So last month I found myself tackling croissant dough in an attempt to recreate the Cruffin. While I can appreciate the finesse and skill it takes to make a respectable croissant dough–I mean who doesn’t like those buttery flaky layers–I’m more a brioche kind of gal. Brioche is richer and more tender, chock full of luscious eggs and butter. It’s the type of enriched dough I love to use for everything from sticky buns to donuts. Like pizza dough, brioche is a good staple to have in the freezer–goodness knows I have quite a few staples in there already–though I must admit I very rarely just bake a simple loaf of brioche. I use brioche like a blank canvas, manipulating it into different forms, layering it with different ingredients, like dried fruit and citrus for my Easter loaf.
My last batch of brioche dough produced two rather different, though equally delicious breakfast pastries (oh who am I kidding, I’d be eating them any time of the day or night). The first was inspired by a photo of an apple creme bun in one of the Flour cookbooks. I had the makings for all the components. There were a few farmer’s market pink lady apples sitting around, just waiting to be sautéed in brown butter and sugar. I needed egg whites for another baking project, which conveniently meant there would be egg yolks for vanilla pastry cream. All I needed to do was make the brioche dough, which I then halved (stashing one half in the freezer for later use). Instead of forming a bunch of individual buns–I was too impatient to eat it–I made one large apple “galette” or as my friend Toni called it an “apple pizza.”
- 2 1/4 cup bread flour
- 2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 packages rapid rise yeast (instant yeast)
- 6 Tbsp. sugar
- 1 Tbsp. sea or kosher salt
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/4 cup whole milk
- 6 large eggs
- 11 oz. butter (2 1/4 sticks), cut into small pieces, room temperature
In a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine the dry ingredients on low speed. Whisk together the eggs, water, and milk, then add them to the dry mix. Mix everything on low for about 4-5 mins. until the dough comes together, scraping down the sides of the bowl about halfway through. Increased the speed to medium low and begin adding the butter a little at a time until it is all incorporated into the dough. Kick up the speed to medium and continue mixing for another 12-15 mins. The dough should be somewhat sticky and shiny. Transfer the dough into a greased bowl large enough for double its size, cover with plastic wrap and let the dough proof in a warm space. Punch down the dough and divide in half.
Brioche Project #2 was a slightly more decadent affair. I decided to make sticky buns…but not just any old sticky bun. No, these buns were going to be drenched in homemade brown butter salted caramel sauce…and filled with vanilla pastry cream. If that wasn’t enough, I went the extra mile and laminated the second half of my brioche dough with BUTTER! Yeah, you heard me…I added more layers of butter into an enriched dough. Trust me, it’s worth it. I got the idea years ago from Nancy Silverton, who is a genius. The process for laminating the brioche is similar to that for croissant dough. I used about 4 oz. room temperature butter for a half batch of brioche dough. Once the laminated dough was thoroughly chilled and rested, I rolled it out into a 1/3″ thick rectangle, slathered on some brown butter (which I had leftover from a previous recipe), sprinkled on a thick layer of cinnamon and sugar (heavy on the cinnamon) and rolled it into a log. At this point you can wrap the log tightly in plastic wrap and let it chill in the refrigerator overnight if you are planning on finishing them up in the morning, which is what I opted to do since I wanted to make a big batch of Brown Butter Salted Caramel Paste first.
Brown Butter Salted Caramel Paste
Yield: 3 pints
- 1/2 cup water
- 4 cups sugar
- 3 Tbsp. light corn syrup
- 3 cups heavy cream
- 4 oz. butter, cooked to dark golden brown, cooled to room temperature
- 1 Tbsp. sea or kosher salt
- 2 tsp. vanilla extract
Place the water, sugar, and corn syrup in a large heavy bottom sauce pan, then stir to completely moisten the sugar. Cook the mixture on medium heat until it becomes a medium dark amber color. Turn off the heat and carefully whisk in the cream, then the brown butter, salt and vanilla. Turn the heat back on and let the caramel come back to a boil.. Whisk and boil for about 1 min. Remove from the heat and transfer into heat proof containers (e.g. mason jars).
To finish the sticky buns, grease a 9″x 9″ pan (I used a glass pyrex baking dish) with non-stick spray and pour in about 1/3″ layer of the salted caramel to fully cover the bottom of the pan. Divide the roll into 9 thick slices (I goofed and accidentally cut 8) and arrange them in the pan 3 x 3. Loosely cover the pan with plastic wrap and let the rolls proof in a warm space until double in size. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Fill a piping bag with vanilla pastry cream (there should be plenty left from the previous recipe), insert the tip into the center of each roll and pipe in a generous amount of pastry cream. Set the pan onto a parchment-lined sheet pan. Bake the rolls for about 30-35 mins. until they evenly golden brown. Let the rolls rest in the pan for about 3-4 mins. then carefully invert the pan onto the parchment.