Sundays are a great time to make bread. The kitchen is far less hectic, so I get a countertop to myself, which is much needed because I’m a bread virgin and I make loads of mistakes. Am I kneading correctly? Is it supposed to stick to my fingers like this? Has this really doubled in size? I can’t remember what it looked like before I proved it. I ask a lot of questions, which is good because that way I’m more inclined to make it again.
Enriched breads like brioche and challah are delicious for breakfast by themselves or as french toasts, and the more they sit, they turn into contenders for a great bread and butter pud. I can think of so many flavours that would compliment brioche’s almost cake-like taste, but the one I went with was a simple jam and sea salt combination. I made three batches; the first with strawberry jam had more yeast and so it tasted almost doughy and hardened as it sat, The second one failed as it proved because of my negligence and the third- this recipe here, turned out perfect.
Don’t be afraid to work with yeast. I think part of the reason I was afraid was because it needs so much care, like a living organism (which it is), but take the necessary precautions and you’ll never have to refuse yourself a loaf of bread ever again. I prefer and use instant yeast most of the time, which is available readily now and stores well at room temperature in air-tight jars. While there’s no real need to activate them, it’s always best to activate yeast with some warm liquid, never boiling, as this will kill the yeast.
Brioche uses a fun technique that requires pulling the dough up to stretch it with your bear claw and slapping it down again onto the work surface, instead of the usual kneading. This makes the bread-making process a bit violent, but it’s a great way to de-stress before ushering in the next week’s madness.
Instant Yeast 5g
Salt 1 tsp
Milk 45ml, warm
Eggs 3, beaten lightly
Butter 150g at room temperature, cut into chunks, plus 30g melted butter and some more extra to grease
Mixed Fruit Jam 1 jar, 500g (you’ll need to use a little more than half a jar)
Start by activating the yeast in a bowl of 10ml warm milk and 10g sugar. Stir it and leave it aside for a bit till frothy. Whisk together the remaining 35ml milk and eggs and set aside. Add the flour to the yeast and add 3/4th of the milk and eggs mixture. Use your bear claw to move around the bowl combining the mixture using just your fingers. The dough should not be too wet to knead, and that’s why we have added 3/4th of the milk and eggs mixture. If it is too wet, add a bit more flour and continue to combine.
Do this for 10 minutes by hand, in a kneading motion for strands of gluten to form and it should start to look smooth and elastic. You’ll need to use a dough scraper, because the dough will be too soft. In a clean greased bowl, transfer the dough and let it rise covered with cling film for 2 hours, or until doubled in size.
Tip the doubled dough onto the work surface and add in the butter a chunk at a time. Use your bear claw to stretch half the dough upwards, bury the butter inside, and slap the stretched dough back down on the work surface. Do this till all the butter has been incorporated and don’t add it too quickly.. The dough will have a sheen and it will be quite soft.
Again leave the dough to double in size in the refrigerator, wrapped in cling film.
When doubled in size, knock back the dough and roll it out into a rectangle. Brush some melted butter on the surface of this rectangle, using a palette knife, roughly chop the jam, and spread it over the rectangle evenly. Sprinkle over some sea salt using a grinder. Then, starting from the longer side start rolling the dough inwards pushing it along with your thumb, till it begins to form a log. Flatten out the ends of the rectangle and fasten the log.
Using a sharp knife, chop the log into two, and further chop all the log into little swirls. You will pack all of these roughly into a greased and lined loaf tin, like a monkey bread. Once again, leave it to prove in the refrigerator or until the dough has puffed.
Heat an oven to 160 degrees celsius fan or 175 degrees celsius. Brush the top of the bread with milk and transfer to the oven to bake for 50 minutes or until golden on top. Let it cool in the tin before running a knife around the edges and inverting it. Glaze with more jam and finish with a final sprinkle of sea salt. Serve.