Adam and I love Sunday afternoon adventures.
Sometimes we grab lunch and go have a picnic at Jordan Lake. Other times we just drive around the country roads nearby, exploring.
Last Sunday after church, on a whim, we drove to the cute nearby town of Pittsboro. A quick yelp search brought us to Small B & B Cafe for brunch.
It was fantastic. I had some of the best scrambled eggs I've ever had, (with local veggies and cheese) and Adam had THE most amazing french toast made with orange blossom brioche bread.
Ya'll, this french toast is life-changing. As soon as I've mastered this orange blossom brioche recipe, I am going to make some for you.
The secret to the french toast, of course, is the bread. Brioche is a rich French pastry bread, made with more eggs and butter than a traditional baguette. This particular brioche is special because it's made with orange blossom water.
Orange blossom water is made from the distillation of bitter orange blossoms. It's typically used in mediterranean dishes, and it's not yet popular in the United States. However, like most things, you can conveniently buy it on Amazon for $7.00.
If you were to smell orange blossom water straight out of the jar, it might put you off. It has a VERY strong floral scent. Adam said it smells like an old lady's perfume, which is not entirely inaccurate.
Once the orange blossom water is incorporated into dough and baked, however, it takes on a subtle, unique smell and flavor. I'm not finding the words to adequately describe it, but trust me, it's special.
Brioche is traditionally a complicated bread to make, but I was determined to make it happen. Eventually I settled on this recipe, which, though it looked fairly simple, warned that a Kitchenaid mixer or bread machine was recommended for the kneading step.
Well, I have neither a Kitchenaid mixer nor a bread machine, so I kneaded the dough by hand. For twenty minutes straight. It was actually quite cathartic. I brought my laptop into the kitchen, watched the first 20 minutes of House of Cards, and kneaded the bread. My wrists were a little sore at the end, but it was totally worth it.
Like most bread recipes, this one is a labor of love, and requires that the dough be refrigerated overnight and then left to rise for 3-4 hours the next morning.
As you can probably tell from the photos, my first loaves turned out a little flat. They didn't rise as much as I had hoped--however, I'm sharing the recipe with you today because it still tastes delicious. The inside is chewy and soft and the outside has just the right amount of crunch. We've been eating thick slices smeared with jam or drizzled with honey.
Also, I'm on spring break this week, which, luckily for you, means I have more time to spend baking and recipe tweaking. If all goes well, I'll be back later this week with more bread rising tips and some french toast. Stay tuned!
Orange Blossom Brioche Loaf
2 tablespoons warm water
2 tablespoons orange blossom water
1 tablespoon instant yeast
2 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup dry milk powder
3 tablespoons sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
3 large eggs
10 tablespoons butter, melted and then cooled (I put mine in the fridge for a few minutes to cool off)
In a large mixing bowl, combine warm water, orange blossom water, and yeast. Let mixture sit for a minute or so, then add remaining ingredients. If you have a kitchen aid mixer, attach the dough hook and let mixture knead for 20 minutes. If you have a bread machine, add dough and set to the knead setting for 20 minutes. Otherwise, bring on the elbow grease and knead the dough by hand for 20 minutes. It will should smooth and fragrant when you're finished.
Spray another medium-bowl with non-stick cooking spray. Add dough and cover with plastic wrap. Let dough rise in a warm area for about an hour, then place the dough in the fridge overnight.
The next day, remove dough from the fridge. It will be cold and hard, but do not fear! Let dough warm to room temperature, then divide tough in half. Divide each half into thirds, and roll each section into a long cylinder. (see this post & video) Braid the three cylinders together and place in loaf pans prepared with non-stick cooking spray. Cover pans with a kitchen towel and place in a warm area to rise. (I preheated my oven to the lowest setting and then turned it off. I then kept the door open for about 30 seconds before placing the loaves inside to rise.)
Let the dough rise for 3-4 hours. (If you let the loaves rise in the oven, remove them) Bake at 350 for 10-15 minutes. Remove and cover with aluminum foil. Bake for another 20-25 minutes. Loaves are done when golden brown and hollow when tapped.
Adapted from King Arthur Flour