This brioche is divine; it is light as air, and deliciously fragrant with saffron, fresh rosemary and Vermont ham. It's buttery and crisp on the outside, and delicate and tender on the inside. You could have this for lunch, with a glass of white wine, or pair it with a vegetable gratin for dinner.
It's seriously delicious.
I don't like to wait for things as good as brioche, so I devised a way to make this in one afternoon, rather than the usual overnight routine. Once again, I used sourdough starter to help make this possible. It is a mature dough in itself, with mellow flavor and gluten development. But onward.
I bought my brioche pan exactly one million years ago. I think they still make them, but in case you don't have one, you can make this bread in a ring mould, or a long bread pan. Get out whatever pan you're going to use and butter it liberally. Gather the ingredients.
2 1/2 cups flour
pinch saffron threads (see above)
1 1/2 tsp instant yeast
1/2 cup tepid water
3 T lukewarm milk
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter (6 oz), room temperature
1 1/4 tsp salt
1/4 c. snipped fresh rosemary leaves, loose not packed
3/4 cup lean Vermont ham, 1/4-inch dice
1 1/2 cups active sourdough starter (plus 1/3 c. flour, see below)
1 egg yolk mixed with 1/4 cup milk, to brush on before baking
- Put the pinch of saffron in 3 TB warm water; set aside for 2 hours to steep.
- Mix the sourdough starter with an additional 1/3 cup flour, to feed it and make it thicker. Set aside while saffron is steeping.
- Butter a brioche pan or large metal bread or cake mould
1. Make sponge: In a small mixing bowl, mix 1 cup of the flour with the instant yeast and the tepid water. Knead it together into a sticky ball. Cover with plastic wrap and float this bowl in a larger bowl of 100F water for at least 20 minutes.
2. In a bowl for electric mixer, combine the remaining 1 1/2 cups flour, milk, liquid drained from saffron infusion (removing and reserving the threads in a bit more water, because they will continue to infuse), eggs and salt.
Mix 3 minutes at medium speed with dough hook to develop gluten.
3. Add the sponge dough ball and butter, and continue mixing with the dough hook for another 3 minutes.
4. Add rosemary and ham, blend until just mixed. Cover with plastic film and let rise for 1 hour.
5. Remove plastic, and fold in the thickened sourdough starter thoroughly, along with any more saffron infusion drained from the threads. Replace the plastic.
Let rise for another half hour.
6. On a floured counter, shape the dough into a ball. Reserve a handful of dough for the brioche topknot. The dough will be soft, and a bit sticky. If it is too sticky and has no body, fold in a bit more flour. Place the main dough ball in the buttered brioche pan. Add a pinch more flour to the topknot, roll it around (this is to give it more body), and place on top of the dough in the pan.
7. Allow this to rise on the counter until doubled in bulk, perhaps 2 hours.
8. Brush on the egg yolk/milk glaze, very gently, being careful to not let it drip down into the side of the pan.
9. Bake in a preheated 425F oven for 40 minutes or until well-browned.
10. Remove from pan and cool on rack for 30 minutes. Slice with serrated bread knife, and enjoy.