Every time I treat myself to a fresh slice of brioche, with a cup of strong coffee, I get as much pleasure as I did when I first discovered this bread.
Photo by Ditte Isager
Soft, light brioche, rich in butter and eggs, is a classic breakfast bread. Try this Brioche Muffins recipe by Daniel Leader for serving-sized rolls you can pull apart. You can also try variations with cinnamon, cardamom, chestnuts or leftover fruit. The recipe is excerpted from Simply Great Breads (The Taunton Press, 2011).
Brioche Muffins Recipe
I’ve been making classic brioche at my bakery, Bread Alone, for many years. It’s just one of those happy, wonderful foods that never disappoints. Every time I treat myself to a fresh slice, with a cup of strong coffee, I get as much pleasure as I did when I first discovered this bread.
You’ll notice that I call for bread flour and may wonder why, if the goal is to bake a soft and yielding bread. Brioche is rich in fat from the butter and eggs. During mixing, the fat molecules coat the proteins in the flour, inhibiting the formation of gluten that the bread needs to give it a strong structure to support a high rise. To make sure that enough gluten develops, in spite of all of the added fat, you need to use flour with a higher gluten content. Don’t worry. Your brioche will be exceptionally tender.
Shaping brioche in the traditional way requires a special technique and pan. To get a similar effect without the work or the equipment, you can roll the dough into small balls and place the balls in a conventional muffin tin, three per cavity. The result is brioche muffins that are beautiful and fun to pull apart as you eat them. I like to sprinkle pearl sugar over the muffins just before baking, but you can use sanding sugar or leave them plain and they will be just as good.
This Brioche Muffins recipe makes just the right amount of dough for a 9-inch loaf. Shape it as you would any pan loaf, place it in a greased 9-inch loaf pan, and bake it for 40 to 45 minutes at 425 degrees. Leftovers make sensational French toast, especially when served with local apples and pears cooked with some butter and brown sugar. MAKES 12 BRIOCHE MUFFINS
• 17.63 ounces/500 grams (3 1/2 cups) unbleached bread flour
• 2.12 ounces/60 grams (1/3 cup) sugar
• .48 ounce/15 grams (1 tablespoon) instant yeast
• .24 ounce/7.5 grams (1 1/2 teaspoons) fine sea salt or kosher salt
• 6 large eggs
• 2 ounces/48 grams (1/4 cup) chilled water (55 degrees)
• 10 ounces/140 grams (2 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter
• 2 tablespoons pearl sugar (optional)
1. Combine the flour, sugar, yeast, and salt in the bowl of a standing mixer. Combine 5 of the eggs and the water in a bowl or glass measuring cup. Cut the butter into 1/4-inch pieces. Place all of the ingredients in the refrigerator until well-chilled, about 2 hours.
2. Add the egg and water mixture to the bowl with the flour. Stir a few times with a rubber spatula until a rough dough forms. Fit the mixer with the dough hook and knead on medium speed until the dough is smooth and some gluten has developed, 5 to 6 minutes.
3. With the mixer running, add the butter, 1 piece at a time. Do this rhythmically, without waiting for all of the previous butter to be incorporated. When you’ve added all the butter, the dough will be a lumpy mess. Keep kneading it in the mixer until it comes back together and is smooth, shiny, and cohesive, 4 to 5 minutes.
4. Scrape down the dough hook and the sides of the bowl with a spatula, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and let stand at room temperature for 1 hour. Then refrigerate overnight, 8 to 12 hours.
5. Spray a 12-cup muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray. Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces. Divide each piece into 3 equal pieces and quickly roll the pieces into small balls. Place 3 balls into each of the muffin cups (the dough will fill the cups). Sprinkle the muffins lightly with flour, drape with plastic, and let rise until doubled in volume, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
6. One hour before baking, place a baking stone on the middle rack of the oven. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
7. Lightly beat the remaining egg and brush the muffins with it. Sprinkle them with the pearl sugar, if desired. Bake until golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes, tenting them with aluminum foil after 15 minutes or so if they are browning too quickly.
8. Transfer the muffin tin to a wire rack and let stand for 10 minutes before inverting the muffins onto the rack, re-inverting them, and letting them cool completely. Brioche Muffins will keep at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 2 days. For longer storage, freeze in a zipper-lock plastic bag for up to 1 month. To defrost, place on the countertop for an hour or two, and reheat in the oven at 350 degrees for 5 minutes before serving.
Brioche Muffins Recipe Variations
It’s hard to imagine improving on plain brioche, but if you are looking for a change of pace, here are some fantastic variations that rival the original recipe.
Fig Brioche Muffins
Add 3 stemmed and finely chopped moist dried figs to the dough after you’ve added half of the butter.
Chestnut Brioche Muffins
Add 1 ounce/28 grams of chestnut purée to the dough along with the flour.
Cinnamon-Cardamom Brioche Muffins
Add 1 teaspoon of cinnamon and 1/4 teaspoon of cardamom to the dough along with the flour.
This excerpt has been reprinted with permission from Simply Great Breads, published by The Taunton Press, 2011.
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