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Sunday Breakfast Brioche

Brioche. It sounds so intimidating. A rich, buttery, egg bread with so many possibilities for creativity. I was feeling ready for a challenge and scoured my cookbook collection comparing recipes and looking for ease of preparation. Finally I settled on one from my alma mater, La Varenne. The recipe itself is not difficult although it is a yeast dough so does require some time. After the initial mixing, a nap overnight in the refrigerator will awaken it refreshed and ready to mold into all kinds of shapes. This is the fun part.

In Paris, I learned how to make brioche dough by hand, slapping it on a cold marble surface as I added the butter, piece by piece. This traditional method is an art in itself. This time I let the Kitchen Aid do the work. It huffed and puffed as I added the butter, until I thought it would faint with exhaustion. “Just three more pats of butter,” I whispered with encouragement. The poor thing was warm after the workout and I promised her a long rest in-between the next recipe.

Three different breads were the results of my efforts. Because I am still craving oranges, they all have an orange twist. The first recipe is a take off on monkey bread, one of my favorite childhood breakfast breads. I added candied orange peel (from King Arthur) to the dough, then rolled pieces of dough into small balls, dipped them in melted butter, then into an orange zest and sugar combination. The balls were placed in a deep dish pie pan, left to rise, then baked. Bellissimo!

Next I made a braided loaf and sprinkled the orange sugar on the rolled out dough before I made the braids. Again, delicious and beautiful. While baking, the sugar peeked out from the dough causing a speckled effect. It slices very nicely.

The last recipe, and the simplest, was my favorite. I had some of the orange peel dough leftover and made rolls. Each dough piece was weighed, then rolled into a ball and placed in a well-buttered muffin tin. After they had risen, I egg glazed each roll and sprinkled them with Sparkling White Sugar (again from King Arthur). The texture of this bread is soft and airy, buttery and irresistible.

The best part about this recipe is that you are free to unleash your creative genius in any way you like. Shape a bunny or an Easter egg. Add cinnamon or lavender. Just remember to let the fine texture and flavor of the bread speak for itself so go lightly with the added flavors.

Brioche
 
Ingredients
  • 2 Tablespoons luke warm water (105-115 degrees)
  • 1 Tablespoon dry yeast
  • 3 Tablespoons sugar
  • 4 Cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 8 eggs – beaten lightly
  • 12 oz. unsalted butter, ( 3 sticks) softened and cut into ½” cubes NOTE: Please use a good quality European style butter like Plugra, President or Kerry Gold. Because this is a butter bread, it really does make a difference! Also there is a lot of water in inexpensive butter and this can change the dynamics of the recipe.

Instructions
  1. Put water in a small bowl. Sprinkle yeast on top. Let set for about 10 minutes to activate the yeast. It should look puffy and bubbly. I usually add a little of the sugar to this mixture to feed it, just to make sure my yeast is active.
  2. Combine remaining sugar, flour and salt in a Kitchen Aid mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add risen yeast and eggs to mixer. Beat dough until all ingredients are well combined and the mixture is sticky.
  3. Add pieces of butter (I smash the pieces between my thumb and finger to flatten) one by one, incorporating each piece before the next is added. This is the most time-consuming part of the recipe! Do not leave your Kitchen Aid as mine wanted to jump off the counter near the end because it was working so hard.
  4. When all the butter is incorporated, you will have a beautiful shiny mass. Form a ball and place this in a buttered bowl. Cover with a damp dish towel and let rise in a warm place for about 1½ hours.
  5. Punch the dough down, replace with the damp towel and refrigerate overnight. The next morning, your dough is ready to play with!
  6. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Shape dough as desired, place in well-buttered muffin tins or molds and let rise until doubled. Give each piece a light egg wash and bake. The small rolls (I weighed each at about 1.5 ounces) only took about 12-15 minutes and the braid took about 25 minutes. Watch carefully and look for a beautifully browned crust.
  7. These are best eaten warm but keep very well and even freeze well.

 

 

The smell of good bread baking, like the sound of lightly flowing water, is indescribable in its evocation of innocence and delight…

[Breadmaking is] one of those almost hypnotic businesses, like a dance from some ancient ceremony. It leaves you filled with one of the world’s sweetest smells… there is no chiropractic treatment, no Yoga exercise, no hour of
meditation in a music-throbbing chapel. that will leave you emptier of bad thoughts than this homely ceremony of making bread.”
M.F.K. Fisher, The Art of Eating

Ciao for now,

Mary




Pucker Up! Lucious Lemons Rock

My baby planted last May.

My baby Meyer Lemon planted last May. Star is her guardian!

When I think of lemons, this folk tune often sings in my head, “Lemon tree very pretty, and the lemon flower is sweet, but the fruit of the poor lemon is impossible to eat.”* The author, of this song, Jose Carlos Burle, must never have tasted a Meyer lemon or he wouldn’t have written this song!

My Mom's Eureka tree - the Mother Lode!

My Mom’s Eureka tree – the Mother Lode!

Lemons are so happy. Their cheery yellow color radiate love, a freshness and an eagerness to be utilized to the fullest. This means the zest AND the fruit. I cannot bear to juice a lemon without first removing its fragrant and flowery rind or zest. For me, this is the flavor, and, hence from which all delicious tartness is born. The Meyer lemon, less acid, more mandarin-scented and thinner-skinned, than its brighter yellow-colored cousins, makes it the perfect flavor for desserts. Its mellow tang shines in vinaigrettes and desserts.

More orange-yellow colored Meyer is in the back and Eureka is in the forefront.

More orange-yellow colored Meyer is in the back and Eureka is in the forefront.

Lemons are as dear to me as chocolate. Their flavor absolutely makes a bold and intense statement. So pucker up!

Here are a few of my favorite ways to celebrate lemon season.

