Brioche, Take Two

I tried making a brioche again this weekend, but this time I dispensed with the fancy pan and just made regular loaves that would be better suited to sandwiches. One of my loaf pans is a little smaller than the other, but I let the dough for both rise the same length of time. So the smaller one rose a bit too much and has a big air pocket in the top. It’s kind of neat, actually, but it makes (correction: made) it difficult to cut the bread without smooshing it down. The extra rising also made the bread less densely structured all around, so it’s not as firm a previously. I’d like it a little firmer than the small loaf came out, though there’s something to be said for having it a bit less firm than before. I suspect the second loaf will be a near-perfect denseness. There are a few spots in the bread where I didn’t get the butter fully integrated, and around these, yummy gooey buttery air holes formed. We ate the small loaf within a day. I’m hoping the larger loaf will last a few days, at least, as I’ve got a pile of salami and turkey for sandwiches.

Brioche is thought to be the bread Marie Antoinette was referencing when she (the story goes) said “let them eat cake.” My bread book has recipes for three grades of brioche, broken down into the classes “rich man’s,” “middle-class,” and “poor man’s” brioche. The primary difference among them is the quantity of butter, which was harder to come by (and keep) a few hundred years ago. Antoinette’s plea, then, was basically an attempt to swap a little butter for her own dear neck. I’ve made the middle class version so far, with its two sticks of butter and five eggs (the rich version has double the butter!). I’m not sure I have the nerve to make the rich man’s version. You can probably see why this bread translates into cake. And come to think of it, the bread actually looks a bit like pound cake.

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