may need to ease the brioche out of the tin, as this dough can sometimes stick. Fingers crossed!
Let cool completely before eating. I served my brioche plain with butter, and with Christmas jam* and natural yoghurt.
When the brioche was a couple of days old, I toasted it and served it with vanilla butter (unsalted butter whipped with icing sugar and vanilla paste) and Christmas jam*.
*Christmas jam is made with fresh or frozen cherries and cranberries, and sugar and water as in normal jam recipes.