Recipe: Cinnamon-Orange Brioche

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Even though I’ve been cooking for a while, baking is something I’ve never really picked up. There are a couple recipes I keep in my repertoire, but I don’t get very adventurous, since I never really needed to be.  My mother has always done more of the baking for holidays and special events – nearly reproducing the inimitable baguette de tradition of France, and perfecting sweet rolls, pumpkin bread, and the chocolate cake that my brothers and I still request for every birthday. So I have always had the luxury of letting someone else worry about the time and precision required for good baking.

But one day last week, when I found myself with a lot of time and not a lot of ingredients (and still less precision – but who needs it anyway…) I figured now was as good a time as any to use up some of the 4 pounds of flour I had, and attempt homemade bread. But I didn’t want to make just any bread. Since all bread is fairly time consuming anyway, I thought it might be fun to go for a bit of  a challenge – brioche.

Considering how impatient and averse to measuring ingredients I am, bread is probably one of the silliest things for me to attempt. But once I had imagined the warm, yeasty scent of fresh bread wafting through the house, I couldn’t let the idea go.

So on with the bread adventure!

I still had a few bizarre ingredients left in my rapidly shrinking pantry, that I thought I would try to use up by incorporating into the bread. Luckily for the sake of my brioche, I limited the additions to three ingredients: orange blossom water, cinnamon, and, sliced almonds.

I think I was partly inspired by my Shakshuka from last week, because the nutty cinnamon and orange flavors are very typical of North African desserts, though perhaps not often used all together.

Though my brioche was perhaps unconventional, I was pretty please with how well the brioche turned out. Not so pleased with how much of it I ate…

Orange-scented cinnamon brioche

one large braided loaf, or two standard loaf pans

Traditional brioche is quite rich in butter, and would not have used oil in the recipe, like I did. However, I was short on butter, and didn’t want to run out the grocery store. Challah uses oil rather butter, so figured oil would make an appropriate substitute.

Also, I have a  rather unusual food processor that it is very large and also has an attachment that is suitable for kneading dough. However, I know that few people have this machine, so I wrote the recipe assuming that readers would be using a stand mixer, which is how many brioche recipes are written. But if you happen to have a food processor similar to this amazing appliance, instruction are also included below.

Ingredients:

  • 2/3 cups milk, tepid (no hotter than 110 degrees F)
  • 1 envelope (7 grams) active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup sugar, 1/4 of which is reserved for the cinnamon filling
  • 2 eggs at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons orange blossom water
  • the zest of one orange
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons butter at room temperature (1/2 stick)
  • 4 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 lb all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons cream or whole milk
  • egg wash: 1 egg + 1 tablespoon water
  • 1/4 cup blanched and sliced almonds

Stir the yeast into the warm milk with a spoon or whisk (do that step in the bowl of the stand mixer if using one). Let stand until puffy, about 10-15 minutes. Whisk in two eggs, 1/4 cup sugar, salt, orange zest, and orange blossom water.

If using a stand mixer:

With the mixer running on low speed, gradually add in the flour. Once the flour begins to get incorporated, add the butter, and then the oil. Continue to knead for about another 10 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and shiny, and starts to climb the attachment.

If using a large food processor:

Put the flour and butter in a food processor fitted the blade attachment. Process at medium speed, pulsing intermittently. Continue until butter is mostly incorporated into the flour. Then, while processor is running, gradually add the oil. Process until butter and oil are incorporated, for about 1-2 minutes. The mixture will appear crumbly but will hold together when pressed with your fingers.

Remove the flour mixture and swap the blade attachment for the dough attachment.  Add the flour back into the bowl, then gradually beat in the egg mixture. Once added, continue to knead for about 10 minutes, until the dough is shiny and smooth, and starts to climb up the center of the processor.

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Place the dough in a lightly oil bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature, free of drafts for about 1 1/2 – 2 hours, or until the dough has slightly more than tripled in volume.

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Remove the dough and flatten into a roughly 10in x 12in  rectangle. Fold the sides of the dough like a trifold letter, one side over the other. Repeat these steps three times. Return the dough the the bowl, and re-cover with the plastic wrap for its second rise.

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At this point you can refrigerate the dough overnight, or for at least 4 hours. If you refrigerate the dough, allow it to rest at room temperature for about an hour before shaping. Alternatively, you can let the dough do its second rise at room temperature until doubled in size, about 1 – 1 1/2 hours, but the dough may be harder to shape.

Flatten dough into square and cut into four equal sized pieces. I weighed my pieces to make sure they were about even, since sometimes it can be difficult to ‘eyeball.’ Roll one piece of dough back and forth until it is about 12-14 inches in length. Repeat for each remaining piece of dough. All pieces of dough should be the same length. (I made my pieces a little too long, especially considering I later filled each piece with cinnamon).

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Combine cinnamon, remaining 1/4 cup sugar, and cream in a small bowl. With a  sharp knife, create an incision running through each of the pieces of dough, careful not to cut through to the botton. Fill each incision with about 4 teaspoons of cinnamon-sugar. Pinch the dough around the tops of the incision to enclose the cinnamon. This might get a bit messy! As you can see in the photos, my first attempt, toward the bottom, was not very neat…

The Braid

This looks more difficult than it is, and I found this video to be really helpful when I was doing my braid.

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Join one of the ends of each piece of dough together. Braid the dough by moving the outermost piece over its neighbor, then under the third piece, then finally, over the fourth piece. Repeat steps for what is now the outermost piece of dough. Continue until braid is complete, then tuck ends under the loaf. Place on buttered baking sheet.

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Let the loaf perform it’s final rise, for about 1 1/2 hours. The dough should be light and springy to the touch. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Beat one egg until well combined with 1 tablespoon of water. Brush onto exterior of loaf. Sprinkle sliced almonds over top. Immediately move the loaf into the oven.

Bake until top is gold brown and interior temperature reaches about 200 degrees F. If brioche is browning too quickly, cover with one sheet of aluminum foil, or place a baking sheet on the rack above to protect the loaf.

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Remove from oven and let cool. Serve with butter and your favorite jam. Pictured with Mirabelle jam, all the way from France!

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