Versatile, Craveable Brioche

Today is the first day in eight weeks I'm not feeling slightly nauseated by the new truffle that has taken up residence in my uterus. In fact, I nearly forgot I was pregnant this morning until I got slapped with a craving.

I wanted brioche. I haven't made it in years and I needed guidance. Who better to turn to than Julia Child? I used her classic and versatile recipe and transformed it into a breakfast, a dinner and a snack.

Today, I'll share the recipe for the poppy seed roll that my family and I had for breakfast.

I'll start with the poppy seed paste because you can make it weeks ahead of time.

  • Poppy Seed Paste
  • 1 cup poppy seeds
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 three inch long strips of orange zest
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 2 tablespoons of softened butter
  • 1 tablespoon grated orange zest

  • Rinse the poppy seeds under running water in a fine mesh strainer. Add them to a small bowl and cover with boiling water. Let rest for 15 minutes. Drain.
  • Move poppy seeds to a small pot and cover with 1 cup milk. You may need a bit more than one cup, just be sure they are covered. Add 2 strips of orange zest. You can remove only the flavorful orange part of the zest easily avoiding the white bitter pith with a vegetable peeler. Simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from heat. Let cool a bit so it will not burn you if you happen to splash some out during this next step.
  • Transfer the poppyseeds and milk to your blender or food processor or just use a stick blender if you have one. Blend for about 1 minute. Return the poppyseeds to the mesh strainer. Strain the liquid from the poppyseeds and press with back of spoon to remove as much liquid as possible.
  • Put poppyseeds in a small bowl, add the sugar, softened butter and grated orange zest. Stir by hand until completely combined. Refrigerate until ready to use. This makes enough paste for two rolls.

 Julia Child's Classic Brioche

The Sponge
  • 1/3 cup warm whole milk (100- 110 degrees F)
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

The Dough
  •  1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 4 large eggs, lightly beaten, room temp
  • 1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (approx)
  • 6 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature

  • Put the milk, yeast, egg and 1 cup of the flour in the bowl of a heavy duty mixer.
  • Mix the ingredients together with a rubber spatula, mixing just until everything is blended.
  • Sprinkle over the remaining cup of flour to cover the sponge.
  • Set the sponge aside to rest uncovered for 30-40 minutes.
  • After this resting time, the flour coating will crack, that's your indication that everything is moving along properly.
img1; sponge rising.  img2; dough in mixer incorporating butter.  img3 dough in buttered bowl before first rise
  • Add the sugar, salt, eggs and 1 cup of the flour to the sponge.
  • Set in the mixer, attach the dough hook, and mix on low speed for a minute or two, just until the ingredients look as if they are about to come together.
  • Still mixing, sprinkle in 1/2 cup more flour.
  • When the flour is incorporated, increase the mixer speed to medium and beat for about 15 minutes, stopping to scrape down the hook and bowl as needed.
  • During this mixing period, the dough should come together, wrap itself around the hook and slap the sides of the bowl.
  • In order to incorporate the butter into the dough, you must work the butter until it is the same consistency as the dough. 
  • You can bash the butter into submission with a rolling pin or give it kinder and gentler handling by using a dough scraper to smear it bit by bit across a smooth work surface. I find that cutting the butter into 1/2 inch slices and sandwiching it between two pieces of plastic wrap, I can flatten it with the bottom of a measuring cup will do the job quite nicely. If it happens to get too warm you can put in back in the fridge for a minute and it will quickly cool down again while staying soft. That's a free tip from me to you
  • When it is ready, the butter will be smooth, soft, and still cool- not warm, oily or greasy. 
  • With the mixer on medium-low speed, add the butter a few tablespoons at a time. 
  • This is the point at which you'll think you've made a huge mistake, because the dough that you worked so hard to make smooth will fall apart- don't worry, don't panic- carry on. 
  • When all of the butter has been added, raise the mixer speed to medium-high for a minute, then reduce the speed to medium and beat the dough for about 5 minutes, or until you once again hear the dough slapping against the sides of the bowl. 
  • Clean the sides of the bowl frequently as you work; if it looks as though the dough is not coming together after 2-3 minutes, add up to 1 tablespoon more flour. 
  • When you're finished, the dough should feel somewhat cool. 
  • It will be soft and sill sticky and may cling slightly to the sides and bottom of the bowl.

First Rise
  • Transfer the dough to a very large buttered bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and let it rise at room temperature until doubled in bulk, 2- 2 1/2 hours.
 Second Rise and Chill
  • Deflate the dough by placing your fingers under it, lifting a section of dough, and then letting it fall back into the bowl.
  • Work your way around the circumference of the dough, lifting and releasing. 
  • Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate the dough overnight, or for at least 4-6 hours, during which time it will continue to rise and may double in size again.

img1; Dough after first rise, ready to be deflated and put in to fridge. img2; Dough after overnight refrigeration
After this long chill, the dough is ready for any brioche recipe and will be enough for two poppy seed rolls. 

To fill the rolls you will need:
  • 2 Tablespoon butter
  • poppy seed paste
  • 1/2 cup of crushed walnuts (optional)
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons milk

full of poppy seed paste and ready to rise.
  • Take the rested brioche from the fridge. On a floured board, cut brioche in half. Return one half to the fridge to keep it chilled. Roll the other half out to a 14x8 inch rectangle-ish shape. It does not have to be perfect. Work quickly so that the dough stays cool. 
  • Spread the dough with a thin layer of softened butter and then spread the poppy seed paste over top of the rectangle.
  •  Be sure to leave an inch or so free of paste and butter on the length of one end one end so the dough can properly seal its self. We like walnuts over here so I crushed about a half cup and sprinkled some of those on there too.
  • Start rolling from the pasted side of the 14 inch edge to the edge you left clean.  On a piece of flour dusted parchment paper, lay the roll seam side down so the filling does not leak out while rising.
  • Sprinkle the top of the roll with a light dusting of flour and then cover with a piece of plastic wrap and a clean kitchen towel. 
  • Let rise for about 45 minutes or until doubled in size.
  • Preheat oven to 350°
  • Beat the egg and milk in a small bowl. Lightly brush the top of the roll with a bit of the egg wash.
  • Make a few evenly spaced snips with sharp kitchen scissors into the top of the roll. Try to pierce down at least a few layers before snipping. Do not snip all the way through, just down a bout an inch or so.
  • Bake for 35-45 minutes. After about 25 minutes of cooking time you might need to gently lay a piece of foil over the top to avoid over browning.
  • Cool on a wire rack before slicing.
    Img left . Roll has been left to rise, have been sliced, and is ready for oven.
    Img top right; Chilled dough has been rolled out and is spread with paste and walnuts, ready to roll.
    img bottom right; Close up of slice to show layers.

Enjoy~ 99% BitterSweet


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