I close my eyes and I can feel the warm sun kissing my face. Eyes open I can see the passersby strolling along in pairs or scurrying about pushing strollers and gathering up children to quickly reach a destination. Me I’m alone, sitting on the corner of a Parisian avenue; I can feel the bumpy cobblestones beneath my feet. The air sweeps by with the aroma of crusty bread and sweet butter. As I sip espresso the waiter presents a small dish with a bouncy piece of brioche à tête. I gladly take the offering and tear into it...heaven! “Mommy”, my son says, “When is the challah ready?” I look around large windows, stacked bowls, and amass of toys scattered about. I snap out of it I’m not in Paris at all but in my kitchen, the wafting scent coming from the oven has transported me into another one of my day dreams. Looking down into a pair of dark brown eyes I smile and reply “it’s not Challah, its Brioche”. “What’s Brioche?” He asks innocently. Well…
Some consider Brioche a pastry instead of bread, its high fat content makes it much more desirable in texture and flavor. With a rich yellow color, it is sweet and slightly yeasty. In the mid 1600’s Nicolas de Bonnefons was selected by Louis XIV to write a cookbook for the more affluent populace who escaped the cities for a provincial life in the countryside. With their wealthier tastes for costly butter and eggs; an appetite for an alternative to the rustic loaves usually prepared by the local baker had arisen. Bonnefons offered up a recipe with fresh yeast cultivated from beer, fine white flour, and butter, eggs, milk and crème fraiche.
I have chosen to add Parve Margarine and Sweet Potato to the dough so as to modify the recipe without taking away from the lavishness of the crumb. In the winter months I start craving root vegetables, especially sweet potatoes which possess a silken, sugary interior; perfect for incorporating in pies or breads. The sweet potato gives the dough a luminously amber hue that doesn’t just bring allure and flavor to our recipe, but it is also rich in complex carbohydrates, dietary fiber, beta carotene, vitamin C, and vitamin B6.
A sponge is made by mixing the yeast with the first couple ingredients, letting it sit while the yeast activates and bubbles are formed. This will create an acidic flavor and tender dough structure. Eggs, sugar, flour, and sweet potato are added and finally the margarine is incorporated last to give the dough a laminated finish reminiscent of croissant or danish dough. The final product has a thick dark crust and delicate yellow crumb.
I kneel down and take my son by the hand. “What is brioche, why don’t we taste it and find out?”
Full recipe for Sweet Potato Brioche.