Taleggio and Spinach Brioche Couronne

After watching the final episode of Paul Hollywood’s Bread, I really wanted to make his Savoury Brioche Couronne, but as it’s not vegetarian, I wanted to use a different filling. Step forward Yotam Ottolenghi and his Taleggio and Spinach Roulade from his new book Plenty More.

Making the brioche dough was pretty straight forward and it went into the colder of our two fridges to spend the night. Unlike the brioche that I’d made a couple of weeks before, I put this dough into a large enough container. Even so, it still ballooned enough to touch to the clingfilm that I’d placed over the top of the bowl.

The following morning the dough came out of the fridge a few hours before I knew that I was going to need to bake it. If I’m being honest, I could probably have got it out a little earlier, as the couronne didn’t see to rise that much once it was made. The dough was still quite soft, even though it had been in the fridge all night. The top had formed a little bit of a skin, so I might need to oil it a bit more next time, although it didn’t seem to affect the dough once it had been rolled out.

I had to use quite a bit of flour to stop the dough from sticking to the work surface and the rolling pin. It wasn’t as easy to handle as Paul made it look on the telly either, every time I tried to pick it up to turn it round I nearly put my fingers through it, as it was quite floppy. For some reason I didn’t get my measuring tape out, so I definitely rolled the dough out too large. It was supposed to be a 40cm x 50cm rectangle, but I went over on both dimensions, especially the width. This made the dough a bit on the thin side, which became a problem when it came to rolling up.

I was a bit worried about Yotam’s filling, as you have to slather some crème fraîche over the dough before adding the rest of the fillings. I was a bit worried that this would stop the dough from cooking properly, but given Paul’s recipe calls for four mozzarella balls, which are renown for outputting large amounts of liquid when melted, I figured that a little crème fraîche would be probably be fine. It was.

As I’d made the dough a little on the thin side, rolling it all up meant that the tomatoes and lumps of taleggio wanted to burst through the dough. In retrospect, I could have squished both flat with my hand, before scattering them across the dough. Eventually though, it was all rolled up and rolled out into long thin sausage. As I don’t own a Scottish Scraper, I just used one of my big Global knives to shop down the middle of the dough and split it in two.

When you see Paul twisting the two sausages of dough together on the telly, it looks relatively easy. In reality it wasn’t quite that simple, as the two sausages of dough just weren’t robust enough to be picked up and thrown about like that. You picked up and end and the dough just started to stretch, there was no way it was going to wrap itself into a nice looking twist with just a few flicks of the wrist.

Not to be deterred, I somehow managed to twist the two strands together and form the whole thing into a kind of ring shape. I did struggle trying to join the two ends, as can clearly be seen in the photos. Once it was successfully on a baking sheet, it was put into a polybag and left to rise for about an hour. I think it would have benefitted from a slightly longer prove, as it didn’t seem to have risen that much at all. After a bit of an egg wash, it was into the oven.

While it was cooking, I knocked up a couple of salads to go with it. One was just a simple rocket, olive, tomato and feta affair with a simple white wine vinegar and olive oil vinaigrette. The second, was a chicory, mulled pear and taleggio salad, with a honey mustard dressing.

I was a bit unsure about the chicory salad, as it’s not something we really use. As we don’t have a griddle pan we can use on our induction hob, I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to char it enough to soften it. I needn’t have worried though, a stinking hot frying pan did the job and the salad was really nice. A perfect use for one of the Kilner jars of mulled pears that didn’t seal.

Taleggio and Spinach Brioche Couronne

So what was it like? It was really nice, if maybe a touch on the doughy side, in my opinion. I’m not sure if I thought it was doughy because that’s just what’s like, or if it would have benefited from a longer final prove, or slightly longer in the oven. Never having made one before, it’s hard to know what the outcome is actually supposed to be like.

It appeared to go down well with everyone though and the leftovers I had for the lunch the following day were pretty tasty too. It’s definitely something I would do again, maybe with a slightly longer final prove though.

