The Bread Course

(Brown butter brioche)

For the past couple of weeks I’ve been very busy juggling work and planning for a special dinner that finally took place on Monday 27th February.

For those who aren’t familiar with the Toys Collective, it comprises a group of young chefs who originally banded together to promote the new wave of industry peers by means of thematic dinners thrown throughout the year.

When invited to participate in their latest dinner, I initially declined. Having an all-female themed event seemed a bit too gimmicky. Personally, I’ve never felt the need to make any distinction between males and females in commercial kitchens. There is nothing a guy can do in a kitchen that a girl can’t and gender has never been an issue in any place I’ve worked. (This of course doesn’t answer the big question people always ask about why there are so few well known female chefs in our industry. I don’t pretend to know the reason for that, but I have noticed one thing based on people I’ve had the opportunity to work with. Women chefs who succeed do so because they cook not so much with ego but with great inner strength. Whether that means you need a bigger ego to be noticed, or to surpass greatness, I don’t know.)

Mind you I’m also one of those crazies who thinks girls-only “Kitchen Teas” and baby showers are a bit archaic. Which probably explains why I hardly ever get invited to any. So I said no to the dinner. But the line up of those who had already signed on included some people I really wanted to work with, so I ended up saying yes.

And it was a heck of a ride.

Along the way, I also learned a lot about myself. The other pastry girls will deny this now, but once Stockholm Syndrome sets in, I know they’ll miss the many emails I tortured them with during our planning stage. Of course everyone else cares about menu wording, the right kind of mason jar, weight of the cheese course, style of cutlery and exact width of paper being laid on the tables. Of course they do.

The bread which formed part of the first course was developed by Julie. It was a light brioche style pull-apart loaf, that fitted in with the ‘shared table’ brief we were given. Here I’ve adapted the recipe to suit my preferences. One of my personal policies is to always use brown butter where possible. The savoury yeast flakes are completely optional. They boost the umami flavour of the loaf, but you can easily leave them out altogether, or substitute with a spice or some grated cheese. This bread was served alongside bone marrow butter set into bone marrow, crispy pigs heads, a lobster consomme and an edible garden of vegetables, herbs and flowers.

Pull-apart brown butter brioche :
(based on a recipe by Julie Niland)

10g dried yeast
240g skim milk, at room temperature
60g water, at room temperature

570g plain flour
10g sea salt
85g rapadura sugar
2 eggs
150g unsalted butter, diced and at room temperature

for assembly :
4 tablespoons browned butter, melted
2-3 tablespoons savoury yeast flakes (found in health food stores; also known as nutritional yeast flakes)

Combine the yeast with the milk and water in a bowl. Leave aside for 5 minutes.

In the bowl of a stand mixer with the dough hook attached, add the flour, salt and sugar, followed by the yeast mixture and the eggs. Knead until the dough is smooth, then gradually incorporate the diced butter, kneading well between each addition. Once all the butter has been incorporated, stop the mixer, remove the dough and place it in a large, greased bowl. Cover with cling film and chill overnight.

The next day, ease the dough out of the bowl. Dust the bench top lightly with flour and roll the dough out into a long rectangle about 1cm thick. Brush the dough with browned butter and sprinkle with the yeast flakes. Cut the dough into thirds lengthways. Stack the strips of dough together. Cut down the stacked dough to create smaller stacks of dough that are roughly 3/4 the height of a 9 1/2 inch x 5 1/2 inch loaf tin. There’s a good pictorial explanation of how to create this pull-apart effect here. Arrange the small stacks in the greased tin. Cover loosely with cling film and allow to prove until doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 195’C. Brush the top of the loaf with egg wash and bake for 15 minutes, then for a further 15 minutes at 175’C.

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  1. Vintage Macaroon said,

    February 29, 2012 @ 4:47 pm

    I loved the bread at The TOYS dinner, actually I loved the whole night. Thanks for sharing your version, I’m going to give it a go even though I’m a bread novice.

  2. Rosa said,

    February 29, 2012 @ 6:17 pm

    Beautiful! I’d love to eat a few slices for breakfast…



  3. Flo Makanai said,

    February 29, 2012 @ 6:38 pm

    Superb! Would love a slice with some of last summer’s apricot preserve… The “goûter” of choice I had as a kid in semi- rural France!

  4. Emma said,

    February 29, 2012 @ 11:41 pm

    Glad you decided to participate, despite some initial misgivings.

    Blood, bones and butter. What a concept:)

  5. Caitlin said,

    March 1, 2012 @ 1:57 am

    I’m definitely getting behind the pull-apart-style loaves that I see more and more. They’re fun, pretty, and easy to portion. The brown butter? Just a bonus. (A very good one!)

  6. jack said,

    March 1, 2012 @ 6:43 pm

    Yum… love brioche! That looks so delicious – definitely going to try and make it one day.

  7. Hannah said,

    March 1, 2012 @ 7:56 pm

    Congratulations!! At first I though you had me at “always use browned butter”, but no. You really had me when you used my beloved nutritional yeast. BEST THING EVER.

  8. chocolatesuze said,

    March 1, 2012 @ 11:51 pm

    i saw the pics from the toys dinner and just about died in jealousy! your brown butter brioche sounds insanely delicious

  9. Anna @ the shady pine said,

    March 2, 2012 @ 1:46 pm

    Love the sound of this brioche but I’ve not heard of rapadura sugar before….where can you buy it?

  10. Y said,

    March 2, 2012 @ 5:46 pm

    Anna @ the shady pine : You can get rapadura/panela/evaporated cane juice from a health food store. Or use any sugar you prefer.

  11. Kay@Chopstix2Steaknives said,

    March 5, 2012 @ 4:46 pm

    Can’t wait to try out this recipe! =)

  12. InTolerantChef said,

    March 6, 2012 @ 2:26 pm

    You are so right about the male chef ego thing. Most female chefs I’ve worked with try and be a bigger “dude” than the fellas, swear louder and try and compete. The only thing the guys in the kitchen can do that I can’t is reach the top shelves!
    Very lovely recipe, and could you please post some photos of the event, it sounds so amazing indeed!

  13. Johanna said,

    March 16, 2012 @ 12:03 pm

    I have been looking for a good bread recipe (that works). I will try this one…I haven’t seen ‘brown butter’ anywhere, is it commonly in standard supermarkets? Thanks 🙂

  14. Y said,

    March 16, 2012 @ 10:22 pm

    Hi Johanna, sorry, I meant browned butter, where you melt the butter and cook it to the point when it has browned, then strain and cool it down. I love using it in cakes, breads, even ice-cream. It has a really lovely nutty flavour. If you don’t want to use brown butter, you can replace with normal butter.

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