The Five Stages of Brioche

You know I came home pumped to bake everything we made in the King Arthur class, right?

I mean, how could I not? We made so many buttery, tempting treats, the natural urge* is to want to reproduce them.

*Or is this not normal?

You know how you can be aware of something, but it takes a professional stating it to convince you?

Yeah, that was pretty much this entire class.

I know dough is versatile. In fact, I know all dough holds vast possibilities. But it took our instructor laying it all out for me to grasp it.

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From the start of our first dough, we were given a list of four different baked products we would make. The dough was brioche and while several hands went up when asked if anyone had made it before, I inwardly shrugged my shoulders and thought, Not interested.

By the time we got home, aside from testing out some croissant tips I’d learned, making brioche now sat at the top of my Things I Need To Make Right Now list. The only problem was that the formulas* we were given in class were for a full production bakery.** With only three days to cover a vast amount of material, our teacher glazed*** over the process of resizing a formula. I decided I could handle the math on my own and adjusted the formula to a sixth of the size of the large scale dough.

*Yes, apparently in the big league of baking, which this certainly was, we speak of formulas, not of recipes.

**Calling for 22 pounds of flour and 11 pounds of butter!!

***Pun intended. And, I’ve shot myself in the foot because now I want a donut.

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Friends, this was when my five stages of brioche began. As I dumped my flour into the mixing bowl, I peeked in and thought, Gosh, that seems like a lot of flour in that bowl! But, I shook my head, denying the possibility of error. I was using a brand new mixer. I’d sized down my dough. Nothing could possibly go wrong.

When I added the salt, yeast, and water to the flour, I told myself, This looks right. It’s going to be great! But, before I could turn the mixer on, I had to add the eggs, and it was quite a lot of eggs, in fact.

The eggs in this particular brioche formula equal the percent of the butter used.

As I poured them in, I watched the level of flour rise with a white powdered puff in my face. It was in this moment the first little rise of anger fluttered inside. Why did the bowl seem so full? It wasn’t working as perfect as I imagined! It had to work! So, despite barely being able to see my metal mixing bowl, I turned the mixer on.

I listened to it chug slowly into rotation, as I went to pounding my butter until it was soft and pliable, just like my teacher had done. Alright, in my anger I might have pounded it with a little more oomph than he had.

The crossover was coming, I could sense it. I had two pounds of soft butter ready to be slowly added in, but my mixer was clearly out of breath, sounding as if it were a dying wolf attempting one last howl at the moon. I began tossing piece by piece of butter in whispering, bargaining with each one to please, please make it to the end.

After adding one pound of butter to the dough and watching as my machine staggered and sputtered through each spin, I turned it off. I looked from the dough trying to escape over the sides of my mixing bowl, to the pound of butter still on the table. In my head, I started calculating the cost of each ingredient and fell into a silent depression over what I was coming to grips with as the most epic of all epic fails in my kitchen.

It was quite some time I stared at that bowl, knowing what I had to do, but wishing so badly I didn’t have to, that someone else could do it for me.

I reached acceptance when I lifted the mixing bowl from the stand, walked over to the trash can, and dumped what once had the potential of becoming a glossy, buttery, loaf of brioche.

And then, friends, I did what perhaps no sane person would do after such a defeat.

I pulled out a different brioche recipe, and began making it.

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Homemade brioche buns 

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