About four years ago, still in Boston, a friend of mine sent me a recipe for Brioche au Chocolat (shout out to Jared for this gift). I have a big weakness for French pastries from everything from chocolate croissants to Mille Feuilles and I’m slowly working my way through mastering each.
The recipe in question is from Joanne Chang, the mastermind and pastry chef extraordinaire behind Boston’s Flour Bakery. Her brioche is awe inspiring, a bit intimidating and above all, the real deal! She’s not messing around.
I’ve hung on to this recipe for basically years, waiting to feel ready to dive into it. Recently, I thought it was time… and I spent the weekend turning my Bedstuy kitchen into a French bakery, making the brioche dough and then transforming it into Brioche au Chocolat and Pain Aux Raisins (all inspired by Flour Bakery). (This, I can happily report, is not the first time such a transformation has occurred).
These recipes are a bit involved — there’s the brioche dough, then the pastry cream then assembling the two different pastries. Dough needs to rise and then rise some more… pastry cream needs to chill… pastries need to bake and cool before being devoured. It’s a process but one that’s well worth it! It’s the perfect winter snowy day activity!
First up, the brioche dough:
It only gets more intense and time consuming adding piece after piece of butter. Make sure each piece is mixed thoroughly into the dough before adding more – it will become shiny and soft and it’s well worth all the effort.
Let the dough proof in a large bowl covered with plastic wrap for at least 6 hours or overnight.
*If you just proceed with the brioche, after it’s risen for 6 hours +, take half the dough and fold in thirds like a letter and place in a prepared pan seam side down. Let it rise again for about 4 hours, coat with an egg wash and bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes.
I made a tiny brioche loaf to test (because really, when in Rome…) and it was delicious! Buttery, light and fluffy — I think I did a pretty bang up job!
While your brioche dough is rising, work on the pastry cream.
In a medium saucepan, scald the milk over medium-high heat. While the milk is heating, in a small bowl, stir together the sugar, flour, and salt. In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks until blended, then slowly whisk in the flour mixture.
Remove the milk from the heat and slowly add it to the egg-flour mixture, a little at a time, whisking constantly. When all of the milk has been incorporated, return the contents of the bowl to the saucepan and place over medium heat. Whisk continuously and vigorously for about 3 minutes, or until the mixture thickens and comes to a boil. As soon as you see it bubbling, immediately go back to whisking for just 10 seconds, and then remove the pan from the heat.
Stir in the vanilla, then cover with plastic wrap, placing it directly on the surface of the cream. This will prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
Roll out the dough into a rectangle about 20 inches by 10 inches and 1/4 inch thick. Spread the pastry cream and chocolate chips evenly over the bottom half (a 20 by 5 inch section) of the rectangle. Fold the top half of the rectangle completely over the bottom half, then press down gently so the halves are smooshed together. Cut dough into 10 pieces.
Transfer to prepared baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap and proof for 2 hours. Brush the tops with egg wash and bake at 350 for 35 to 45 minutes.
And for your Pain Aux Raisins:
Roll out the dough into a rectangle about 16 inches by 12 inches and 1/4 inch thick. Spread the cream evenly over the entire surface and sprinkle with raisins. Roll up the rectangle tightly like a jelly roll. Cut the roll into 10 equal pieces and place onto a prepared baking sheet.
Let them proof for about 2 hours lightly covered with plastic wrap. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes.
I started this project simply wanting to make brioche au chocolat and hours later found myself with pain aux raisins and classic brioche too! I think the pain aux raisins were my favorite. While this whole adventure into brioche dough and its iterations was a marathon baking experience, I’d do it again in a heartbeat. It’s a great feeling taking that delicious first bite of something you’ve slaved hours over and one I will keep seeking time and again!
And so having conquered brioche dough, I think it’s time to face making croissants!
