What started out as a means of trying new recipes turned into an expectation of me being a literal breadwinner to my family. I bake bread, they eat the bread. When we run out, I repeat the act. We do not buy bread from supermarkets anymore. This has been an ongoing trend which I have happily accepted. We also cannot return to supermarket brands simply because they do not have the explosion of flavours homemade offers to the palate.
Glistening with a honey glaze, these soft, yielding, light- brioche buns are the perfect vehicle to hold a juicy patty in. I’ve also used these buns to hold a fried soft shell crab and dilled remoulade sauce before. Honestly, it’s such a versatile bread. It’s delicately sweet, full-bodied with a tender, melting crumb. But it is sturdy enough to mop up all those sweet and savoury juices from meats and sauces. Heck, I’ve even taken them and made French toast out of it and topped the whole shebang with seared foie gras!
But I digress, this recipe, which comes from the New York Times (Adapted from Hidefumi Kubota, Comme Ça, Los Angeles) requires a method similiar to making a pie crust. When adding the butter to the dry ingredients, it is rubbed in rather than melted or mixed in at room temperature. The requisite kneading of the dough (it’s quite a long time, but your patience will be rewarded!) I think, is the key to creating a soft textured interior and firm structured exterior. The kneading and slapping of the dough activates the gluten in the bread flour, allowing it to be more elastic and pliable to work with.
My recipe suggestions are in italics.
Light Brioche Buns
Time: 1 hour, plus 2 to 4 hours’ rising
3 tablespoons warm milk (since it didn’t specify, I used 2%, a good balance of fats)
2 teaspoons active dry yeast (I used instant yeast and it worked just fine)
2 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar (upped this to 1/4 cup)
2 large eggs (gah! .. always read the directions from beginning to end. one egg is used for the dough, the other to glaze with)
3 cups bread flour
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt (I used fine sea salt, but table salt would work here too)
2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened.
1. In a glass measuring cup, combine 1 cup warm water, the milk, yeast and sugar. Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, beat 1 egg.
2. In a large bowl, whisk flours with salt. Add butter and rub into flour between your fingers, making crumbs. Using a dough scraper, stir in yeast mixture and beaten egg until a dough forms. Scrape dough onto clean, unfloured (no cheating with any extra flour!) counter and knead, scooping dough up, slapping it on counter and turning it, until smooth and elastic, 8 to 10 minutes (your arms will get a righteous workout!).
3. Shape dough into a ball and return it to bowl. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, 1 to 2 hours.
4. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Using dough scraper, divide dough into 8 equal parts (I use a kitchen scale to portion the dough. When they’re the same size, it ensures even baking for all the buns). Gently roll each into a ball and arrange 2 to 3 inches apart on baking sheet. Cover loosely with a clean kitchen towel and let buns rise in a warm place for 1 to 2 hours.
5. Set a large shallow pan of water on oven floor. Preheat oven to 400 degrees with rack in center. Beat remaining egg with 1 tablespoon water and brush some on top of buns. Bake, turning sheet halfway through baking, until tops are golden brown, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool completely. (rather than use the egg, I take about 2- 3 tbsp of honey mixed with 1tbsp of just boiled water and make a thick slurry which I glaze the buns with. Once at the half way point, and again near the end. It’s not only a beautiful sheen but tastes florally sweet on the tongue.)
Yield: 8 buns.
Note: Wrap leftovers in a ziplock freezer bag. Store away from foods with strong odours, they keep well for 2-3 months.
This recipe can be easily doubled. However, note that the time for kneading and slapping portion of the dough will be significantly longer. Keep soldiering on and you’ll eventually get the desired texture.
When baking, place one rack in the middle of the oven and the other one just below that. Just remember to rotate the breads on their racks (swap their places up and down, then back to front for each baking sheet to ensure even baking and browning).