Stigs Brioche

Quantities from Peter Reinhart’s Bread Baker’s Apprentice, Rich Man’s Brioche, method extemporised by Stig with essential advice from Adam. Jack and I made this at Conzieu, and a/ it was wonderful and b/ we used Brad’s industrial mixer. Had I realised that I would not have had a mixer in Twickenham, I’d never have embarked on trying this recipe again – so the good news is, it can be done successfully by hand.

1               Sponge

2.25 oz strong white

1 tbs quick yeast

4 oz warm milk

Mix, cover and leave for c20 mins.

2               Dough

c8oz beaten egg – 5 or 6 eggs

16oz strong white

1.25oz granulated sugar

1.5 tsps salt

16 oz unsalted butter, diced and beginning to soften

Beat the eggs into the sponge – PR said till smooth. I did not achieve that.

Add dry ingredients and mix in until all evenly distributed. This was the point at which I discovered that the mixer did not have dough hook, or at least not one which I could find until a day and a half later. So – work the butter in by hand, a few pieces at a time, trying to blend it in each time before adding any more. Smile gamely at those who helpfully suggest that you should be trying not to let the mix get warm. This took far longer than the six minutes by machine in PR’s method. But you can get your hand going in a quite a swooshing, mixing sort of motion. The dough will not be “very smooth and soft” but it will be mixed.

Taste the dough. It’s very good.

Scrape down the inside of the bowl, cover with cling film and refrigerate overnight – my dough had c20 hours.

3               Shaping – next day

It came out of the fridge rock solid. This is where Adam’s advice was vital. I had thought to let it warm up a bit, relax so that I could work it, but he said to get shaping at once. Cutting into it, you could see that there was a network of bubbles in it – but it felt like working with a block of pure butter. I scaled to 80g balls, working as quickly as I could. Dropped them into a couple of tins, covered with cling film and put them in the cool(ish) room.

4               Proving and baking

I didn’t time the proving, but I think that the loaves starting moving after about two hours – keep an eye on them, because they did nothing for ages and then suddenly got going. When they were ready, they had grown by c50% and had begun to look fragile and a bit puffy. Give them an eggwash before baking – Julia suggested doing this twice, for a good dark finish, but they were already ready to bake. And PR says apply the eggwash 15-20 mins before baking.

They were baked in the cooler oven until they were ready…. PR says 200C for 15-20 mins for small buns, 180C for 35-40 mins for a larger loaf. I think the loaf we ate had about 40-45 mins