Food & Drink
Brioche is one of life’s great pleasures, eaten warm from the oven or as part of a savoury or sweet treat
Bake your own brioche, plus Rose Murray Brown’s top Côtes du Rhône wines
It was the great chef Pierre Koffman who said “serve good bread and all will be well”. So true. We like to start our diners’ meals with a lovely crusty loaf, and at home we all enjoy bread in some way, shape or form.
The rise (pardon the pun) of good bakeries popping up all over our villages, cities and towns is an indication that there’s a huge demand for good bread. Good bread made with old varieties of grain is becoming increasingly popular, and with the backing of The Real Bread Campaign, sales of white, sliced stuff is dropping, suggesting we are making more at home or buying better bread from places other than the supermarket.
Considering the few ingredients needed to make bread – just flour, water and salt – it’s astonishing to consider how differently bread is made all over the world. A proper sourdough loaf needs nothing more than those three ingredients, but it does need a fourth element: time.
It takes bread hours to ferment and then to prove. At Cafe St Honoré, our bread takes two hours to bake every morning after a long time bubbling and proving. I find the whole bread thing fascinating and I adore other bread products – like Viennoiserie
– a form of bread, but enriched with eggs, butter, milk and sometimes the addition of fruit or alcohol.
Which brings me to brioche – with a light and slightly puffy texture of an enriched dough. It’s very French of course, but it has been eaten here in Scotland for centuries. It dates back to the French middle ages and was sometimes described as a rowie. Interestingly, also the name of a buttery bread product from Aberdeenshire – there’s probably a connection. Everyone thinks Marieantoinette said “let them eat cake”, but in fact the correct translation is “let them eat brioche”. So let’s get baking!
Making brioche is one of my favourite jobs in the kitchen at Cafe St Honoré. We bake it two to three times a week as we get through so much. It seems to last well in the fridge, but if you do have any going slightly stale, it makes an excellent bread and butter pudding, richer than regular bread. When the brioche comes out of the oven, brush the loaves with lots of melted butter to increase the richness. There is nothing finer than a slice of freshly toasted brioche spread with lashings of butter and raspberry jam.
Makes one loaf
1 egg yolk
10g fresh yeast
330g strong bread flour, I only use organic zest from half a lemon
100g unsalted butter, softened 75g unsalted butter, melted
Warm the milk with the sugar, yeast and lemon in a pot.
Place the flour, salt, eggs and egg yolk in a food mixer with a dough hook, then add the milk mixture and mix until a good dough is produced. You can also do this by hand.
Place the dough in a clean, oiled bowl to prove in a warm place for 2 hours until it doubles in size. Then return the dough to the mixer and add the softened butter and beat until all the butter is incorporated.
Press the dough into a buttered and floured terrine mould or bread tin and prove again until the dough reaches the top.
Bake at 185C/gas Mark 4.5 for 45 minutes then reduce the temperature for a further 25 minutes to 150C/gas Mark 2. Remove from the oven and carefully remove from the tin. Brush all over with the melted butter as it cools.
Brioche with asparagus and wild mushrooms
This dish is simply divine. I love a charred slice of rich brioche, as it lends the bread another flavour. Served here with a sauté of the last of this season’s asparagus and some wild mushrooms. If you can’t get hold of wild mushrooms, button mushrooms would do the trick.
2 slices of pre-made brioche 4 spears British asparagus a small handful of brushed wild mushrooms a knob of butter
1 tbsp cold-pressed rapeseed oil 1 tbsp chopped parsley and chives good salt and pepper
Begin by blanching the asparagus spears in boiling, salted water for 2 minutes. Refresh under cold running water. Cut into thirds.
Melt the butter in a thick-bottomed frying pan and add the oil. Once at a moderate temperature, fry the mushrooms for a minute or two to add a little colour.
Then add the asparagus spears and mix. Season and add the parsley and chives. Check the seasoning and add more if necessary.
Toast or char the brioche slices on a griddle and rub with a little butter.
Top the toasted brioche slices with asparagus and mushrooms and serve at once.
Brioche bread and butter pudding
It’s never too warm for a bread and butter pudding. Yes, even in midsummer I’d quite happily dive into the sweet, fruity custard that suspends the layers of rich, buttery brioche. Oozing with decadence and just really good flavour, this is a dish for us all. And it’s a sustainable in a way by using up old bread, croissants or brioche, and a bit of old spice from a jar once used to make a winter pudding, like cinnamon or nutmeg. Show me a person who doesn’t like a bread and butter pudding, and I’ll show you a liar!
half a loaf of brioche, crusts
250g unsalted butter, melted 500ml double cream
1 vanilla pod, split and seeds scraped out
3 egg yolks
1 whole egg
1 small handful of Californian raisins and mixed peel
2 tbsp jam or marmalade, warmed. I like home-made plum jam
1 Heat the oven to 180C/gas Mark 4. 2 Rub an ovenproof dish with a little of the melted butter.
3 Slice the brioche 1cm thick and submerge in the melted butter.
4 To make the custard, heat the cream and the vanilla pod on the stove until it comes to the boil, then turn off the heat and leave to infuse for a few minutes. Whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until thick and creamy, and whisk into the cream. Whisk in the whole egg as well.
5 Layer the butter-soaked brioche with the custard and raisins and mixed peel, repeating until you reach the top of the dish. Don’t put fruit on the top layer as it will burn in the oven.
Bake in the oven for 45 minutes until hot. Top with a few more raisins and mixed peel, then spoon warm jam over the top. Leave to rest for 10 minutes before serving, if you can resist of course!