Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Apricot Pastries

I had my first taste of brioche one week ago today. It's this buttery, light bread that needs no spread to wash it down the throat. It's in a category of rich dough, along with challah and panetone, which are making my artisan bread class well worth the mess and effort. It was obvious Chef Mar thinks very highly of brioche while she's no big fan of most artisan bread (if you're in a bread class, loaf after loaf can get a bit drab). She said many patissieres are using brioche for Danishes and other rich pastries instead of puff pastry because the brioche can have a more complex flavor with the incorporation of a starter of sorts.

I signed up to make laminated brioche. Laminated dough is not, as one might guess, sending dough through a machine to adhere a plastic cover to its exterior. It is folding a piece of butter into the dough, rolling it, folding the dough again, rolling and folding. This laminating is what gives croissants and puff pastry its flakiness. In a hot oven, the dough is rising while the butter is evaporating. As the water from the butter evaporates, it leaves light delicious little pockets all over the croissant, or brioche in this case.
We were charged with filling our laminated brioche. Anything. At first I was thinking of a cream cheese or ricotta something. Chef Mar said something more sophisticated. Apricot glaze popped into my head, then apricot pastry cream and, of course, almonds. I liked the end result so much that I decided to make the pastry for Easter dessert even though it would take me up to 24 hours to complete considering that the brioche was supposed to rest in the refrigerator overnight.

I made the broiche, nearly overheating my little KitchenAid mixer as the dough hook rotated endlessly around the mass of flour, water, sugar and butter. I let it ferment and proof more than the recipe called for and even retarded some of the dough overnight like I was supposed to. And the pastry cream. Oh the pastry cream. It one of those things I would have never done before culinary school. Now that I know how to do it, it's simple, never to be less than sweet and smooth. But it's a daunting task for the beginner to boil the milk with sugar yet not letting the milk to scald, then slowly slowly pouring the milk into a bowl of eggs whisked with cornstarch to the point at which the eggs are certain not to scramble. Then the whole thing goes back on the burner to activated the cornstarch, which thickens near boiling point. Voila, a pudding that I stirred almond extract and apricot jam into and spread along the middle of the rolled-out laminated dough.
I tucked the pastry cream into the dough, braiding it down. After the pastry had proffed once more it was into the oven with it. It puffed up flaky and rich, with a lightness unexpected from something with that much fat in it.
Pastry Cream: from Tartine Bakery cookbook (this book has steered me wrong but once)
2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons cornstarch
2 large eggs
a couple tablespoons butter to finish
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (or other flavoring)

Mix the sugar and milk together in a small stock pot and bring to a light boil. Whisk together salt, cornstarch and eggs. Once milk is boiling, pour it slowly into the eggs while stirring constantly (this does require some agility). Place entire mixture on hot burner and bring to a boil while whisking constantly. Remove from heat once the cream has thickened to a pudding consistency. Flavor as desired to taste.

Laminated Brioche:
600 grams flour
15 grams salt
65 grams sugar
250 grams butter
30 grams yeast
50 grams water
6 eggs

Make sure all the ingredients are cold. Mix all ingredients except butter in a KitchenAid or similar mixer with the dough hook until you can pinch a piece of dough, pull it away and have it stretch but not break (that is full gluten development). Add the butter a tablespoon at a time while still mixing. Ferment an hour and retard overnight in the fridge.

400 grams dough
80 grams butter

Roll dough out into a rectangle. Beat the butter with a rolling pin until it is thinner and more pliable. Place the butter on half the dough and then fold the top half down over it. Roll it out. Fold it three times, roll it out. Fold it three times again and roll it out, resting the dough in between folds, possibly in the fridge so the butter doesn't melt.

Spread the pastry cream down the center of the rolled-out dough. Sprinkle with almonds. You can just roll the dough up like a cinnamon roll or I cut strips along the side and folded the edges in around the pastry cream. Brush with egg wash. Let rise for an hour or until fully proofed and the dough bounces back slowly to the touch. Brush with egg wash again and bake at 350 degrees for 40 to 45 minutes.


MegB said...


Jess said...

that is for REAL. looks amazing, Lainey!