I was inspired to play with this recipe by a book I was given to review. Ginger Monette’s lovely Pride and Prejudice variation – Darcy’s Hope ~ Beauty from Ashes – is set in a field hospital in Northern France during the First World War. It would not be unexpected for her characters to head into the closest village to find some patisserie at a bun shop, as letters home from English nurses of the time attested, or for the cook at the chateau which was transformed into the field hospital to create in what little spare time she had.
Why this recipe? Well, first of all, it’s yummy. Really yummy. It’s amazing fresh, warm from the oven. It’s also amazing the next day, lightly toasted, with a thin smear of butter. It’s rich and tender and soft and did I say yummy? Second, with Remembrance Day fast approaching, poppy seeds seem to come to mind, as does the rich and tasty bread we so associate with French cuisine. The tie-in with the book I was reading seemed ideal. And did I mention that it’s yummy?
The pastry for this brioche isn’t quite a poor man’s brioche, nor is it a rich man’s, which would contain just enough flour to hold the butter together. Rather, it is rich and buttery enough to be delicious, while still being easy to work with. The raisins give the bread a chewy little extra; I soaked mine in some Sortilège, a Canadian maple whisky liqueur, but feel free to substitute your liquor of choice (rum… brandy…) or just a bit of hot water with a bit of lemon extract in it if you don’t use alcohol.
The recipe itself is adapted and translated by yours truly from a book we picked up in Quebec City a couple of years ago, Les meilleures recettes de pain autour du monde, published in 2015 by Marabou, in France. I was rather disappointed to discover that the cookbook was itself translated into French from its original English, because brioche really should be from a French book. Of course, being me, I changed the recipe quite a bit, so what you see here bears only a slight resemblance to the original, in whatever language it might have been printed.
Check out the book review that inspired this creation. You need something to read while sipping café au lait and nibbling delicately on brioche. There’s also a bonus for anyone who purchases the book during the blog tour, until November 22, 2016, as well as a giveaway during the same blog tour.
Now, ladies and gentlemen, start your mixers!
Brioche au Pavot – Poppy Seed Brioche
- 7g / 1 packet / 2 tsp dry yeast
- 180ml / ¾ cup warm milk (just to body temperature)
- 550g / 4.5 cups bread or all-purpose flour
- 100g / 1/3 cup sugar
- ½ tsp salt
- 3 egg yolks
- 120g / ½ cup butter at room temperature
- 180g / 2 cups raisins
- Liqueur or flavouring of your choice, optional
- 1 egg for the egg wash
- 30g / 2 TBSP poppy seeds
- Dissolve the yeast in some of the warm milk. Let sit about five minutes, until it starts to froth.
- In a mixing bowl, or the bowl of a mixer, combine the flour, sugar, and salt. Add the egg yolks, butter and the yeast mixture, along with the rest of the warm milk. Mix till well incorporated and knead for 10-20 minutes, until the mixture is smooth and elastic. Form into a boule and spray the surface with oil (or rub with a thin coat of butter) to prevent it from drying out. Return to the bowl and cover with a clean cloth, then leave it to rise, about 1 hour, till doubled in size. If your kitchen is on the cool side, this may take quite a bit longer.
- While the dough is rising, plump the raisins in a small amount of hot water. Don’t use too much, because you don’t want to leech out all the flavour. After about 15 minutes, drain the water and add a bit of your chosen flavouring (rum, liqueur, flavour essence, etc) for the raisins to soak up. You don’t want this mixture too liquidy, so be stingy here.
- When the dough has risen, roll it out on a large flat surface. Divide it in two, and continue rolling each half to form a large rectangle, about 8 inches across by 12 inches long, at a thickness of about ¼ inch / 1/2 cm. Distribute the raisins evenly across the dough, leaving some space at the edges. Roll the dough up tightly, starting at a short edge, pulling it slightly as you roll, to keep the surface tension taut. This helps strengthen the gluten strands and gives a nice texture to the finished loaf. When you reach the end, pinch the raw edge and the bottom of the loaf together, so the raisins can’t escape. Do the same with the sides of the loaf. Repeat with the other loaf, and place then, seams down, on a parchment-covered baking sheet.
- Whisk your final egg and brush the surface of the loaves with the egg. Spray lightly with oil again and let rise about 1.5 hours, till doubled in size again. Brush once more with egg, then sprinkle very generously with poppy seeds, about 1 TBSP per loaf. Bake in a preheated 350F / 180C oven for 35-45 minutes. Cool on a rack, and eat at room temperature if you can wait that long. You don’t have to share.