A Tried, Tested and True Brioche Recipe

brioche nanterre strawberry rhubarb jam

Or two actually, but let’s not rush there.

Updating images of old posts has been on my list forever. I’ve come to a place with my photography where it’s getting somewhat embarrassing to face my early works… I try to focus on the progress but still, I realize those images are not good. Not that I’m super satisfied with what I make now, clearly there is room for improvement but I’ll stop the moaning right there. Confidence comes with practice, there’s really no other way of going about it.

Changing visuals for this Easter challah made me recognise it’s not just the images – recipes evolve too. And while I totally vouch for that one, I’ve been using an updated version lately and it’s time to share!

Brioche is a French pastry, an enriched bread with high egg and butter content. It has a lovely, rich and tender crumb making it ideal for many, many things. I use this type of dough not only when making a braided challah for the holiday table, but for all the sweet rolls, buns, knots, braids and babkas on my repertoire as well.

The ingredients are pretty basic, the method is not complicated either but admittedly there is one tricky bit, and that’s proofing. That is where brioche-making can go south. You have to pay close attention to achieve the perfect rise, but – good news! – I’ve found a way around having to babysit your dough.

It’s the overnight method, putting the controlled environment of your fridge to good use. Ever since I’ve first made the dough this way, I never gone back to the same-day process again and I guess that says it all.

But why was I teasing two recipes? It’s simple. First, there’s the base recipe to bear every sweet filling you can think of. But when I don’t fill the dough, I want the absolute sweetest, most delicate texture I can create (hint: even more sugar and fat).

When you master this dough, the possibilities become endless. All you need to do is plan a night ahead.

Overnight Brioche Dough for Filling

  • Difficulty: medium
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Rich and tender French pastry, the basis for your sweet baking

Ingredients

500 g AP flour

1 packet active dry yeast

1 tsp salt

50 g sugar

1 egg + 1 yolk + 1 egg for eggwash (if recipe calls for it)

300 ml warm milk

50 g unsalted butter, softened

Directions

  1. Assemble dough the night before you want to bake. Sieve the flour, salt and yeast into the bowl of your mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment.
  2. Add sugar to warm milk (make sure milk isn’t hot, it could kill the yeast), stir to dissolve.
  3. Make a well in the flour, add egg, yolk and milk mixture. Set machine to low.
  4. When dough comes together, increase speed to medium and gradually add butter, leaving time between each addition for butter and dough to fully combine.
  5. Continue mixing on medium until a shiny, elastic ball of dough is formed, not sticking to the bowl.
  6. Transfer dough to a lightly floured, clean bowl, cover with cling foil. Let ferment on the counter for 1 h (45 min if your kitchen is warm).
  7. Transfer to the fridge overnight. The next morning dough should be double its original size.
  8. Preheat oven to 175°C (350°F). Turn out chilled dough onto a lightly floured surface and roll, divide, fill, braid, etc. according to your recipe. Let rest 30 min. before transferring to oven.
  9. Bake until golden, 30-45 min. Enjoy!

Overnight Brioche Dough

  • Difficulty: medium
  • Print

Rich and tender French pastry, sweet enough without filling and perfect for braiding.

Ingredients

500 g AP flour

1 packet active dry yeast

1 tsp salt

15 g vanilla sugar (or 1 tsp vanilla extract)

45 g sugar (60 g if using vanilla extract)

1 egg + 1 yolk + 1 egg for eggwash, beaten

200 ml milk

100 ml heavy cream

50 g unsalted butter, softened

Directions

  1. Assemble dough the night before you want to bake. Sieve the flour, salt and yeast into the bowl of your mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment.
  2. Mix milk with cream, add sugar and vanilla sugar. If you can’t get vanilla sugar, use 60 g sugar and add 1 tsp vanilla extract. Slightly warm mixture in microwave, making sure milk is not hot (it could kill the yeast). Stir until sugar is dissolved.
  3. Make a well in the flour, add egg, yolk and milk mixture. Set machine on low.
  4. When dough comes together, increase speed to medium and gradually add butter, leaving time between each addition for butter and dough to fully combine. Continue mixing on medium until a shiny, elastic ball of dough is formed, not sticking to the bowl.
  5. Transfer dough to a lightly floured, clean bowl, cover with cling foil. Let ferment on the counter for 1 h (45 min if your kitchen is warm).
  6. Transfer to the fridge overnight. The next morning dough should be double its original size.
  7. Preheat oven to 175°C (350°F). Turn out chilled dough onto a lightly floured surface and braid. Line a baking tray with parchment paper, carefully transfer dough to tray. Wash with egg.
  8. Let rise 30 min, wash with egg again.
  9. Transfer to oven, bake until golden (30-45 min). Enjoy!

