As we mentioned the other day we've been playing with brioche dough. It's one of my favorites and I can eat it out of hand with no adornments anytime. As a culinary student, my baking and pastry classes took place in a bakery called La Brioche. It was one of the first places I visited the morning after unpacking my bags and I was lucky enough to snag one of the last pieces of brioche in the last case. I was stumped by the fact that there was so little brioche in a bakery that was named after the bread. Of course I later learned that the brioche dough was also used for cinnamon rolls and that the plain brioche was made in much smaller quantities since the majority of our customers preferred the fat, frosted buns.
Fast forward several years to when Bouley first opened Bouley Bakery. In the case on my first visit was a pastry cream stuffed brioche that changed my world. It was delicate and fluffy, rich without being overpowering, and filled with a not to sweet cream that was perfect counterpoint to the bread. I loved it and although I didn't get to sample it very many times at all, it stayed with me, provoking me to create my own versions in search of the holy grail.
Another favorite is the sugar brioche from the Standard Baking Co. in Portland, Maine. The bakery itself is one of our favorites and a must visit on the increasingly rare occasions we find ourselves up north. Dinner at Fore Street and breakfast at the The Standard Baking Company is the way to go if you have only one night in the city. The bakery's brioche is simply delicious, with a tender crumb and a shiny crust, coated with crunchy grains of coarse sugar. Their other baked goods are equally good, we usually get a variety to go, but the brioche is always eaten first.
One of our last experiments this weekend was with brioche dough made with rendered prosciutto fat. We took one pound of brioche dough and four ounces of chilled prosciutto fat (the fat is much softer than butter at room temperature) and laminated the dough, doing three turns, before shaping it into a loaf and baking it off. The results were pretty tasty, creating a light, flaky bread with a pronounced prosciutto flavor. I think that next time we may reverse the process and use the prosciutto fat in the dough and do a traditional lamination with butter to create the layers because the fat may be absorbed more efficiently that way. The question now is what to serve with it?