Friday, December 3, 2010

Oui, nous pouvons!

Brioche has been on my "time of the season" list for a while now, and recently Michael Ruhlman put up a blog entry titled simply, "Make Brioche." Also a few weeks ago my roommate John saw that I had listed "butter" on my grocery list and went to three different grocery stores to buy three different kinds of butter. This is both strange and awesome. Also it turned out that there was a chemical engineering holiday party tonight and that people who were coming were supposed to bring a dessert. Well, it's better than last year when we had to provide all the food and also chip in $5 for the wine. Oh, University of California. Anyway, let's just say that there was a confluence of things that all seemed to suggest or facilitate the making of brioche last night.

So let me just say that I do not own a KitchenAid stand mixer. Can you make brioche without a KitchenAid stand mixer? Yes. You can make brioche without a KitchenAid stand mixer. It's a pretty rewarding process. One thing: you need to commit about 45 minutes to kneading.

If you are following, say, Thomas Keller's favorite recipe, what you have to do is get the amount of butter pictured on the right into the amount of dough pictured on the left. It looks kind of hard because the mass of butter and mass of dough are just about the same size. You have to do this using your hands. Let me tell you something: even though the dough is already outstandingly eggy after 20 minutes of kneading eggs into flour, dough and butter do not mix. The task of getting the butter into the dough is about equal in difficulty to what would happen if we were having breakfast and you spread some butter on top of your toast and I challenged you to reduce your buttered toast to a paste using only your hands. Your awful-looking veiny hands.

But, you know, you just spread some butter into the middle of the dough and get kneading. I did not take any pictures of the process because in the process of making brioche by hand your hand will get so buttery that you wonder if it is even possible to hold anything, or if it will ever be clean again. It's a shame--I need to get a partner in crime to take some pictures of this next time, because there are definitely a bunch of stages of this process, from "firm dough squirting butter everywhere, no mixing" to "very buttery table" to "complete disintegration of dough" to "somewhat sticky mound of sweaty butter" to "sweet Jesus, I will never get this off my table" to "WHAT HAVE I DONE?" to "wait, it's coming together".

About ten minutes of kneading after the "wait, it's coming together", the dough miraculously rolls itself up into a ball and, well, this ball is one of the most beautiful things in the world to touch. It's a buttery dough, but it pours and it flows. It feels like touching a cloud, or a waterfall, or a baby's skin, or the wind, all at the same time. This is probably what happens if you make it in a KitchenAid stand mixer too, but without the 45 minutes of kneading and progress through the "WHAT HAVE I DONE?" stage, I can't imagine that the feeling of having the dough come together into one big mass is quite as exciting.

In the end I decided to take something else to the holiday party because even after getting up at 6 AM to take the dough out of the fridge, my brioche did not quite rise as much as I had hoped--I think it has to do with the frigid temperature in my house this morning. I was waiting and waiting for it to rise but even though I'm in grad school I really can't just sit around all morning watching brioche. I have to come to work sometime. And you know me: Bree Van de Kamp that I am, I would never be caught dead bringing subpar brioche to a holiday party.

Well, no, actually, it's more like my inner Liz Lemon doesn't want to share any of the brioche with anyone.

1 comment:

  1. spam. let's make brioche when i come home for xmas.