Fruit-Filled Brioche

The lazy summer wraps up for me after the Labor Day weekend.  Although still technically summer, come Tuesday I will be in fall mode, back at work on finishing the novel I set aside last spring.  Novel three – working title The Welcome Home – is set in a husband-and-wife-owned bakery somewhere in suburban Boston, and I’m 100 draft pages along in round one of the manuscript.  Picking up where I left off requires a discipline I don’t exercise in the warm weather.  To ease back into the routine of a writer, and begin thinking once again as a baker, I’ll be tackling a few intricate and bakery-worthy breads and pastries.

Some of these creations may appear in the book as actual products of the baker and bakery.  If I’m able to bake my way through a finished draft and then the revisions stages, this promises to be a fun creative process.

Fruitful too, with finished book and more treats than we will ever manage to eat in one household.  Some may appear on your doorstep, if you live close by, with my compliments.

Fruit-Filled Brioche

I love the buttery tenderness of brioche.  Part yeast bread, part rich pastry, brioche has a slight sweetness that marries perfectly with fruit jams.  This recipe honors that pairing but with fresh, barely sweetened berries.

Fresh fruit and brioche dough said danish-style pastry to me, but for my re-entry into the world of baking with yeast, I wanted a creation that was less labor intensive.  So instead of several individual twisted fruit danish, I made one long fruit brioche strip, using odds and ends of raspberries and blueberries left over from the week’s lunch fruits.

Brioche dough is no more difficult than any yeast dough, although there are extra steps and the amount of butter can make it sticky and hard to handle.  Chilling the dough helps, so follow the steps as written and make sure the dough spends at least a half-day in the refrigerator before you shape it for baking.

  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1/4 cup warm milk (about 100° or pleasantly warm to the touch)
  • 1 Tbsp. active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup sifted all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter cut into 12 pieces. Let sit until very softened.
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 3 Tbsp. sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. warm milk (about 100° or pleasantly warm to the touch)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour

Sift the first 1/2 cup flour, then re-measure one-half cup, returning any extra to the flour canister.
In a small bowl, stir together the teaspoon of sugar and quarter cup of warm milk.  Sprinkle in the yeast, stir once or twice to blend a bit, and let sit until foamy.
Once yeast mixture has foamed, stir in the sifted half-cup of flour to form a soft starter dough.  Cover the bowl with plastic and let stand at room temperature for one hour.  If your room is cold, place the starter near – but not on or in – a warm stove.
In another small bowl, combine the salt, 3 tablespoons of sugar, and the tablespoon of warm milk.  Stir until salt and sugar dissolve.
Sift the remaining 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour.
Fit a stand mixer with the whisk attachment.  Crack two of the eggs in the mixer’s bowl and whip at medium speed until fluffy.  Add to this the sugar-salt-milk mixture, and continue beating until combined well.
With the motor running, add 1/2 cup sifted flour.  Beat well after adding.  Without turning off motor, add remaining egg and beat well.  Without turning off motor, add another 1/2 cup flour and beat batter well.  Still with motor running, add 3 tablespoons of softened butter and beat well.  Finally, and again with the motor still running, add the remaining 1/2 cup flour and beat mixture for a minute.
The batter will appear very sticky.

Remove the bowl from the mixer and spoon the dough starter into the sticky batter.  Return the bowl to the mixer still fitted with the whisk attachment and beat at medium-high speed for 5-7 minutes, or until dough is smooth and elastic.  After that mixing time, turn in the remaining 9 tablespoons of butter and beat until butter is incorporated, about a minute or two.

The dough will still be stickier than most yeast doughs. Butter a large bowl and turn the sticky dough into it.  Lightly dust the top of the dough with flour.

Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled, anywhere from 2 to 3 hours.  Again, if your room is cold, place the dough near a warm oven.
Gently deflate the dough after rising.  Dust again with flour and cover again with plastic.  Place the bowl in the refrigerator and chill for an hour.
Gently deflate again, re-cover, and chill for 12 hours* before using in recipes.

To fill:

  • 3 Tbsp. sugar
  • 1 cup each blueberries and raspberries
  • 1 egg yolk beaten with 1 Tbsp. cold water for brushing

Preheat the oven to 400° and line a large baking sheet with a piece of parchment.
Cut the chilled dough in two pieces, one slightly larger than the other for one long strip (or four pieces, two slightly large than the other two, for two smaller fruit strips).

Roll the larger piece into a long rectangle measuring about 14 inches by 9 inches.  Lift this carefully onto the prepared baking sheet.  If the dough tears, simply pinch it back together.

Sprinkle on top 2 tablespoons sugar, leaving 1 1/2-inch borders at the long sides and 1/2-inch borders at the narrow ends.  Sprinkle the berries evenly on top of the sugar.  Set this aside.

Roll out the smaller piece of dough to a slightly narrower rectangle than the first, about 12 or 13 inches by 9 inches.  Carefully transfer this to cover the fruit, centering it and matching the narrow ends.

Lift wider bottom sides up and over the narrower top sides and crimp to seal.  Press together the narrow ends to seal.  Cut several decorative slits along the top layer to release steam while baking.   I’m not so great at the decorative touches, but you get the idea here.

Gently brush the top and sides of the strip with the egg wash and sprinkle the top with the remaining 1 tablespoon sugar.

Bake the strip at 400° for about 30-35 minutes, or until top and bottom are deep brown without being burned.  Remove the baked pastry to a cooling rack when done and let cool on the baking sheet until cool enough to handle.

To serve the finished pastry, cut the long strip crosswise into slices.

(*Note: Dough will keep refrigerated for up to 3 days.  Simply deflate it once each day as it sits.)

©2011  Jane A. Ward