Lemon Vinaigrette

I love the simplicity of this vinaigrette. The lemon gracefully enhances the lettuce leaves. Feel free to embellish it with capers, fresh herbs or olives. I tossed it with warm vegetable ravioli (butternut squash would be good) and was delighted with the taste. Also I can envision this dressing a niçoise salad, or any tuna salad. Feel free to adjust seasonings, amount of lemon juice or oil.

Lemon Vinaigrette
 
Prep time

Total time

 

Author:
Recipe type: salad dressing

Ingredients
  • ½ tsp. Dijon mustard
  • Juice of ½ Meyer lemon or about ¼ cup
  • Zest of ½ – 1 lemon
  • Pinch Fleur del Sel (salt)
  • ¼ cup safflower oil

Instructions
  1. Whisk the lemon juice and zest into the Dijon mustard. Slowly add the oil, whisking constantly until the vinaigrette fuses together. Add salt to taste. Adjust the amount of oil if it is too tangy for your taste.

 

Lemon Herb Butter

Lemon Herb Butter
 
Prep time

Total time

 

Author:

Ingredients
  • Lemon Herb Butter
  • 4 Tbls. Unsalted butter
  • 1 Tbls. Fresh Meyer lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. Meyer lemon zest
  • ⅛ tsp. salt
  • 2 Tbls. finely chopped parsley, basil, dill, mint, etc.
  • 1 tsp. finely chopped shallot or garlic

Instructions
  1. Combine all ingredients. It is easiest accomplished with a food processor.
  2. Spoon butter onto a piece of plastic wrap or waxed paper. Shape the butter into a log and roll it up in the wrap. Freeze until firm. To use, slice off discs and use as added flavor on top of chicken or fish, vegetables, pasta or rice.

 

Lemon Tarts with Candied Lemon Peel

I experimented with a few ways to “candy” lemon peel. I must say, it is not as easy as it sounds! My favorite way to create the peel I used for the tarts was to use very thin yellow-only julienne skins, simmered in a sugar syrup, then dipped in sugar. If you would like the recipe, I recommend the one from Epicurious at the bottom of this blog.

Sweet Pastry Crust

1 1/4 cups flour

½ tsp. salt

2 Tlbs. Powered sugar

10 Tbls. Unsalted butter (1 ¼ sticks)- I prefer Kerry Gold Irish butter

3-4 Tbls. cold water

1 egg yolk

In a food processor combine the flour, salt, and powdered sugar. Pulse until blended.

Add the butter. Pulse again just until butter and flour form small peas.

Mix cold water and egg yolk. Add to mixture. If you live in a dry climate or if the weather is very warm, you will probably need the extra 4th tablespoon of water.

Pulse just until combined.

Form into a ball. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least an hour to rest the dough.

Roll dough to 1/4” thickness. Depending upon the size of tart mold you are using cut out rounds of dough and place in molds. Refrigerate or freeze.

I prefer these sweet little tart molds. They have such character!

I prefer these sweet little tart molds. They have such character!

Lemon Filling: (caution! This is an adapted recipe from a French version so don’t be intimidated by the gram measures)

Lemon Filling
 
Prep time

Cook time

Total time

 

Author:
Recipe type: lemon

Ingredients
  • 210 grams or 1 ¾ cups of powdered sugar
  • 2 lemons juice and zest
  • 5 eggs
  • ⅜ cup clarified butter

Instructions
  1. Mix together powdered sugar and lemon juice. Whisk in eggs. Stir in cooled clarified butter.
  2. Cook over low to medium heat for about 20 minutes or until lemon coats the back of a spoon.
  3. Pour into a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate.

210 grams or 1 ¾ cups of powdered sugar

2 lemons juice and zest

5 eggs

3/8 cup clarified butter

Mix together powdered sugar and lemon juice. Whisk in eggs. Stir in cooled clarified butter.

Cook over low to medium heat for about 20 minutes or until lemon coats the back of a spoon.

Pour into a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate.

Zesty lemon just waiting to be savored.

Zesty lemon just waiting to be savored.

To make the tarts:

Carefully fill the cold tart shells about ¾ full with the lemon filling.

Bake in a 375 degree oven for about 15-20 minutes or until the shells brown and the filling is bubbly.

Le tart citron

Le tart citron. Almost too pretty to eat!

Let cool. Filling will “settle” meaning it ends up sinking a bit in the shell. Don’t worry. It will still taste fabulous. Either top with a candied lemon slice or pipe a bit of lemon mousse on top. For the mousse, I just add a little of the lemon crème to whipped cream and fold gently. Pipe mousse on top of the tart and garnish with slivered candied lemon peel, candied violets or mint leaves.
I love these tarts  for a refreshing springtime dessert or any season for that matter.
They are a delightful treat for baby or bridal showers or for an afternoon tea party.

100 things to do with a Meyer Lemon from the LA Times: Hhttp://www.latimes.com/features/la-fo-meyerlemons16jan16,0,5003872.storyere are a few more sites for ideas with Meyer (or any variety of) lemons:

My favorite recipe for candied lemons: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Candied-Lemon-Peels-232352

 A good story on Meyer Lemons from NPR:http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=100778147

How to make clarified butter from Joy the Baker: http://www.joyofbaking.com/ClarifiedButter.html

Avec l’amour de ma maison à la vôtre avec l’amour, le bonheur et la bonne santé  (With love from my house to yours with love, happiness and good health)

Merci mille fois! (Thanks a  million!)

Mary

*The song compares love to a lemon tree. “Lemon Tree” is a folk song written by Will Holt in the 1960s. The tune is based on the Brazilian folk song Meu limão, meu limoeiro, arranged by José Carlos Burle in 1937 and made popular by Brazilian singer Wilson Simonal.