Saffron Brioche

by Meeta Wolff

This chapter is a free excerpt from What's For Lunch, Honey?.

As March turns into April and we turn our clocks forward to “save time,” I’m always surprised to look at the calendar and see that another holiday is upon us. Not only is there Easter Sunday, but in my house it often chimes in close time with Tom’s birthday. Time is flying and there seems to be no saving it.

In 2010 we were celebrating Tom’s 40th with such a bang and had big plans for new adventures in a new country. I never expected that the following year, I would again be anticipating my beloved German Spring. Nor was I expecting the flavor of the juicy fresh Spring produce as it comes into season—because where I was going, it was available throughout the year. It’s actually the experience of eagerly waiting for something to come into season and then savoring it with honest pleasure, which I was going to miss the most.

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As March turns into April and we turn our clocks forward to “save time,” I’m always surprised to look at the calendar and see that another holiday is upon us. Not only is there Easter Sunday, but in my house it often chimes in close time with Tom’s birthday. Time is flying and there seems to be no saving it.

In 2010 we were celebrating Tom’s 40th with such a bang and had big plans for new adventures in a new country. I never expected that the following year, I would again be anticipating my beloved German Spring. Nor was I expecting the flavor of the juicy fresh Spring produce as it comes into season—because where I was going, it was available throughout the year. It’s actually the experience of eagerly waiting for something to come into season and then savoring it with honest pleasure, which I was going to miss the most.

But here I am and my Farmer’s Market is slowly bringing the first asparagus, rhubarb, strawberries, and a variety of other delicious produce. I feel like a little girl who can hardly wait to open her birthday presents. One can feel that it’s Easter break in Weimar—there is enough time to plan a lovely birthday and Easter day on Sunday. It’ll have to start with a nice, long and luxurious brunch, which means these brioches will have to be on the list.

These brioches are totally buttery and utterly delicious, with the addition of quark to the dough to intensify the flavor of butter. Saffron adds an incredible highlight to the brioche making it aromatic and silky. They can be enjoyed warm, or at room temperature—I loved them fresh with butter and a variety of jams, jellies and preserves or with a drizzle of honey. A day or two later it’s perfect toasted. In fact, stale brioche make awesome French toast or a brioche pudding, like this banana brioche pudding with baileys caramel cream.

Method:

  1. Place the cold butter cubes in a bowl and with an electric beater, beat until the butter is smooth and creamy, with no lumps. Scrape the butter into a smaller bowl and set aside in the refrigerator until required.
  1. Dissolve yeast in a clean bowl, with 1 teaspoon sugar and the saffron water. Using the kneading hooks of your electric beater add the remaining sugar, quark, eggs, salt and flour. Mix all the ingredients on low speed until everything is nicely blended. Scrape the bowl as you go along.
  1. Turn up the speed of the beaters to medium and continue beating for another 5-7 minutes. The dough should be very sticky, soft and supple. You’ll have to keep stopping and scraping it from the sides and from the hooks.
  1. Add the cold creamed butter in several portions into the dough. Push the pieces right into the dough and beat well to integrate it without any lumps into the saffron dough. You’ll have to keep stopping and scraping it from the sides and from the hooks.
  1. Scrape the dough into a clean bowl, cover with a cloth and refrigerate for 24 hours to allow the flavors to really intermingle well.
  1. Butter your brioche, muffin or loaf pans generously.
  1. Scrape the dough out onto a nicely floured surface and punch it down with your hands. It will still be slightly sticky. Divide it into about equal 10-12 portions for brioche/muffin pans or shape into 2-3 loaves for the loaf pans.
  1. For individual brioches, pinch off a smaller piece of each portion. Taking the larger portion and in the cup of your hand tightly roll the dough into a tight ball. Do the same with the smaller portion. Place the larger dough ball into the brioche or muffin form and then put the smaller portion on top. Gently pinch the sides to secure it. Repeat this procedure until all of the portions are formed.
  1. For the loaf pans, shape the portions into a loaf and place into the loaf forms.
  1. Place the forms on a baking tray, cover with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel and let the brioches rise for 2 hours in a warm and dry place.
  1. In the meantime, prepare the egg wash by beating the egg with a 1 teaspoon of water.
  1. Preheat oven to 180ºC (356°F). Brush the egg wash gently over each brioche. Be careful not to get any on the forms.
  1. Bake for about 20-25 minutes, until the tops are golden. Cool on a rack.
Q:
Hi Meeta, I made the brioche yesterday/today and followed your recipe exactly. My dough was very difficult to work with, forming balls was even an almost impossible task :-),it was quite wet and very sticky, maybe because I used large eggs? or we might have different flour here (Holland)? I baked them in loaf pans, and it took 30-35 minutes to bake them. Happy easter!- Monique

A:
Monique, the dough is a rather sticky dough and when you turn it out on the counter you will have to make sure it is floured. also while rolling the dough with your hands you should work with lightly floured hands. of course the ingredients and ovens all play a role too. each oven is very different from the other-but did they taste good? that's pretty much what interests me - LOL!- Meeta

A:
The taste was good, buttery and it was toasted the next day, also very good. Thanks for your reaction!- Monique

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