Love,

Fruzsi

10+1 Essential Kitchen Gadgets to Get You Started With Baking

*This is not a sponsored post and no affiliate links are included. Images are used for illustrational purposes only*

If you are building your first kitchen or have decided to get more serious about your baking (Farewell, pre-made cookie doughs and muffin mixes!), thumbs up and welcome to the community! I made you a shopping list of the things you should own to make the most of your baking, all based on experience.

I am a self-taught baker and a sucker for all things kitchen. Sometimes I honestly feel I shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near an Ikea, let alone online shopping (can anyone relate?), but at least some good comes of my culinary hoarding problem – I can tell you what get’s used a lot and what stays idle collecting dust.

It’s funny because I’m actually a very conscious shopper but somehow could not yet master up that kind of moderation over kitchen-related purchases. Working on it though!

For a more minimalistic approach on your kitchen collection (or anything else, really), the first step is to get rid of the things that have accumulated in your space over time. I’m after the latest kitchen cull, where I was brutally honest with myself about the gear I really use, and the stuff that’s just taking up precious cupboard space.

I found a local charity that accepts kitchen goods as well, and donated my barely ever used items. If you are a bit of a kitchen hoarder like me, I strongly encourage you to take the time and clean out your cabinets. It’s liberating!

That said, the things you will actually make good use of are the following (you’ll find them at various price points so you can make it work whatever the budget):

#1 Baking spatula. You’d want to find the best combination of size, flexibility and strength: small enough to fit in jars, flexible enough to scrape the sides of bowls and strong enough to press down doughs. Also, look for a slightly angled tip and ’heatproof’ written on the label. (GIR Ultimate High Heat Silicone Spatula)

GIR Silicone Spatula

# 2 Balloon whisk for breaking up liquids, dispersing solids, and incorporating air. Get a medium and a small one with a comfortable, grippy handle and flexible wires. Choose the one with the more loops. Non-stick, no-scrape silicone coating on the wires is a plus. (OXO Good Grips Balloon Whisk)

OXO Good Grips Balloon Whisk

#3 Bench scraper. This rectangular piece of metal with a grip is used for cutting, scraping, lifting and folding pastry, bread and other doughs. The blade needs to be stiff enough for cutting, with a sharper blade rather than a dull one. Look for a model with a ruler on the edge for easy measurements. (Ateco Stainless Steel Bench Scraper)

ateco stainless steel bench scraper

#4 Measuring tools. More precisely, a sturdy Pyrex jug for liquid measures, and a set of measuring cups and spoons for dry goods. Stainless steel over plastic. (Pyrex Measuring Jug and Hudson Essentials Stainless Steel Measuring Cups Set)

pyrex measuring jug

hudson measuring cup set

#5 Mixing bowls. You’ll need a bigger and a smaller one, preferably microwave and dishwasher-safe. Opt for a design featuring a spout and a handle for easy, spill-free pouring. (Ikea VISPAD)

ikea mixing bowl set

#6 Pastry blender. This gadget is created to work solid fats quickly into flour without melting, but is equally good at mashing anything. Ok it’s not a necessity, but you still would be glad to have it around, trust me. Look for a solid stainless steel construction and sturdy handle. (Cake Boss Stainless Steel Pastry Blender)

Cake Boss Pastry Blender

#7 Pastry brush. To brush eggwash onto pastry or oil a baking tin. Pastry brush bristles come in plastic, silicone or natural fibres. Silicone brush strands are less likely to fall out or splinter, plus they wash easily. However, liquid tends to drip off silicone rather than grip. Natural brushes give a more even coat, but the bristles tend to flake. Whichever material you choose, go for a brush that’s flexible, soft-haired, wide and flat. (Matfer Pastry Brush)

matfer patry brush

#8 Scale. If you’re still wondering why you need one: for more accurate measures and more consistent results. You’d be surprised how wildly inaccurate volumetric measurements can be! A small, reliable digital scale that can do conversions is a must-have kitchen tool and could be the difference between a perfect or a collapsed cake. (AWS Digital Scale)

AWS digital kitchen scale

#9 Sieves. Bowl-shaped metal sieves are among a kitchen’s most versatile tools. The metal mesh has to be able to handle some pressure without pulling loose from its frame. They come with medium (used for sifting, draining and straining), fine (for separating particles and refining textures), and superfine mesh for dusting. (Premium Fine Mesh Strainers)

premium fine mesh strainers

#10 Thermometer. In recipes calling for specific internal cooking temperatures, a thermometer can make all the difference between a perfectly done dish and one that’s under or overcooked. An instant-read digital thermometer is generally more accurate, consistent and convenient to use than an analog. (Habor Instant-Read Digital Thermometer)

Habor Instant-Read Food Thermometer

+1 Stand mixer. If you can only afford one splurge, a stand mixer should be it. Totally pays off! I don’t happen to own the you-know-which-one generic trademark, but I’m perfectly happy with my more affordable piece as well. These workhorses are more efficient at evenly combining ingredients than a human could ever be, and help cut down on prep times tremendously. (KitchenAid Classic Plus Series)

KitchenAid Classic Plus white

So that’s my list. Curious to see how yours look like!