- 2¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 2¼ cups bread flour
- 3¼ tsp active dry yeast
- ½ cup plus 1 tbsp sugar
- 1 tbsp kosher salt
- ½ cup cold water
- 6 eggs
- 1 cup plus 6 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into 10 to 12 pieces
- golden raisins
- 1 recipe Pastry Cream
- bittersweet chocolate chips
- In a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine the all-purpose flour, bread flour, yeast, sugar, salt, water, and 5 of the eggs. Beat on low speed for 3 to 4 minutes, or until all of the ingredients have come together. Stop the mixer as needed to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl to make sure all of the flour is incorporated into the wet ingredients. Once the dough has come together, beat on low speed for another 3 to 4 minutes. The dough will be very stiff and seem quite dry.
- On low speed, add the butter one piece at a time, mixing after each addition until it disappears into the dough. Then, continue mixing on low speed for about 10 minutes, stopping the mixer occasionally to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl. It is important for all of the butter to be mixed thoroughly into the dough. If necessary, stop the mixer occasionally and break up the dough with your hands to help mix in the butter.
- Once the butter is completely incorporated, turn up the speed to medium and beat for another 15 minutes, or until the dough becomes sticky, soft, and somewhat shiny. It will take some time to come together. It will look shaggy and questionable at the start and then eventually will turn smooth and silky. Then, turn the speed to medium-high and beat for about 1 minute. You should hear the dough make a slap-slap-slap sound as it hits the sides of the bowl. Test the dough by pulling at it: it should stretch a bit and have a little give. If it seems wet and loose and more like a batter than a dough, add a few tablespoons of flour and mix until it comes together. If it breaks off into pieces when you pull at it, continue to mix on medium speed for another 2 to 3 minutes, or until it develops more strength and stretches when you grab it. It is ready when you can gather it all together and pick it up in one piece.
- Place the dough in a large bowl or plastic container and cover it with plastic wrap, pressing the wrap directly onto the surface of the dough. Let the dough proof in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours or up to overnight. At this point, you can freeze the dough in an airtight container for up to 1 week.
- **To make Pain aux Raisins, roll out the dough into a rectangle about 16 inches by 12 inches and ¼ inch thick. Spread the cream evenly over the entire surface and sprinkle with raisins. Roll up the rectangle tightly like a jelly roll. Cut the roll into 10 equal pieces and place onto a prepared baking sheet. Let them proof for about 2 hours lightly covered with plastic wrap. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes.
- **To make Brioche au Chocolat, roll out the dough into a rectangle about 20 inches by 10 inches and ¼ inch thick. Spread the pastry cream and chocolate chips evenly over the bottom half (a 20 by 5 inch section) of the rectangle. Fold the top half of the rectangle completely over the bottom half, then press down gently so the halves are smooshed together. Cut dough into 10 pieces. Transfer to prepared baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap and proof for 2 hours. Brush the tops with egg wash and bake at 350 for 35 to 45 minutes.
- **To make two brioche loaves, line the bottom and sides of two 9 by 5 inch loaf pans with parchment, or butter the pans liberally. Divide the dough in half and press each piece into about a 9-inch square. The dough will feel like cold, clammy Play-Doh. Facing the square, fold down the top one-third toward you, and then fold up the bottom one-third, as if folding a letter. Press to join these layers. Turn the folded dough over and place it, seam-side down in one of the prepared pans. Repeat with the second piece of dough, placing it in the second prepared pan.
- Cover the loaves lightly with plastic wrap and place in a warm spot to proof for about 4 to 5 hours, or until the loaves have nearly doubled in size. They should have risen to the rim of the pan and be rounded on top. When you poke at the dough, it should feel soft, pillowy and light, as if it’s filled with air – because it is! At this point, the texture of the loaves always reminds me a bit of touching a water balloon.
- Position a rack in the center of the oven, and heat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- In a small bowl, whisk the remaining egg until blended. Gently brush the tops of the loaves with the beaten egg.
- Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until the tops and sides of the loaves are completely golden brown. Let cool in the pans on wire racks for 30 minutes, then turn the loaves out of the pans and continue to cool on the racks.