The first tasting
My first experience of brioche was on a ferry to Normandy with my Mum and her friend Linda about 6 years ago. We were travelling down to stay with Richard, Sue and Hannah who had moved there from East Anglia, we were going for a Morris Dancing holiday. Mum was driving us and Linda had been put in charge of the picnic for the journey. She had nipped into some shop I’d never heard of – Aldi – and picked up some apples, fruit juice, a big bag of cooked prawns that we would have to peel, a freshly baked baguette, an avocado and a bag of chocolate chip brioche.
We settled onto one of the boat’s sofas, I took my travel sickness pills with my apple juice and we tore open the baguette. A slice of avocado and some messily de-shelled prawns were placed on top of the bread making an interesting sandwich. I think this was also the beginning of my love of prawns, although it was a little too much effort for a sandwich on a boat whilst feeling seasick.
But once the sandwiches were over we were allowed to break open the brioche. I had no idea what it was, it just looked like a bread to me… But once I had tasted it I was hooked. It was sweet but not overly so, it was rich and buttery and there were these chunks of chocolate that just burst in your mouth as you bit into it. I would have quite happily finished off the tray, but Mum quite sensibly said that was a bad idea. It is full of butter and sugar after all…
But, sometimes a bit of butter and sugar is good for you, although I acknowledge that given the amount of it I eat, I should really be more active, but that’s a challenge for another day. Last year, when I realised that sometimes it’s better to cook things for yourself than rely on the supermarkets to do it for you, I thought I’d have a go at making my own brioche. It was for a French themed bake day at work and I found a recipe that looked intriguing, but it took two days – the yeast needed overnight to work because it was temperamental. It also had a stupid amount of butter in it, so much it was almost impossible to mix it into the dough. It was studpidly tasty though.
So I adapted it to suit my own needs and the voices in my head that cried when all that butter was added.
A Simple Chocolate Chip Brioche
- 9 oz all-purpose flour
- 3 1/2 oz butter, at room temperature
- 2 eggs, at room temperature
- 1 tbsp dry baker’s yeast
- 2 tbsp fine sugar (I mix caster and icing sugar)
- 1/3 cup warm milk
- 1 pinch salt
- 1 egg yolk for glaze
- handful of chocolate chips.
- In a plastic tub, mix the yeast, sugar and milk together with two table spoons of flour. Cover and leave for about 15 minutes to activate.
- Meanwhile pour the remaining flour into a bowl with the pinch of salt to one side of the bowl.
- Pour the activated yeast mixture into the flour and mix gently with your fingers (or a mixer with a dough hook, but I don’t have one of those.
- Add the soft butter, piece after piece, waiting each time that each piece is asborbed.
- Then one by one, add the eggs, mixing well between each. Work the dough until it is elastic and detaches from your fingers more easily (or from the bowl of the stand mixer). You may need to add a little extra flour to achieve this result, depending on the size of your eggs.
- Cover and let rest in a warm place, away from drafts, for two hours, until it doubles in size.
- Work the dough again for 10 min, mixing in the chocolate chips and divide it in four balls. Place them in a greased rectangular mold and cover. Let rise for an hour again.
- Preheat the oven to 400 F.
- Brush the brioche with the egg yolk mixed with a dash of sugar. With a pair of scissors, make small cuts at the top of each ball.
- Place in the oven to bake for 10 min then reduce the heat to 350 F and bake for about 20 to 30 min.
- Remove, unmold and let cool on a rack.
You should have some tasty brioche!
A healthier option
During our self catering Owlswick holidays the norm was for one or two people to cook for the rest, rather than 20 odd (and usually they were quite odd) people trying to feed themselves. There were vegetarians, pescatarians, steak eaters and fussy eaters, but everyone managed to eat well each time.
One of my favourite meals from that holiday I have now made time and time again, albeit with variations.
Delphine’s goat cheese salad: A variation
I’m not a huge fan of cheeses, there, I’ve said it. To many that will be sacrilege, but it’s true. I tried some goats cheese before and despised it. It had an awful texture, tasted of meat and not in a good way and I was never to have it again. So my heart sank on that holiday as Delphine brought out a goat’s cheese salad. Oh dear, goat’s cheese and salad in one combo, not really my thing. But I’d known Delphine for 20 years – Mum joined when I was 3 – and I didn’t want to be rude, so I would eat it and see how it was. I picked at it a little, with memories of former goat’s cheese running around my head. I brought a fork full to my mouth and… was surprised to find it was delicious. She had made a simple lemon, honey and black pepper dressing, drizzled it onto the cheese and then put it quickly under the grill to lightly melt it before adding it to the salad. The honey and lemon cut through the strong cheese flavour and I loved it. The salad was a mixture of leaves, tomatoes, red and yellow pepper, cucumber, black olives and spring onion.
I’ve found this salad to be a really filling snack and it was ideal for a lunch when I only had a half hour break. My version of the recipe, serving one, is very simple.
For the salad:
- A handful of mixed salad leaves
- A handful of pea shoots
- 4 baby plum tomatoes, chopped
- 3 spring onions, sliced
- 1/4 red pepper, sliced
- 1/4 yellow pepper, sliced
- 1/6 cucumber, de-seeded and sliced
- 3 sliced of smoked salmon, torn
- 8 black olives, stoned and sliced
- 4 slices of goat’s cheese
- Tsp of mixed seeds
For the dressing:
- Tsp of lemon juice
- Tsp of honey
- 1 1/2 tsp olive oil
- freshly ground black pepper
- pinch of sea salt
- Combine the salad leaves, pea shoots, peppers, olives, spring onions, tomatoes and cucumber in a serving bowl.
- Layer on the smoked salmon and goat’s cheese, then sprinkle over the seeds.
- Mix together the salad dressing ingredients and drizzle over the cheese.
- Eat it!