Well well well, if it isn’t me, back in action after 3 months. To be frank, I can’t even apologize for being gone because I don’t even know what I was up to, and for the record, time means nothing this year anyway. I sincerely hope that everyone reading this is doing okay, and that you’re taking some time to do what makes you happy, even though you’ve probably been in the same place for the last 8 months.
A brief paragraph on today’s bake: I’ve been buying cookbooks like there’s no tomorrow, and one that I’ve been looking forward to for AGES is Dessert Person by Claire Saffitz, formerly of the BA Test Kitchen. It finally arrived last week and I have to say, I was a little overwhelmed by all the possibilities. But, because I know who I am as a person, I settled on these Brioche Twists first. Anything to get me out of bed on time for the workday, am I right? Now I won’t lie, these are a little challenging. I always say that bread is the scariest thing for me to bake, every time I make it feels like the first time in terms of the sheer panic that I feel. I will confess that I tried blooming four separate batches of yeast before I got one that worked, I very nearly quit before I had even started. However, all it takes is some patience (this is a two day project), and make sure you read the whole recipe through before starting, so you know what you’re getting into. You’ve been warned. Then, as a reward, you’ll have the most delightfully buttery, slightly sweet cinnamon breakfast pastry for days on end.
I’ve been trying to figure out why I haven’t been as motivated to write as I have in the past, and the obvious answer is that like everyone else, quite simply doing anything in this pandemic can sometimes seem pointless and exhausting. For a while, cooking became something that we all had to do, rather than something I did for fun, and I always told myself that I would take a step back form Sweet D if it ever felt like a chore, rather than force myself and grow to hate it. I was afraid to go overboard at the grocery store, since I couldn’t spontaneously take a trip every time I was out of a single random ingredient, and I just wasn’t feeling very creative.
BUT, eventually I had to reason with myself, and decided that I need to take advantage of all the little things that make me happy in a day. Especially now that I’m back in my apartment, I can sometimes go the entire work day without going outside, and I needed to find a way to break up my day and separate work time from free time. Soon enough, I found myself looking forward to the meals I’d be making for dinner again. I won’t go preachy on you all, but I think the best we can do right now is savor the little parts of the day that make you smile. For me, it’s cooking dinner and dancing in the kitchen, drinking a glass of wine and listening to some boyband music. You can get through this, and you can get through this cooking!
Before we start, here are 5 things to be happy about:
ONE. Buying a collection of decorative pumpkins to arrange on the coffee table.
TWO. Switching out your summer scented candles with your fall ones.
THREE. Watching the leaves change day to day and remembering that time is passing.
FOUR. Discovering a new TV show to watch, that already has all its episodes out.
FIVE. Taking this quarantine time to really finish decorating your house.
Brioche Dough Ingredients
¼ cup whole milk
1 tsp active dry yeast
1 tsp honey
4 cups all purpose flour
¼ cup granulated white sugar
2 tsp fine kosher salt
6 large eggs, at room temperature
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
Brioche Dough Steps
Proof the yeast. In a small saucepan, heat the milk to around 105 degrees. It should be warm, but not too hot that it kills the yeast. Add the heated milk to a small bowl, stir in the yeast and the teaspoon of honey, then set aside to bloom for 5 to 10 minutes. You’ll know its working if the mixture gets foamy at the top. It’s important to note that if your yeast doesn’t do this, start over, as the yeast is dead.
Combining the ingredients. In the bowl of your stand mixer, add the flour, sugar, and salt, then mix briefly to combine. Make a small well in the center of this flour mixture and add the bloomed yeast, then all 6 eggs.
Mixing the dough. Using the dough hook attachment, mix the dough on low speed until the flour is moistened. After about a minute, turn the mixer to medium and knead until the dough becomes cohesive, smooth, and sticks to the bottom of the bowl. Don’t panic, it can take up to 10 minutes for the dough to come together in the soft consistency you’re looking for. If need be, add a tablespoon or two of flour to the bowl if the dough continues to stick to the sides.
Adding the butter. With the mixer still on medium, add the butter in, a tablespoon at a time, mixing fully before adding the next tablespoon. Again, don’t rush this, it will take up to 15 minutes to completely incorporate all the butter.
First Rise and chill. Now that the dough is extremely soft and beautiful, gather it into a ball and lightly flour all sides. Place it in a large bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Allow to rise at room temperature for 1 to 1½ hours, until the dough has doubled in size. Note: don’t let it rise someplace too warm, as the butter will start to melt back out of the dough.
Once the first rise is done, place the wrapped bowl in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours, up to 24. This will help make the dough more manageable when you’re shaping it! Now we get to the twist!
Brioche Twist Ingredients
½ Batch of Brioche Dough (above)
½ cup granulated white sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground cardamom (optional)
4 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
Brioche Twist Steps
Make the toppings. In a small bowl, stir together the sugar, cinnamon, and cardamom (if using). Set aside. In a saucepan, melt the butter. Set aside.
Divide the dough and prepare your baking sheets. Using half the batch of dough from the above recipe, divide into 8 equal (or mostly equal!) portions. Lay these portions on a parchment lined baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap. Work with one ball of dough at a time, returning the baking sheet to the fridge in between. This will make sure that all the twists proof at the same rate, so don’t skip this!
On a clean, unfloured work surface, roll each ball of dough into a rope about 10cm long. On a separate plate, brush the rope all over with melted butter, and coat generously in the spiced sugar. To fold, pick up the rope from the middle, and twist the tails once or twice around each other. Note: you can also make any shape you feel like, knotted or spiraled will taste just as good!
Return the completed twist to the baking sheet in the fridge, and repeat with the remaining 7 pieces of dough.
Proof the twists. Once all 8 twists are done, remove the baking sheet from the fridge and let them sit at room temperature for 55-65 minutes. You’ll know they’re done when they’re slightly puffed, and when they bounce back but hold a slight indentation when poked.
Bake the twists. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Bake the twists for 20-25 minutes, until they’re puffed and golden brown. While you’re waiting for them to bake, bask in the heavenly cinnamon-sugar butter smell. Congratulations, you’ve made bread!!