The other day I was scrolling through my Twitter feed when I came across a note from Jamie Schler, a food blogger living in the Loire Valley (yes, that Loire Valley). She made Brioche rolls filled with chocolate chips and nuts and had posted some lovely photos on her website, Life’s a Feast. I love Brioche, it’s a yeast risen dough that is full of butter and egg yolks and honestly it’s similar to the doughnut dough that I can make in my sleep. If you want to tackle this dough, it’s fairly easy yet the finished product has such a wonderful, complex sensuality to it your friends will believe otherwise. Jamie has the recipe on her blog. I made the dough the night prior and when the alarm went off I leapt out of bed so I could get to work:
I made a few filled with pecans and chocolate chips. I never use raw nuts rather I will toss them in a combination of melted butter, cinnamon, black pepper, salt, sugar, vanilla, cayenne, etc. Since this was breakfast, I toasted my pecans in cinnamon, butter and sugar then mixed these with more cinnamon, sugar and chocolate chips. I also made a few that I filled with a mixture of butter, cream cheese and honey and one that was more of a loaf that I filled with the butter/honey mixture and some chocolate chips.
Jamie has the recipe on her website as well as photographs that are much more intriguing than mine. As I said, Brioche is not that hard but keep this in mind when working with yeast; salt and high heat will kill your yeast. Yeast risen doughs always start by blooming the yeast in warm water or milk so make sure that your starting liquid is roughly body temperature. Add a little sugar to wake the yeast and once it starts eating the sugar, a thin layer of CO2 bubbles will form on the top of your liquid. At that point you’re safe to continue with the recipe. This is a fairly rich dough filled with eggs, egg yolks, milk and a half pound of butter. Make the dough the night before, let it sit covered in your refrigerator overnight and in the morning you will be greeted with the most seductive and feminine of doughs, Brioche.
With that in mind, here’s an excerpt from “Doughnuts for Amy”. Chef Nick St. Germaine has decided to make something special for his boss, Amy Sommers, who just so happens to love doughnuts. I trust that once you read this you’ll want to read the entire novel which you can find here.
The next morning, he brought his antique doughnut cutter with him. First, he turned on the proof box and set it for 90 degrees, then pulled his handmade rolling pin out of his tool box. He carried the rolling pin, cutter and glaze from the office, and brought them to the prep table. He washed his hands, then brought the dough out of the cooler and un-wrapped it. He dusted the prep table with about a quarter-cup of flour and placed the dough in the center of the flour. Nick then placed a small mound of flour in the corner of the table, and put his hands on the dough. He loved working with egg yolk-rich dough such as this one. The texture was so feminine, so sensual. The dough gave off a very satisfying aroma of butter, vanilla, yeast and sugar. It had leavened overnight and had gone from being fairly dense and putty-like to something almost alive with possibilities. The yeast had worked its magic. Nick heard the click of heels and looked up to see Amy Sommers approaching, and couldn’t help but smile. She returned his smile and said, “Good morning.” She was wearing a tight, dark blue business suit with a knee-length skirt and a silver linen top, her favorite diamond pendant sparkled between her breasts. Nick’s eyes were drawn to the diamond, and this time he let his eyes settle on the rotating beacon for a second or two. Nick had his hands on the dough, and he ever so gently caressed the dough as she approached. “Don’t you look lovely this morning, Miss Sommers.”
“Thank you, Nick. What’re you making?” She stood next to him, and was close enough that their shoulders touched.
“A surprise for my boss.” Amy reached across the table and picked up his antique doughnut cutter and excitedly asked,
“Is this what I think it is?”
“Yes, ma’am.” Amy broke into a wide grin. She reached out to touch the dough, and Nick asked if she had washed her hands. Amy gave an embarrassed glance, set the doughnut cutter on the table and walked to the hand sink, while Nick went to get her an apron. When she had dried her hands, he stood behind her and placed the loop of the apron over her head, then put his hands across her waist to tie the apron in the front. She had used a tropical-scented shampoo that morning and her hair gave off a delicious aroma of pineapple, coconut and mango. Nick tried not to touch her, but Amy placed her right hand on his as he was tying the apron knot, then looked over her right shoulder and smiled. Amy reached out for the dough, but Nick slowed her down. “OK, hold on now. We don’t have to knead this dough anymore, because we don’t want to stretch those proteins out again. You want your doughnuts tender and fluffy, right?”
“So all we need is the rolling pin. So take the rolling pin and rub it with a little flour. Just grab a slight handful of flour, and rub the pin with it.”
“Where are the handles on this thing?”
“It’s a French-style pin, a baton. I had this one made for me by a guy in Asheville.”
“Like this?” asked Amy, as she rubbed the flour-coated pin through her hands.
“Perfect, Amy. Now, gently roll this dough out until it’s about a third-of-an-inch thick.” She gripped the pin and pushed down on the dough, making a crease in the center of it and squeezing out a puff of carbon dioxide. Nick asked her to slow down, stood behind her, reached his arms around her and placed his palms on the end of the rolling pin.
“Keep your fingers up, let the pin roll across your palms. Like this Amy,” Nick gently rolled the pin across the dough as Amy placed her palms on the pin next to his. Nick whispered, “A delicate dough like this has to be handled gently. If we squeeze too hard, we’ll compress the dough, and our doughnuts may not rise properly. If we create uneven dough, then we get uneven doughnuts, and I want them all the same thickness, so they cook at the same time.” Amy moved her hands from the rolling pin to the top of Nick’s hands, intertwined her fingers in his and ever so slightly backed into him so that her body met his.
“Is this better?” she whispered.
“Oh, that’s much better.”