Oct 26, 2010
I had the privilege to spend a year in Paris where I could perform every cliché associated with the city. But despite that, I was constantly in a state of melancholy and I blame my age for that: 21, my "I don't know what to do with my life" phase. I was living in an apartment of eighteen square meters on Rue Saint Jacques and had a kitchenette hidden inside a cupboard. Yet it was more than I could ask, provided at the time, cooking and eating seemed like a waste of time. My head was in the clouds, my feet were off the ground and who needed food? After having lived with my grown-up aunt for the past ten years, I was finally free to eat all the junk food I wished or skip dinners with a slice of perfumed vanilla bread if I wanted. A strange way to celebrate independence...
My most preferred dinner was canned ravioli bought from the shabby épicerie across the street. I had sachets of mini baby-bell cheese for emergency in my fridge and jars of Nutella and marmalade. I remember eating potato purée made from quick powdered purée mix and hot milk. And that, only when I felt like eating home food! What was I thinking, God knows... The only real healthy food I can remember of cooking was on account of my mother, as always. In one of her visits, she had prepared a soup base, left it in the fridge and written down some basic recipes. Using those and the soup base, I made tasty tomato and mushroom soups.I had occasional feasts too. If a friend came over I would buy a whole roasted chicken from the rotisserie on the corner and we'd gulp it down with a baguette. Breakfasts were also a treat, thanks to the fluffy Parisian brioche in question. The little boulangerie situated next to my building had been renovated and turned from an old boring cake shop to a very neat bakery. On saturday mornings I would run down, wait in the line repeating from inside my regular buying line: "bonjour, une brioche s'il vous plait", not to let my accent slip and disclose my foreignness for once. I always stumbled when pronouncing "brioche", the most critical word, since the "gggghh" sound was impossible for my Turkish throat to produce smoothly. When I pronounced it correctly one day, the vendor who was familiar with my struggle by then, looked more happy than I was.
Brioche is something I always wanted to fabricate and I can't tell you how proud I am for having baked it. Making brioche requires a little skillfullness and patience, since kneading the dough is tricky and to wait for it to rise for 12 hours in total seems discouraging. But you will appreciate all the effort you spend, once you sit down with a cup of tea and one of your self baked warm brioches, coated lightly with butter and honey. When it was time to taste the brioches I made, I was ready to settle for the slightest resemblance to the ones I used to have in Rue Saint Jacques. It turns out, I was being way too unenvious... When I bit one, I closed my eyes and was again 21, the same taste in my mouth, sitting next to my window, looking down to passer bys on the street with blank eyes, a bit depressed, melancholic and a little bit in love...
Makes 6 medium brioches
Recipe adapted from Fouchon Recipe Card Collection and The Williams-Sonoma Cookbook
- 6 medium brioche molds
- 170 g whole wheat flour
- 2 medium or small size eggs, at room temperature
- 65 g (4.5 tablespoons) butter, softened at room temperature
- 40 ml (0.25 cup) milk
- 1 teaspoon dry yeast
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 2 pinches of salt
- Heat milk and remove from heat when it starts steaming.
- Blend 60 g of flour, yeast, sugar and salt in bowl. Add the hot milk and work the mix with your hand for 2 minutes until smooth.
- Add eggs one at a time and knead well after each addition.
- Gradually add the remaining flour and knead until the dough is soft but holds its shape when stretched, for about 2 minutes.
- Cover with a damp towel and let rise at room temperature until doubled in size, for 2 hours.
- Divide the butter into small pieces and scatter them over the dough. Knead again for one minute until the dough is soft and batterlike.
- Scrape the dough into a greased bowl and cover the bowl with an oiled aluminum foil and refrigerate overnight.
- Grease six brioche molds with butter. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Split the dough into 7 pieces and roll them into balls. Place 6 of them in the bottom of the mould. Divide the remaining piece of dough into six small balls and place them tightly on top of larger dough pieces. Leave to raise at room temperature for 1 hour, until doubled in size.
- Preheat the oven to 200 C/400 F. Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden brown. Place them on a cooling rack and serve warm.