Love,

Fruzsi

Friday Finds

You’ve still got time to make a batch of iced gingerbread cookies! For some inspo, check out these little beauties:

By Yvonne of Fraulein Klein:

gingerbread icing

By Julie of Shoots Knits and Leaves:

gingerbread icing

By Amanda and Aaron of Pickles & Honey:

gingerbread icing

By Eva Blixman via Roomdeco:

gingerbread icing

By Kinga of Green Morning:

gingerbread icing

Happy weekend!

Fruzsi

Friday Finds

Have you planned the holiday menu yet? I’ve still to test a few recipes, but it’s coming together. Below are some gorgeous examples on how to dress up a simple cake for Christmas.

By Hannah of Domestic Gothess:

christmas cake

By Erin of Erin Made This:

christmas cake

Photo by Ruth Black via Stocksy:

christmas cake

By Tessa of Style Sweet CA:

christmas cake

By Joanna of Liebesbotschaft:

christmas cake

Happy weekend!

Fruzsi

Carrot and Plum Pie with Meringue Topping

carrot plum pie with meringue topping

Hi guys! Hope you had a great holiday. As you may or may not know, we do not celebrate Thanksgiving here, but we’ve managed to stuff ourselves silly over the weekend nonetheless. Can you not do that with pulled pork? I don’t think so.

Anyway. This time I’ve decided to be a little showy with my baking. It’s not something I normally aim at (in fact, looks come after taste in my kitchen without a question), but I think festive season is a great time to challenge yourself a bit.

This recipe from the September issue of Magyar Konyha  magazine, created by the team over at Marangona, Budapest’s chic bakery of the moment was top on my list. I only made slight changes, namely reducing the amount of plums (I could’t fit the given amount on top of the batter), omitting citrus peel (merely because I can’t stand it, but feel free to use it) and cutting down a teeny bit on the sugar.

carrot plum pie with meringue topping

I was always intimidated by meringue to some degree so I’ve never done a meringue-topped pie before, but there’s a first time for everything as they say. And it turns out my reservations were all but fictitious!

Creating fluffy, feathery meringue peaks is only a matter of attention and a food thermometer. I had the good sense to educate myself on the topic before I started cracking eggs, so here’s the essence of my meringue studies:

There are 3 types of meringue. The one made most commonly at home (as in: the easiest) is French meringue, when sugar is whisked into beaten egg whites. Swiss meringue is made by beating egg whites and sugar together over a water bath until the sugar has dissolved, then beating until the mixture reaches stiff peaks. Italian meringue, the most popular with professional bakers (read: the most difficult) is made by whisking a hot sugar syrup into beaten egg whites.

Italian meringue tends to hold its volume the best, but there isn’t much room for error with this one. If you fail to boil the sugar syrup to the right temperature, don’t beat the whites to the proper stiffness or the surface of your pie is too damp, the meringue may start to weep.

Weeping occurs when some of the sugar in the meringue liquefies and seeps out. Weeping meringue won’t interfere with the taste of your pie, but it’s not visually pleasing. Shamelessly admitting mine did weep a little. Oh well 🤷‍♀️ It still gave this scrumptious autumnal pie a light and dreamy topping.

carrot plum pie with meringue topping

carrot plum pie with meringue topping

Note that all amounts are given in grams. I’m a fan of measuring by cups (volume), but when it comes to baking, weights and measurements are sometimes critical and scales are the key to accuracy. It’s a small investment for peace of mind when measuring ingredients.

Carrot and Plum Pie with Meringue Topping

  • Difficulty: medium
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Sweet, cinnamon-y and seasonal pie with a fluffy meringue topping. Adapted from Magyar Konyha magazine.

