The holidays are always the best time for making bread. Its the only time of year that bread can be fully appreciated by the maximum amount of people. For example, my house in its everyday state has about 2-4 people max roaming around. Hit Christmas and New Years and suddenly the number has reached 12. When it comes down to it, thats the best part of baking: being able to put your love into it and share it with the best people that you know.
On one of my first days in America, the jetlag had awoken me at 5am: the perfect bread-making time of the morning. Brioche is always delicious with coffee, so I adventured onto a dark chocolate version which I adapted from Julia Child. Another great thing about brioche is that the intense stickiness of the dough leaves for lack of kneading this can be done with dough hooks on your mixer. Needless to say, this is not a bread to make for munching on the same morning- it needs at least a night's resting period in the fridge!
Dark Chocolate Brioche
makes 2 loaves
Starter Dough (sponge)
1/3 cup warm milk
2 1/4 teaspoons dry yeast
2 cups white flour
Rest of Dough
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp kosher salt
4 eggs, slightly beaten
1 1/2 cups white flour
170g unsalted butter (room temp)
1 cup dark chocolate morsels
First start with the sponge dough: a high concentrated yeast starter that will help make the end result deliciously fluffy. Heat your milk in a small pan until it feels warm to touch. Meanwhile, put 1 cup of flour, egg, and yeast in a mixing bowl. When milk is ready, pour into the bowl and immediately start to mix with a wooden spoon. Once its all incorporated, add your remaining 1 cup flour all over the top of the mixture to cover it. Cover the bowl with cling film and let this to rest for 40 minutes. Over this time, the flour will start to form cracks on the top.
When your starter mix is set to go, attach your dough hooks to your mixer and start to make the rest of the dough. Add your sugar, salt, eggs, and 1 cup of the remaining flour to the sponge and start to mix together. When this looks like its incorporating, add the remaining 1/2 cup of flour. Continue to beat the mixer for 10 minutes or so: this is your substitute kneading process, and the bread needs to aerate to rise properly.
Now to add the butter. For this recipe its so important to make sure the butter really is at room temp. Have your butter in a different bowl and beat it with a spoon by itself to make sure its smooth enough. If its still a little hard, stick it in the microwave to soften (but not melt!) Slowly start to add the butter bit by bit to your dough, mixing to incorporate in between. Keep mixing for another 5-10 minutes until the dough looks silky and has fully come together. Cover and let rise at room temp for 2 hours, or until doubled in size.
At this point, you'll want to knock back your dough before the next resting period. It'll still be sticky, so carefully draw the bread from the sides of the bowl and fold into itself. Do this a few times until the dough has come to normal size again. The long rest period comes next- cover your dough with cling film and let rise in the fridge overnight. Over this time it'll grow and at least double in size again.
The next morning, take out your dough. At this point you should be able to work it with your hands on a well-floured surface. Add in your dark chocolate and knead til the pieces are incorporated. Split the dough into two equal size pieces and shape as you like. Splitting into three and plaiting always looks nice, or even rolling a few small balls would create a beautiful shape for your brioche. Place in a well buttered loaf tin, cover, and let rise for 1 more hour. (Instead of this last rise, you could also freeze until you want to bake. The night before, let defrost overnight in the fridge and complete this 1 hour rise the following day before the bake.)
Before the bake, some people choose to wash the top with egg wash. With this particular bread, the egg wash almost burnt the top of mine for the first loaf. The second turned out much better without egg wash and had a much nicer color. I recommend not using egg wash for this brioche, especially if your oven temp runs a little high.
Bake in the oven at 190°C for half an hour, or until top has browned and bread sounds hollow when tapped.
Serve warm with a steaming cup of coffee for dipping.