~ Bread Machine Basics & My Brioche Recipe ~
When I want to have a slice of toast in the morning or eat a sandwich for lunch, I want it to be on "real" bread and in my mind: brioche is the best bread known to womankind for these simple, guilty pleasures. I have always had a knack for bread baking. As hard as I try, I can't remember ever having a bad bread baking experience or disaster. Some might say certain talents "come naturally", or, "she was born with it". In my case this is partially true because my grandmother was a marvelous bread baker, but there is a bit more to the story:
My grandmother was at her best in the kitchen and she loved to be there. Everything she did pretty much revolved around food: her backyard vegetable garden and many fruit trees; her volunteer activities at the church; she even owned and operated a "mom and pop", in-home, neighborhood grocery store! As the oldest granddaughter (we lived about 9 miles from her), I spent countless hours each week with her. What I considered to be "playtime" actually turned out to be hands-on culinary training. No exaggeration here: by the age of five I knew how to knead and when to punch down a yeast dough. Pictured here: My brioche, mozzarella, basil and tomato grilled cheese sandwich!
Those were the good old days. In today's world, even I (who possesses the skill and desire) no longer have the time to devote the better part of one day each week to baking bread for my family. About three years ago, this bothered me enough to buck-up, break-down and buy a bread machine. On sheer principle alone (for me who could bake bread beautifully), I almost hoped I would hate the machine. My wish almost came true... the first few recipes I tried out of the instruction manual, while adequate, were, let us just say, not up to my standards. After a mourning period of a few months, I took the machine back out of the box, gave it a permanent spot in my kitchen (where we had to maintain eye-to-eye contact with each other) and set out to adapt my own personal bread recipes to the machine! Without further adieu:
Bread baked in a bread machine is rectangular in shape. No matter what size of loaf you elect to bake (most machines give you 3 options: 1-pound loaf; 1 1/2-pound loaf; 2- pound loaf), they will all get baked in the shape of the standard-size pan that comes with that machine.
What is wrong with that? Nothing. Even though bread machine bread rises nicely and browns beautifully (all thanks to the many options the bread machine makes available to you), it "plainly" is not going to win any "bread beauty contests". This is a give-and-take you will realize is well worth the sacrifice the moment you slice and taste the bread.
This is a picture of a 1-pound loaf of my brioche. To make it you'll need:
1/2 cup whole milk
3 tablespoons salted butter, cut into pieces, pieces preferably at room temperature
2 tablespoons + 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 extra-large egg, preferably at room temperature, lightly beaten
2 cups + 2 tablespoons unbleached, all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon granulated dry yeast, NOT rapid-rise (1/2 packet)
For a 2-pound loaf:
1 cup whole milk
6 tablespoons salted butter, cut into pieces, pieces preferably at room temperature
5 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
2 extra large eggs, preferably at room temperature, lightly beaten
4 1/4 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons granulated dry yeast, NOT rapid-rise (1 packet)
~ Step 1. This is the rectangular-shaped bread pan that came with my machine. The paddle (which will do the kneading) has been inserted into it. The instruction manual said to always insert the paddle in this position before adding any ingredients, so I do.
~ Step 4. Add the sugar, salt and butter to the milk. Set aside until the butter has melted or is almost melted. If the milk is steaming and the butter is at room temperature, this will only take about 2 minutes.
As you can see in this picture, the melted butter is floating on the top, the milk is in the center and the sugar and salt have settled on the bottom. Using a fork, briefly whisk these wet ingredients together, so they are uniform in color and add them to the bread pan.
Always remember: when you are making bread in a bread machine: always add the wet ingredients first!
~ Step 6. Add/shake the flour into the bread pan on top of the wet ingredients. Do not mix or stir!
Note: It is important to keep the dry yeast away from the wet ingredients until it is time for machine to knead them together, because the liquid ingredients will prematurely activate the yeast.
~ Step 8. Insert bread pan into bread machine and press down until it is "clicked" securely into place. Close the lid and plug the machine in. Press and select the first cycle for "white bread". Press the loaf control button to select "2-pound loaf". Press the crust control button and select "light crust". Press "start". Depending on the make and model of your bread machine, and the size of loaf you are making, the entire baking process will take about 2 1/2-3 hours. Walk away. Do not lift the lid to check in on the process. The moment the timer signals the bread is done:
Carefully open the lid of the bread machine. Using pot holders or oven mitts, remove the bread pan from the machine, using its handle to lift it from the machine. Turn the bread pan at about a 30-45 degree angle and gently shake/slide the loaf out onto its side. Turn the loaf upright and place it on a cooling rack to cool completely. If the kneading paddle remains in the loaf after it is removed from the pan, I find it best to cool the loaf completely before removing it.
This picture is of a 2-pound loaf of my brioche the moment it has been removed from the machine. I know, I know... at first glimpse it is a bit overwhelming, but I assure you, you are going to fall in love with this bread!
Once a loaf this size has cooled: starting at the top, slice the loaf in half to form 2 smaller loaves, about the size of 2, 1-pound loaves. Two for one... eat one, freeze one!
If you want to serve your family the best bread on the planet, at half the cost of store-bought bread, with no more than 5-10 minutes of your time invested in the process:
BUY A BREAD MACHINE!!!
A bit about brioche: Brioche is a soft, light-textured, sweetened, yeast bread enriched with milk, butter and eggs. This French classic is traditionally baked in a deep, round, fluted tin that is smaller at the flat base and wider at its top, which encourages the dough to rise. All brioche takes time to prepare, requiring three, rather than two, risings. Brioche is usually a delicacy served warm at breakfast or teatime. There are as many versions of brioche as there are countries, but the French brought brioche to the world's stage at Court in Paris in the 17th century when Queen Marie Antoinette (upon being told the poor people of France were rioting in the streets because they had no bread) made the infamous statement, "Qu 'ils mangent de la brioche." ("Let them eat cake.")!
Bread Machine Basics & My Brioche Recipe: Recipe yields 1, 1-pound loaf of brioche or 1, 2-pound loaf of brioche.
Special Equipment List: bread machine; paring knife; 1-cup measuring container; pot holders or oven mitts; cooling rack
Cook's Note: I developed this bread machine recipe for brioche to take, literally, all of the work out of making it. The loaf shape, instead of the traditional fluted round shape, makes it simple to slice, thick or thin, for your morning tea and toast or your luncheon soda and sandwich. My brioche makes wonderful grilled cheese sandwiches and 3-4-day old brioche makes fabulous French toast.
The above picture is one of my favorite Summer sandwiches: Lettuce, Tomato, Onion & Guacamole on Brioche!
Extra Cook's Note: Each year when Thanksgiving rolls around, I always make 2-3, 2-pound loaves, 2-3 days prior to the holiday, to cube and use in some of my stuffing recipes. On Thanksgiving morning, I make a a fresh, 2-pound loaf to serve with our traditional evening feast, as well as have on hand for the best hot or cold turkey sandwiches at midnight or the next day. This is a picture of a classic turkey club on toasted brioche... gobble, gobble!!!
"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti
(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2010)