Ingredients

for the pie:

500 g plums, pitted and halved

30 g cinnamon sugar (30 g brown sugar + 1/2 tsp cinnamon)

20 g powdered sugar

pinch of salt

55 g egg yolk (3-4 eggs)

80 g egg whites (cca. 4 eggs)

45 g granulated sugar

165 g carrot, grated

133 g almond flour

5 g baking powder

30 g AP flour

1 vanilla pod, seeds scraped

140 g walnuts, roughly chopped

for the meringue topping:

100 g egg whites

100 g granulated sugar

100 g granulated sugar + water

Directions

Make pie:

  1. Butter and flour a 25 cm (10”) pie dish.
  2. Mix dry ingredients in a bowl: flour, almond flour, baking powder, half of the chopped walnuts and vanilla seeds.
  3. Mix egg yolks with powdered sugar in a bowl with a handheld mixer until pale, 3-5 min.
  4. In another bowl, beat egg whites with the pinch of salt. When stiff peaks start to form, gradually add granulated sugar and whisk until shiny, another 1-2 min.
  5. Using a large spatula, carefully fold in egg whites with yolks mixture.
  6. Gently fold in carrot, and gradually add dry ingredients, mixing just until combined.
  7. Preheat oven to 175°C (350°F).
  8. Transfer batter to the baking dish and distribute in an even layer.
  9. Arrange plum halves on top of batter, sprinkle with cinnamon sugar and remaining walnuts.
  10. Bake until risen and center is set, about 40 min.

Make meringue topping:

  1. In a small, heavy bottomed saucepan, combine first part of sugar with as much water to just cover it.
  2. Heat over high heat, cooking until syrup registers 115°C (240°F) on an instant read or candy thermometer.
  3. Meanwhile, start whipping egg whites in a stand mixer on medium speed. When soft peaks form (about 3 min), gradually add second part of sugar.
  4. With the mixer running, carefully and slowly pour in hot sugar syrup. Increase speed though and whip until mixture is stiff and has cooled.
  5. Transfer meringue to a piping bag and decorate the pie.
  6. Bake pie at 180°C (355°F) for 12 min, until meringue peaks start to turn slightly golden. Enjoy!

Love,

Fruzsi

*Disclaimer: What I write about business establishments on My Chest of Wonders represent my genuine and unbiased opinion, I am not being compensated in any way through sponsorship, commissions or gifts.*

Simple, Basic Coffee Cake with Hazelnut & Pear

pear hazelnut coffee cake

You blink once, and holiday lights are going up in the city. I love this festive time of the year: it makes me want to nestle in, slow down and make the house smell amazing by baking something every day.

In theory. The reality is my days are already bursting at the seams with work and commute and all the other stuff life throws at you, but heck, I’ll find the time to bake something on the weekend.

It’s gonna be a simple and easy coffee cake.

I like simple and I do simple often. More often than not, to be honest. It doesn’t always have to be something lifestyle magazine-worthy. Baking should be about bringing joy: to you during the process, and to those who you share the fruit of your work with. At the end of the day only the smiles count, no matter how simple or complicated the recipe was.

If you are a novice baker, I say you start with coffee cakes – success guaranteed, provided you measure the ingredients properly. Cups are great, but get a scale (Christmas wish list alert).

Coffee cake generally refers to a sweet cake intended to be enjoyed with coffee or tea so basically it can be any cake-like substance, but for me a proper coffee cake is always a variation on the plain yellow cake with the moist and tender crumb.

My go-to recipe was pirated from my granny’s hand-written recipe collection but don’t expect big surprises here, these dense cakes are made with pretty much uniform ingredients and techniques.

Once you have your basic recipe mastered, the sky is the limit for what you can stir or layer into the batter. Wherever you stand on glaze, streusel and fillings, it doesn’t really matter as long as you stay true to the roots, that is: easy and down-home delicious, the reason why coffee cakes are on major repeat in most kitchens.

What you need for this informal, everyday sweet treat is stuff you already have in your pantry, namely butter, sugar, flour and eggs. I love nuts, so I always add either ground hazelnuts or walnuts too (I reserve almonds for butter cookies). And to top the cake, my favorite fruit is pear. And apples. Or plums. Oh, the plums! Here’s the recipe before I get further carried away:

Hazelnut & Pear Coffee Cake

  • Difficulty: easy
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Simple, basic coffee cake with fruit and nuts.

