I settled on brioche, a butter- and egg-enriched yeast bread, French in origin. Yet, despite its French origins, the French put their brioche in the viennoiserie basket. Unlike something in the bread basket, a viennoiserie (meaning “in the Viennese style”) boasts the addition of eggs, butter, milk, cream, or sugar, which gives it a pastry-like character.
Viennoiseries are leavened, often layered, and commonly served in the morning. Beyond brioche, examples include croissants, apple turnovers, pain au chocolat , pain aux raisins, and chouquettes. When pain au chocolat and a hot tea greet you in the morning, not even a Paris subway strike can dampen your mood.
Before Marie Antoinette uttered her fateful words, Jean-Jacques Rousseau spoke of another “great princess” (possibly Maria Theresa, the wife of the Sun King, Louis XIV) confronted with a peasantry yearning for bread. “Qu’ils mangent de la brioche,” she said. “Let them eat brioche.”
I second that.
Recipe from Ina Garten’s Barefoot in Paris.
PREP TIME: Requires chilling the dough overnight
COOK TIME: 2 hours of self-rising, 45 minutes of baking
YIELD: 2 loaves or 24 slices
WHAT TO GRAB:
1 package dried yeast
1/2 cup hot water (Must be between 100 and 120 degrees)
3 tablespoons sugar
6 eggs at room temperature
4 1/4 cups unbleached flour
2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 cup butter (2 sticks), at room temperature
1 egg mixed with 1 tablespoon milk, for the egg wash
HOW YOU DO IT:
PREPPING THE DOUGH
1. Combine the water, yeast, and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer with a paddle attachment. Make sure the bowl is not cold – the yeast will only react if the water is between 100 and 120 degrees. Mix these ingredients with your hands, and allow it to sit for 5 minutes, until the yeast and sugar are dissolved.
2. Add the eggs and beat on medium speed for 1 minute, until well mixed. On low speed, add 2 cups of flour and the salt, and mix for 5 minutes. Still on low speed, add another 2 cups of flour, and mix for another 5 minutes. Add the butter in batches, and mix for 2 minutes. With the mixer still on low speed, add the remaining 1/4 cup of flour. Switch the paddle attachment to a dough hook, and mix on low speed for a final 2 minutes.*
*Do not feel compelled to go out and buy a fancy mixer. I decided to do all my mixing and beating by hand.
3. Scrape the dough into a large, buttered bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight.
TIME TO SELF-RISE AND SHINE
4. The next day, allow the dough to sit at room temperature for about 45 minutes. Meanwhile, grease two 8½ x 4½ x 2 ½–inch loaf pans.
5. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured board. Cut the dough in half, and pat each half into a 6×8-inch rectangle. Roll up each rectangle into a cylindrical loaf. Place each loaf, seam side up, into a greased pan. Cover the pans with a damp towel, and allow them to self-rise for to 2 to 2 1/2 hours. They should almost double in size.
BUNS IN THE OVEN
6. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Remove the towels, and lightly brush the top of each loaf with the egg wash. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until the top springs back and the loaf sounds slightly hollow when tapped.
7. Turn the loaves out onto a wire rack until completely cool. Then slice and serve!
Brioche makes an excellent Banana French Toast. It can also be used for bread pudding. Speaking of desserts, if you add 2 cups of chocolate chips after Step 2, you can have Chocolate Chip Brioche (Brioche aux Pépites de Chocolat): a perfect treat in its own right!