My mother is in town painting a mural of a tree trunk and branches onto the back wall of our small Homer Spit retail store. She is the only artistic one in our family as far as I can tell. I certainly didn’t get that gene — I’m still at the stick figure and smiley-face stage.
Many years ago, we owned a lodge we have since sold, but my mother painted the name of the lodge, surrounded by draping fuchsias, onto a piece of cottonwood that ended up hanging outside of our log lodge for over twenty years. She painted the sign in part with some fingernail polish that one of our guests offered her for extra color. The sign still hangs there today.
Another — perhaps less impressive — characteristic of my mother’s is that she’s one of those people that truly loves bread. She likes toasted bread spread with cream cheese, and baguettes sliced on the bias. She loves crusty boules and hot buttery buns. One of our favorite laugh-about-Mom memories is a time my sisters and I took her to a French-themed restaurant. The server told our mother that they had just run out of baguettes. She was irate. “No more baguettes?” my mother asked the server incredulously. She wouldn’t stop talking about it the entire meal. “No more baguettes” has become our family’s phrase for “watch out for Mom — something is bothering her”.
For Mother’s Day this year, I have decided to bake a batch of brioche with a variety of fillings. I am baking the butter and egg-laden dough (and what better symbol of love than eggs and butter?) in muffin tins so my mom can experience love in small doses.
Brioche is simple bread to make, but there are a few tricks to success. Unlike the no-knead bread we made a few months ago, this one requires kneading the butter into the flour. Make sure your yeast is fresh, your eggs and butter are at room temperature, you add the butter in bits at a time so it blends well with the flour, and consider kneading your dough by hand. Most recipes call for dumping the dough into a food processor and letting the mixture whirr for 8-10 minutes. I find it particularly satisfying to knead the sticky mass by hand until the strands of flour are all coated with butter and eggs into a shiny cohesive mass. I personally think it takes a little less time to knead brioche by hand than in a mixer because the warmth of hands contributes to the process.
Let the loose soft dough rise for an hour, knead it down, and cover the dough with a clean kitchen towel. Gently deflate the dough by turning and kneading a few times. Put the dough into greased muffin tins (or loaf pans or even little flower pots work). Bake for about 15 minutes until they are an egg-enriched golden brown.
I’m making a big batch of extra dough during my Mother’s Day baking session and putting the rest into loaf pans to make into French toast for the morning. And, I can’t think of anything better than big fat brioche crouton to go on top of summer salads.
- 1 package active dry yeast
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- ½ cup warm whole milk (warm to the touch, about 105F)
- 3 large eggs, room temperature
- 1½ sticks unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into cubes
- Favorite fillings such as jam, cheese, or cream cheese
- Combine the yeast and flour together into a bowl. Add in the salt and sugar (We don’t proof the yeast in warm water and sugar like many bread recipes call for. The reason we do this is to delay the rising slightly. We add the salt after mixing the yeast with the flour so the salt doesn’t burn it).
- Add in the warm milk and then the eggs. Fold the butter into the dough, turning the dough as you do this. The dough will be quite soft.
- Place the dough onto a floured surface and cover with a clean kitchen towel. Let the dough rise for about an hour in a draft-free place.
- Preheat the oven to 400F. Gently deflate the dough and fold it into itself several times, turning clockwise each turn. We weigh out three ounces of dough for each muffin tin and 2-1/2 pounds of dough for a loaf pan (The batch we made shown in the photos was about four times the above recipe).
- Place the weighed dough into a greased muffin tin. Make a small indentation in the top of each brioche and add in a dollop of jam, cream cheese, cheese or other favored fillings.
- Bake the brioche for about 15 minutes or until they are puffed and golden brown.
So, I’m packing up my basket of brioche and boating over to Homer from Tutka Bay to deliver my gift. Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. We’ll always have plenty of baguettes and brioche on hand for you.