Ingredients

for the cake:

200 g butter

200 g white sugar

4 eggs

1 tsp vanilla

225 g AP flour

75 g hazelnut meal

1 tsp baking powder

¼ tsp salt

for the topping:

2 medium pears

2 tsp cinnamon

1 tbsp sugar

Directions

  1. Mix sugar with cinnamon for the topping in a small bowl.
  2. Wash, peel, core and slice pears.
  3. Preheat oven to 160°C / 320°F, grease and flour a 23 cm / 9” springform cake pan.
  4. Mix flour, ground hazelnut, salt and baking powder in a bowl. Set aside.
  5. Beat butter and sugar with a handheld electric mixer (or in the stand mixer equipped with the paddle attachment) on medium until creamy.
  6. Add vanilla and eggs, one at a time, beating until blended after each addition.
  7. Add flour mixture to butter mixture by tablespoons, beating on low until combined.
  8. Pour batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly with a spatula.
  9. Arrange pear slices on top, sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar.
  10. Bake for 45 min. Cover loosely with aluminum foil to prevent excessive browning and bake an additional 25 to 30 minutes or until center is set.
  11. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 30 minutes; remove sides of pan. Cool completely before slicing.

pear hazelnut coffee cake

Love,

Fruzsi

A Short Introduction to Sourdough and Pre-ferments

bread dough

Artisanal sourdough breads are all the hype, and rightly so. In fact, it might seem like if you’re even a wee bit serious about your bread, sourdough is the only way to go.

Utilizing sourdough starters and preferments will no doubt take your game to the next level: the complexity, the depth of flavor, the better texture a starter gives your bread simply can not be compared with anything else. Even the shelf life will be increased!

Starters do require time and commitment though. They are the challenge to top all challenges, and therefore can be a little intimidating at first. I am quite new to the art myself, but I thought it would be a good idea to share the basics in a not-too-scientific way to help you decide whether baking bread with starters is for you.

Let’s talk about yeast first!

Before commercial baker’s yeast was developed in Vienna, Austria in the 19th century (with Hungarian high milled grains, no less!), bakers had been using old-dough leavens to bake bread.

These are based on propagating wild yeast. Wild yeast refers to the natural yeasts and bacteria found in our surroundings: they float in the air and stick to the surface of objects. Basically when making a sourdough starter, you provide an environment sufficient for cultivating wild yeast. (The sour taste is the result of acetic and lactic acids produced by fermenting sugar.)

Believe me, this is completely achievable!  All that is required is flour, water and time, the yeast is already there around you, wherever you live.

Mix 50% bread flour and 50% water into a batter in a non-reactive, see-through container (note that the volume will double), place in a cool environment with no direct sunlight.

24 to 72 hours later your sourdough should be bubbling due to CO2 gas produced. At this point, the yeast population is still small and weak, not really ready for baking. From now on, every day (preferably at the same time) you’ll need to take out half of the starter and discard, then replace the pulled out amount with 1:1 fresh flour and water. This is called ‘feeding’ the sourdough.

In 7 to 10 days, you’ll have a batch that’s strong enough and ready to bake with. If you’re not sure about the strength of your sourdough, the float test will help: put a small amount in water; if it floats, you’re good to go.

As I said, it’s a commitment with constant monitoring and maintenance, but you’ll get the most out of a loaf. And you only really have to do this once, after the first 7-day period, one feeding is enough weekly to maintain the sourdough.

Still not sure if you’re ready to take on the challenge? That’s totally fine! The next best thing is using preferments. This also needs some forethought, but it’s ready in 12-16 hours at room temperature without the feeding process, and the bread will still have a wonderful aroma to it.

Preferments are flour, water and yeast mixtures, allowed an initial fermentation. Commercial yeasts (used when making wine, beer and bread) are quicker acting, take shorter to propagate, and leaven your bread quicker compared to wild yeast.

There are three main types of preferments. When mixing equal parts flour and water with 0,2 to 1% yeast, you’ll get a 100% hydration poolish-style starter.

The old dough method is more convenient when baking the same recipe on a regular basis: about 1/3 of the bread dough is reserved to levin the next batch. This old dough can be stored 8-12 hours at room temperature, or up to 3 days refrigerated. It can also be frozen for up to 6 months, in which case it will need to thaw fully before using.

Last but not least, the method that makes for results closest to sourdough: a stiff, bread dough like, low hydration biga. This Italian-style starter is more stable, contains more acid, and takes 16-24 hours to ferment. Made of flour, 60% water, and 2% yeast, once it has expanded by about double its original volume, biga can be incorporated into your bread dough. It stays fresh in the fridge for 3-5 days, and can be frozen as well (again, it needs to thaw completely to be active).

Biga is what I use mostly. I make batches with 500 g bread flour, 300 ml water and 10 g fresh yeast. When it’s ready, I divide the dough into 200 g portions, put them in ziplock bags and freeze. This amount makes enough starter for 4 loaves.

Ready to dive headlong into sourdough, or play it safe with biga? I’d love to hear your opinion! Also, share any experiences you have with starters!

Love,

Fruzsi

Photo by Sanda Vuckovic Pagaimo