Brioche

Brioche

I’ve been baking a lot of bread recently, at least one loaf per week, sometimes as many as three. All of them have just been my usual mix of 400g of Strong White, along with 100g of Rye, which I quite like. I wanted to try some sort of enriched bread though, something like a Gugelhupf or a Panettone, but as I had neither a Gugelhupf or a Panettone tin, I decided to have another attempt at some Brioche

I hadn’t realised that it had been so long since I’d last attempted some Brioche, nearly two years, so was keen to try again. Rather than use the recipe from Bread: River Cottage Handbook No. 3, I decided to use the one on Paul Hollywood’s website. I’m not sure what it is, but I’ve found that I’m getting better results using Paul’s recipes, rather than Dan’s. Brioche dough trying to escape... It might just be that I’m not over proving my bread anymore, either way, Paul’s recipes just seem to produce nice bread.

I mixed up the dough and stuck it into the fridge before going out for the evening. I popped back to the house to pick something up a few hours later and opened the fridge to check on the dough, it had decided to try and break free from its shackles and was almost out of its container. There was me thinking that yeast doesn’t work at low temperatures, the Allinson dried active baking yeast that my wife accidently bought (it was supposed to be the Doves Farm quick yeast) certainly seemed happy enough to keep going for a couple of hours at least.

The following morning I shaped the dough, which was still quite sticky and pliable, into a ball and popped it into our 23cm springform tin and left it on the work surface to rise. I was a bit worried that the yeast might have exhausted itself in the fridge the night before, so after a couple of hours of inactivity, I put the tin onto a bit of work surface that had sunlight on it. Hey Presto, it’s Safeway, an hour later the dough was peeking over the top of the tin, so into the oven it went.

It required a few minutes longer than the time stated in the recipe, but then the tin I used was also an inch smaller, so presumably the Brioche was a bit thicker and needed a few extra minutes to finish. Brioche, with mulled pears, sour cream and pomegranate molasses... It came out of the tin with no issues and was left to cool while we all went down the pub for a few halves of Oakham Green Devil IPA. I must have been going on and on about it down the pub, as I ended up coming home and cutting a few slices to share around the pub garden.

The end result was fantastic, if I do say so myself, the kids must have thought so too, as they were even asking for it in the mornings before school. As I had a kilner jar of mulled pears that hadn’t sealed, I toasted some of the Brioche and had some of the pears, with some sour cream and pomegranate molasses for my breakfast. Any day that starts with a slab of toasted Brioche has to be a good day.

Genoese Sponge

On the same day I made the brioche buns, I really fancied making a sponge cake of some description. So while the brioche was in the dehydrator proving, I broke out the Good Housekeeping Cookery Book and looked through the options. I didn’t have much flour, sugar or butter, so ended up looking at those sponges that are made by whisking up eggs to provide the lightness.

I settled on the Genoese Sponge, mainly as I had all the ingredients, but also as I had a recollection that it had been one of the technical challenges from this year’s Great British Bake Off (here’s the recipe for Fraisier cake). Making the batter wasn’t too hard, but knowing when it was "thick enough to leave a trail on the surface when the whisk is lifted" was a bit harder and I probably over whisked it.

Also the folding in of the flour and butter was a bit of a chore. Normally I’m quite good at folding things in, but the flour really didn’t want to be incorporated and every time I drew the spoon through the batter, the flour just seems to reappear on the surface unmixed. The butter was slightly easier, but I think I knocked too much air out of the mixture getting it all mixed in.

I decided to make two sponges, rather than one deep one, mainly as I wanted to pack the middle with some double cream and tropical fruit. So I divided the mix into two prepared tins and gently placed them in the oven. They didn’t rise very much, but it was noticeable that they had risen ever so slightly. After they had cooled for a bit, I turned them out and left them to cool properly on a wire rack.

Just like I always do, I over whipped the double cream. For some reason, I always give it an extra whisk or two when it gets to the soft peak stage and this tips it over the edge, you’d think I’d have learnt by now. I mixed some cubed mango and a couple of passion fruit into the cream and slathered it all over one on the sponges, the other went on top and was given a liberal dusting of icing sugar.

I thought the sponge turned out OK, it had a bit of spring to it, even though it was maybe a touch on the dense side. The passion fruit didn’t come through enough in the filling though and the pips were a bit on the annoying side, so I think I’d use a couple more and sieve them in the future. Over all it wasn’t a bad first attempt, but I’ve left plenty of room for improvement.

