Brioche Feuilletée

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I first ate brioche feuilletée in Philippe Conticini’s Pâtisserie des Rêves. His loaves and muffin-size buns are definitely worth a special trip…..I took it and was not disappointed! This is in fact one of his recipes. I guess the best way to describe what you’ll end up with is a cross between a rich brioche and a croissant. The dough requires some effort – it only takes a day to make, prove and bake, but since he recommends chilling the raw dough in the freezer you’ll need some muscles when it comes to rolling. You’ll never achieve the same result as a professional baker, but remember…..they usually use machines to do the hard work for them. What you will achieve is a sense of pride when tucking in to the finished loaf. So here goes…..

510g flour
1 lightly heaped teaspoon of salt
40g caster sugar
150ml semi-skimmed milk (at room temperature)
20g fresh yeast
3 eggs (roughly 150g – slightly beaten)
50g butter (unsalted and slightly soft)
1 whole egg (for the egg wash)
300g butter (the best quality, for the ‘tourage’ – from ‘tourer’, meaning to roll, fold and turn dough)

1. Mix the milk with the yeast.
2. Add all the dry ingredients (flour, salt and sugar) to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment.
3. Mix the dry ingredients well before adding the milk and yeast. Next add the eggs and the 50g butter.
4. Mix at low speed for 3 minutes, then at medium for 8. Stop the machine when the dough is smooth and homogenous.
5. Place the ball of dough into a clean bowl and cover tightly. Leave at ambient temperature for 30 minutes or until it has doubled in size.
6. Remove the dough and lightly knock down. Place onto a tray lined with silicone paper, wrap and place in the freezer for another 30 minutes (to delay the fermentation).
7. Beat the 300g butter between two sheets of paper until pliable (a rolling pin works well). Roll into a rectangle 20cm x 25cm x 1cm-thick, then leave at room temperature for 1 hour.
8. Roll the chilled dough into a rectangle 45cm x 25cm. Wrap again and rest in the freezer for 30 minutes. Philippe notes at this point that the dough should be much colder than the butter when it comes to rolling them together (this is pretty much the opposite to what I was taught, but I decided to trust him). In actual fact we want the layers of butter to remain clearly separated in the final dough.
9. Place the softened butter in the centre of the rectangle of dough. Fold each edge towards the middle of the butter (do not overlap at any point). Roll the dough into a band of approximately 70cm in length (see photos below).
10. Letter-fold the dough, rotate, then roll again to 70cm.
11. Repeat step 10…..
12. Wrap the folded dough and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
13. Repeat step 10 once more, then rest in the fridge for 1 hour.
14. Roll the dough into a band of 20cm x 50cm x 5mm-thick. Cut the band in half lengthways.
15. Fold each band of dough over four times (onto itself) then brush the edges with beaten egg to bind the layers.
16. Place the two folded pastries into buttered cake tins (with the folded edges facing up). Cover lightly with cling film and leave to rise for 2.5-3 hours (at room temperature and definitely not anywhere too warm, otherwise the butter will start to seep out of your dough).
17. Gently brush the surface of the dough with beaten egg, then cook at 170°C for 25-30 minutes until golden.

I turned my loaves out of the tins straight away and left them to cool on a wire rack. They seemed a little greasy at first, but I resisted the temptation to dive in straight away and left them to cool completely before cutting. They were perfect afterwards, although next time I’ll be adding a little more either salt or sugar. Or perhaps I’ll brush the finished loaves with sugar syrup then scatter over a handful of pink praline pieces or nibbed sugar (the sort you’d expect to see on a chouquette).

If you can’t get to Paris and fancy trying some more of Philippe Conticini’s pastries at home instead, his book’s called ‘Sensations’, and it’s full of recipes for dough ‘feuilletée’, including ideas for the muffin-sized brioche buns I mentioned earlier.

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Potato Baguettes

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So even though this is a recipe pinched from a ‘top’ London restaurant (I have spies in all sorts of places), it’s incredibly simple and easy to pull off. Unfortunately I’ve been sworn to secrecy, so I won’t be including the exact recipe…..but what I can do is take you through the steps I took, which could be easily followed to the same effect with a similar recipe. Here are the ingredients I used (minus the quantities…):

Crushed potato (oven-baked)
White flour
Wholemeal flour
Salt
Butter
Water
Fresh yeast

After mixing and kneading my dough I left it to rise in the normal fashion. Once doubled in size I punched it down and divided it into 24 x 45g pieces. These I then rolled into tight, smooth balls using the palm of my hand. After placing the balls onto a tray lined with baking paper, I left them in the fridge to chill overnight – this made them much easier to shape the following morning. I added no flour, and simply rolled each ball of dough into a small cylinder before bringing the palms of my hands outwards away from the centre to create the tapered ends. Each little baguette was cut slightly with a sharp knife from end to end, covered with film and left to rise.

I baked them at 195°C for roughly 9 minutes – next time I’ll try a hotter oven because the crust wasn’t quite what I’d hoped for. I’m sure they can be taken darker in colour, and so need to be cooked quicker…..my crust, as lovely as it was, lasted all of 10 minutes (once the baguettes had cooled they went disappointingly soft). I won’t worry next time if the tips are a little black.

I’m guessing the potato is the secret behind the moistness of texture, and the whole wheat flour adds a real depth of flavour. The dough seemed very heavy to roll, and in fact when cooked the structure of the little baguettes was relatively dense. In conclusion…..bread that needs butter!

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