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Cozied-in weekend

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For snowy Saturdays (like today!) we like the leisurely pace of a good read and the scents of buttery brioches baking in the oven. We emphasized regional French brioche baking and whimsical brioche shapes in The Count of Monte Cristo issue of The Storybook Home Journal; but this less-traditional, easily assembled version is also ideal for slowed-down, snowed-in weekend brunches and lunches.

Whole Wheat Weekend Brioche by Nancy Young

1 cup warm water (105-115 degrees)
1 tablespoon yeast
1/2 cup favorite sugar (optional)
9 tablespoons butter
4 large eggs, lightly beaten (reserve 1 tablespoon for glazing loaves)
1 scant tablespoon salt
4-6 cups whole wheat flour
A little cream (optional)

In the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer, stir together the water, yeast and sugar, if using, and allow to proof--about five minutes. ( A great time to load the dishwasher or shift the laundry.) Add the butter, eggs, salt, and 4 cups of whole wheat flour, and stir until incorporated. Using the paddle attachment of the mixer beat well for about 3-5 minutes. Check the dough, if it seems too slack (a bit depressed looking) add 1/2 cup more flour--up to 6 cups--beating for 30-60 seconds after each addition. The dough will clear the sides of the bowl, but not the bottom. The only differences between the 4 cups and 6 cups is that the less flour, the lighter, drier and more buttery tasting--the more flour the more cake-like in texture it will be. You really can't go far wrong either way--it's not likely the bread will last out the weekend--especially if you share a little with a neighbor.

Leave the dough to rise in the mixing bowl. A first rise will likely take about 90 minutes, but that could vary based on room temperature and lightness of the dough. (A lighter dough will rise more quickly.) When dough is doubled, deflate and shape as desired. I use one large and three medium brioche tins ( a worthy investment if you don't already have one or two sitting about.) Two large tins would also work perfectly. I pan-spray them because I'm lazy and bake constantly, but you can lovingly butter them instead--a nice involvement for little ones.

There are lots of instructions ( Youtube is a good start) for creating brioche a tete, but any shape, including braids or a traditional loaf pan will do. Allow shaped loaves to rise, and meanwhile preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Loaves can take as little as 30 minutes and as much as 90 minutes to rise--just check every quarter of an hour, or so. When doubled, mix a little cream into the reserved egg, and brush onto the brioches. Place loaves in the pre-warmed oven, and immediately turn oven temperature down to 350 degrees. Allow to bake until loaves are golden and test clean, which will vary with size and shape. Start checking at around 25 minutes.

Tags: 2010, Brioche a tete, Recipes by Nancy Young

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