October 11, 2012

Fruitful Baking: Buttery Peach Brioche

Just about a year ago at this time, I was making my way to an old stone villa in Pistoia, 45 minutes outside of Florence.  I had made plans to meet a perfect stranger at the airport, and we would drive together to Il Salicone, sharing a room for the weekend, and more importantly, sharing meals and community together with 14 other people who were just about as obsessed with food as we were.

That was Plate to Page Tuscany, and the magic of a perfect blend of writing, food, photography and camaraderie linger still.  I have been lucky to meet fellow P2Pers for lunch in London; over bistecca in Umbria; in an East Village old school Italian joint in New York.

But it is in the digital world where we connect most often. From all parts of the globe, we share stories and recipes, deepening friendships first forged over the chopping of vegetables and the silent concentration of writing exercises.  As I read their blog posts, I’m reminded of how food unites us, making old memories fresh, simple ingredients special and the most elemental of dishes remarkable.
Jamie at Plate to Page Tuscany
My friend Jamie, one of P2P’s founders and an insatiable baker extraordinaire, recognises that communion of food. She, along with fellow food bloggers Lora the Cake Duchess and Lisa of Parsley, Sage, Dessert and Line Drives, recently launched Twelve Loaves, a monthly challenge to get home bakers in the kitchen and get the house filled with the ethereal smell of freshly baked bread. 
While I’m a wee bit behind in posting my response to their first challenge, it’s never too late to bake bread.  I hope you’ll join me in rolling up your sleeves and letting the flour fly.    
Buttery Peach Brioche
makes 1 loaf
with slight variations from Cook's Illustrated
Twelve Loaves’ first challenge asked bakers to bake a bread with summer fruit.  While summer fruit are long gone, this take on bread with fruit celebrates on the season’s most delicious treats: peaches.  I used homemade peach preserves to give a sunny twist to simple and delicious brioche.

One envelope dry active yeast 
½ cup milk (2% or whole), warm
c unbleached all-purpose flour
6 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces
3 tbsp sugar
1 tsp kosher salt
2 large eggs
¾ c peach jam, plus extra for brushing on top of the bread*
*any high quality preserve will work well with this bread

One 8½ x 4½ x 2½ loaf pan, greased

1. In a small bowl, whisk yeast into milk.  Slowly stir in 1 cup of flour. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside.

2. Pulse the butter, sugar, and salt at 1-second intervals in a food processor, scraping down sides, until the mixture is smooth. Add the eggs, one at a time, processing after each addition until fully incorporated. The mixture will have the consistency of curdled milk. 

3. Add remaining flour and yeast/flour mixture, pulsing at 1-second intervals until a soft, smooth dough is formed. At this stage, process continuously for 15 seconds more.

4. Turn the dough out onto a generously floured work surface.  It will be quite soft and sticky.  Knead until the dough is smooth and elastic.

5. Line the bottom of the loaf pan with greased parchment paper, and set aside.

6.  Press the dough into a 9-by-5-inch rectangle, with the short end facing you. Spread the jam evenly over the rectangle, being careful not to go to the edges of the dough. Fold each long side about 1 inch toward the center and press firmly to seal. Fold the top half of the dough toward the center. Fold the bottom half of the dough up past the seam; pinch seam to seal.

7.  Place the dough in the pan, seam side down, and flatten the dough with your hand so that it fills the pan evenly. Cover the pan with greased plastic wrap, and let the dough rise about  one inch above the pan rim.  Preheat the oven to 350˚F while the dough is rising.

8. Using a sharp knife, slash the dough down the center, leaving about 1 inch unslashed at either end. Bake until golden brown, about 40 minutes. Transfer pan to wire rack; let cool 5 minutes.

9.  Turn the loaf out of pan onto rack.  With a pastry brush, brush the top of the loaf with additional jam until glistening.   Let the bread cool to room temperature before serving.

Just enough of a sweet swirl to give brioche added flavour.  Try this bread to make delicious French toast