Interestingly, the kids were divided on it, my wee boy loved it and ate quite a lot of the next few days. My daughter on the other hand, only had the one slice, she scrapped all the filling out, ate one side of it and wouldn’t touch it again. Might need to find a different filling, maybe I should try making a crème pâtissière and doing a Fraisier cake

Brioche

Brioche

I’ve been wanting to make some brioche for ages, well, ever since I got the River Cottage Bread Handbook really. Not sure why I’ve not done it before, but probably a combination of the suggestion that you use a stand mixer to knead the dough as it’s a bit sticky and not having enough confidence to attempt it free hand.

My main interest in brioche stems from seeing loads of photos of burgers on twitter and not from wanting to replace the horrendous chocolate chip brioche finger monstrosities the kids eat at the weekend, like a good Dad would. I’m sure I also read somewhere that all these trendy London burger vans were using brioche rolls, rather than white baps, so I thought that I could do something similar at home.

Being a vegetarian does have its drawbacks occasionally, and veggie burgers are one of them. It’s either some sort of textured vegetable protein, or some mass produced bread crumb encrusted bean burger, or heaven forbid, some Quorn based monstrosity. So my plan was to buy either The Best Veggie Burgers on the Planet or Veggie Burgers Every Which Way and each Saturday make a burger and some brioche buns for lunch.

I keep flicking through the burger books with Amazon’s Look Inside feature, a great way to sneak a few recipes out of a book you’re thinking of buying before you splash the cash. I always come away from them with the nagging feeling that the kids wouldn’t eat what I’d make and it would all be a colossal waste of time. There’s plenty of veggie burger recipes out there on websites like BBC Good Food, so for the moment, my hard earned cash is staying in my pockets. But I’m digressing…

I suddenly decided the other Friday that I was going to stop sitting on my hands and actually get my finger out and make some brioche. So after a few beers and just before going to bed, I stumbled into the kitchen and started to get all the ingredients together. I grabbed the strong white bread flour and started to measure out the required quantity, I didn’t have enough. Never mind I thought, I have another bag, all be it a different brand, but that still wasn’t enough, so I made up with some plain white flour. I had an inkling that I should really have stopped at this point.

The eggs were the next problem, as I didn’t have any medium eggs, so instead of four medium ones, I used three large ones. I should really ensure I have all the ingredients before spontaneously deciding to make something. After combining everything in a bowl, it was time to turn it out and start kneading, at this point I realised why they recommend a stand mixture, they weren’t joking when they said it was sticky.

After ten minutes or so of slapping the dough round the kitchen worktop, it had smoothed out a bit, so I scraped it off my fingers, shaped it into a round and deposited it into a bowl, it then went into the fridge to stiffen up until the morning. Whereupon it was divvied up into eight roughly equal bits, shaped into rolls on a baking sheet, covered in a bin bag and popped into the dehydrator to prove. The only problem with this is that the dehydrator blows air onto the bag, which then collapses onto whatever is on the baking sheet, which I’m sure has an impact on how high it got as it proved. I don’t have this problem when using my banneton baskets, as the dough doesn’t rise above the side, I might have to create a support to put over the baking sheet.

After quite a few hours in the dehydrator, the dough had come alive, but had expanded out the way, rather than up the way, so I wasn’t very hopeful that they would be any good. I nearly ditched them into the bin at this point, but decided to bake them anyway, just to see if I could learn anything for future attempts. I’m glad I did, as halfway through baking they had risen quite a bit and weren’t looking too bad, so I turned them round and put them back into the oven. I should have taken them out sooner, but as I’m always afraid of under cooking things, I left them in for a too long, so they were more of a David Dickinson mahogany, than a light golden brown.

As they were ready in time for lunch, I broke out a mass produced bread crumb encrusted bean burger and set to work. I slathered some home made saucy haw ketchup on the base of the bun, then the bean burger, followed by some home made chilli pepper jelly and finally some grated cheddar. Other than the bun being slightly too small for the bean burger, the crust was a bit thick and the inside was a bit on the dense side, but overall it was much, much better than I was thinking it was going to be.

I had another for Sunday lunch, this time with added homemade red onion marmalade, which got me thinking. The brioche, saucy haw ketchup, red onion marmalade and chilli pepper jelly were all made by me, just the bean burger and cheese were bought in. Given the books and website I mentioned earlier, making my own burgers will be easy, so I need to start looking into making my own cheese, I want the whole stack to be created by me. I’ll have to grown some lettuce and tomatoes in the garden next year too, just so I can say I grew or made everything.

I’ll definitely do brioche again, but I think I’ll ensure that I have ample strong white bread flour and medium eggs before I do…