Blame it on the weather. Blame it on teenagers. We've been playing a lot in the kitchen lately. I remember when my kids were happy to hop on their sleds and make snowmen and snow angels and come in for hot cocoa and marshmallows. I remember when they were easily entertained by Candy Land, Barbies, Legos, Play Doh. When they built forts indoors and played with their Thomas the Tank Engine trains and dolls and bears. I remember when they had their tea parties, and their general store... and Dora the Explorer or Bob The Builder or Little Einsteins would be on in the background. The children would glance over but really they were too busy playing. And then the children grew up and, believe it or not, but entertaining them became harder. They retreat to their rooms and chat and text with their friends. They lose themselves in their electronic devices, barely lifting their heads but to eat or grab a drink. I impose a few non-electronic hours where the kids must figure out how to entertain themselves. "Mo-ommmm, I'm SO bored. There's nothing to do," they whine despite closets filled with games and books and art supplies. And just as I did when they were 3 and 4 and 6 I need to step in and supervise. I need take their hands and show them that there is indeed life without their devices. We do play a lot of board games. We love Monopoly, Sorry, Scrabble and Life. We watch movies together and play word games. But lately, and mostly, we seem to cook a lot together.
In my daughter's high school cooking class she has learned to make a basic stock, debone a chicken, scramble eggs and make the finest crepes you've ever had. My son is eager to take these classes when he enters high school next year. This weekend we experimented with all sorts of things and the children all decided that they were going to open a restaurant together. I'm not sure if this brioche will be on their menu, but if they ever change their mind and decide to open a bakery instead, it'll be a sure favorite!
I really don't know why, but baking bread has always intimidated me. I've learned over the past couple of months that there is no reason for this. None whatsoever! Baking is a science. Follow the basic dough directions and you can't go wrong. Once you've tried your hand a few simple breads and you can get a bit more creative with your flavors. Breads are generally easy and don't have many steps. The hardest part, and most time consuming, is letting the dough rise. As I force myself to step out of my kitchen comfort zone and try new things, I've decided to make a brioche au chocolat. Brioche is quite similar to challah, which I made with great success last week. The main difference is that one is made with olive oil and the other with butter. The challah is a yields a lighter, fluffier bread while the brioche is denser and richer. This recipe is a bit more complex than the other breads I have made, but it is simple to follow and I have basic illustrations to help you. The brioche was fun to make but even more fun to eat!
For the dough:
3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon (or 1 package) instant yeast
3 large eggs, Plus 1 egg for egg wash
1/2 cup water
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
I stick (1/2 cup) butter cut into cubes, at room temperature
For the chocolate filling:
1/2 cup (50 g/1.7 oz) granulated sugar
1/3 cup (30 g/1 oz) unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tbs ground cinnamon
(4 oz) dark chocolate, chopped, or use chocolate chips
Optional 3/4 chopped pecans or walnuts
As opposed to most doughs, where you place the yeast into warm water, here the yeast gets tossed right in with the dry ingredients. Add flour, sugar, yeast, into the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the dough hook. Mix on low speed. When well mixed, add the eggs and water, and mix on medium speed until dough comes together, 2-3 minutes. If the dough is still too coarse add a bit more water and mix well you get the consistency desired. You may need to scrape down the sides of the bowl from time to time. Next add the salt and the butter, a few cubes at a time, until everything has been incorporated. Continue mixing for about 10 minutes on medium speed. You want your dough to be smooth and shiny. It should easily pull away from the bowl.
Remove the dough from the mixing bowl and place it into another bowl that has been greased with either butter, olive oil or a non-stick spray. Place a cotton or linen kitchen towel over the top. Let sit for an hour or two until it doubles in size. When it has, punch the dough back down and let it rise another hour or so until it has risen again.
In a small mixing bowl add the cocoa powder, sugar and cinnamon. Mix well with a small spatula or fork. Set aside.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Add some flour to your work surface and with a rolling pin, roll the dough out into a large circular shape - like a pizza. Spread the cocoa and sugar mixture over the surface, leaving about half an inch of border. Add the chopped chocolate or chocolate chips and, if desired, the chopped nuts. Carefully roll the dough so that it resembles a log. Press the seam well so that it does not come in unrolled.
Using a sharp knife gently cut the roll in half lengthwise, starting at the top and finishing at the seam to create two even halves. You may need to re-roll the two smaller logs. Any chocolate that spills out can be added back to the top of the loaf prior to cooking. Take both sides and gently twist them together (like a braid). When the two pieces have been twisted together, press the ends together - so that all the dough has become intertwined. Carefully the brioche into a loaf pan. The loaf will not be as wide as the pan - this is fine as the dough will rise and expand while it cooks. Take all the chocolate pieces and chocolate sugar mixture that fell onto your surface and liberally add it back to the top of your loaf.
Bake for about 45-50 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean with no dough attached. Let cool about 10-15 minutes before slicing.
Although it's best eaten warm from the oven, the brioche will stay fresh for 24 hours in an airtight container at room temperature. If you want to serve this the next day, wrap the loaf in tinfoil and place in your oven for 15-20 minutes.
This apparently freezes well for a couple of months. We haven't had the opportunity to learn about this yet!