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    Brioche au Fromage — Cheese Brioche

    This brioche recipe is from Bernard Clayton’s “The Breads of France,” my first real bread book. This particular recipe is from the city of Le Havre. It is a very rich bread with delightful pockets of cheese in the interior and crusty pieces of baked cheese on the outside, altogether a wonderful bread for all but the diet-conscious. The flour portion of this recipe was originally in traditional American volume measurement, which means that it was unclear just how much flour Clayton intended the baker to use. I have taken the recipe in hand and worked it until I have a workable recipe that makes good bread.

    This recipe makes two braided loaves. I presented one to a lady in my wife’s yoga studio office for her birthday; call it a fringe benefit.

    The original recipe called for 3 1/2 cups of flour. I didn’t believe this, so I used my normal weight for a cup of flour, 4 1/2 ounces, and measured out 3 1/2 cups and got 15 3/4 ounces. I put 15 3/4 ounces of flour into the bowl of the mixer and got a thick paste. I worked the recipe until I got a dough that, while still very wet, seemed to match Clayton’s description of the dough as “glossy and elastic.” That happened at 24 ounces, or about 7 ounces of flour for each of Clayton’s “cups.” I have a lot of experience with Clayton’s measurements, and 7 ounces for a cup of flour is not that far out of line for him. In fact, I have made this several other times and used as much as 26 ounces. (740 grams)

    One other clue to the proper amount of flour is the amount of salt called for. 1 1/2 teaspoons is 1/2 Tablespoon. A tablespoon of salt weighs a little over 24 grams, so a half-tablespoon weighs about 12 grams. Two percent is a very common proportion of salt in a recipe, and 2% of 680 grams is 13.8 grams, which tells me that 24 ounces of flour is close to correct. Boy, that was a lot of thinking and figuring! I thought my head would explode!

    Ingredients

    Ingred Ounces Grams
    Dry Yeast 1/4 7
    Water 8 230
    Bread Flour 24 680
    Sugar 1 tsp 10 ml
    Salt 1 1/2 tsp 7.5 ml
    Butter 6 170 Room temperature
    Eggs 4 Room temperature
    Diced Swiss or Gruyere Cheese 2/3 lb 300

     Make an egg and milk wash using one egg and a tablespoon of milk.

    Method

    This makes a very soft dough, one that is sticky but won’t stick to your hands very much because of all the fat in the dough.

    1. Place the water and yeast in the bowl of a large mixer, mix it around a bit, then add the sugar and salt and about half the flour.
    2. Beat at medium speed for 2 minutes.
    3. Break the butter into small pieces and add it to the mixture. Beat one minute.
    4. Add the eggs one at a time and the rest of the flour. Beat thoroughly after each addition.
    5. Beat at medium speed for 10 minutes. You may have to scrape the dough down off the sides of the bowl from time to time.
    6. Stir the cheese into the dough and blend thoroughly.
    7. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rise at room temperature until it has doubled, 2 to 3 hours.
    8. Do not stir down the dough. Place it in the refrigerator for at least 5 hours or overnight. This dough must be chilled before it can be worked.
    9. Take the dough out of the refrigerator and divide it into two pieces, each about 24 ounces / 680 grams. Place one on the counter and the other back in the bowl in the refrigerator.
    10. Divide the dough on the counter into three pieces, about 8 ounces / 225 grams each.
    11. Carefully roll the three pieces out to form long strands, 14-16 inches long. Be patient, as the dough will spring back a bit after each roll.
    12. When you have the three pieces rolled out, braid them into a loaf, being sure to seal the end pieces tightly.
    13. Place the finished braided dough on parchment paper or a greased baking sheet and repeat the process with the second dough.
    14. Brush both loaves with the egg-milk glaze.
    15. Let the two doughs rise uncovered until doubled, 1-2 hours.
    16. Heat oven to 400F / 205 C. This is a little high for an enriched bread, so watch it carefully during the last 10 minutes.
    17. When ready to bake, give the loaves another brushing with the glaze.
    18. Bake for 20 minutes, then turn the loaves
    19. Bake until the loaves are done, then carefully remove them from the oven. These loaves will be fragile until they cool.

    Here we go:

    Click the thumbnail to see a larger version of the picture.
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    Brioche ingredients on the counter. Water, yeast, salt and sugar. Adding flour. Adding butter to the brioche dough.
    Adding eggs to the brioche dough. Scraping things down a bit. Brioche dough after a bit of kneading. Brioche dought after a minute more.
    More mixing. After a bit more mixing. Adding cheese. Adding the cheese.
    Brioche dough ready to chill. After 5 hours in the refrigerator. Three equal portions of brioche dough. Three strands of brioche dough.
    The two brioches all shaped. Applying the egg-milk wash. Brioche doughs rising. Brioche ready to wash and bake.
    Brioches in the oven. Two brioches halfway baked. The two finished brioches. Judging from the smile on her face, she likes her birthday brioche.




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