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I was intending to start this post by being a bit clever, quoting “Qu’ils mangent de la brioche“, writing something about French Queen Marie Antoinette and mentioning the common inaccurate translation of her phrase as “Let them eat cake”…  I am so glad I checked the details before writing!  The quote is correct, but is often wrongly attributed to Marie Antoinette wife of Louis XVI.  The words were said by Marie-Therese, the wife of King Louis XIV who lived around 100 years previously. So not what I had thought, but interesting nonetheless and I thought worth sharing!  Back to the subject in hand… One of our first purchases on arrival in France is a Brioche loaf. We find it so useful: it keeps well, is good for breakfast and handy for emergency use.  Brioche and Gâche Vendéenne (its cousin from the Vendée region in Western France) are soft, light, puffy and slightly sweet crosses between cake, pastry and bread.  They are made from a yeast dough enriched with butter and egg and often flavoured with rum, brandy or – our favourite – fragrant orange flower water.  Some years ago on holiday I bought recipe postcards and a bottle of orange flower water with the intention of making brioche.  I even bought a fluted Brioche tin.  Until now I had not got round to making the brioche although I have used the tin for jellies! and the orange flower water in other recipes (including Fragrant Marmalade Cake and Moroccan Style Beef Stew with Oranges & Beetroot).

Orange flower water can now easily be found in the UK and is the one ingredient we feel gives brioche that little extra something, however it was not an ingredient in my Brioche postcard recipe so I turned first to books and then the Internet for help.  I eventually found the recipe below, Brioche with Fleur d’Oranger posted by Gary at Meltingpan.com  I would have left him a note to say how successful his recipe had been, but could not see where add a comment and the site now seems to have disappeared completely (I have left the links in case it does re-appear). Gary recommended it spread with unsalted butter but never toasted, though I have to say I think it makes lovely toast!  Initially I carefully made a half quantity but will definitely be making the full amount in future.  I used the French method of dough making, where the dough is thrown and scraped which makes the initial extreme stickiness easier to manage.  Do ‘stick’ with the recipe and it will eventually come together into a smooth ball.  Once you have this it can be kneaded in the conventional English way.  Brioche, apparently, makes a delicious rich bread and butter pudding, but I am not sure we will ever have any left to make one!  The recipes for Paddington Pudding (Marmalade Bread & Butter Pudding) or Toffee Apple Croissant Bread & Butter Pudding could easily be adapted.  I shaped my loaf by dividing into three strands and plaiting them before putting into a tin, which is the usual shape of the loaves we buy.  Probably the most familiar shape is the brioche à tête (literally ‘bun with a head’) usually made in the fluted tin with a small ‘top knot’ of dough added on top, similar to a Cottage Loaf.  La Gâche Vendéenne is torpedo shaped and slashed from end to end.  The Brioche (or Couronne) des Rois, translated as King’s Brioche or King’s Crown, comes from Provence in the south of France (this linked recipe looks good but is untried) and is normally a ring shaped loaf decorated with crystallised fruits.  It is served on 6 January at Epiphany, the feast celebrating the Wise Men’s visit to the infant Christ.

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Brioche

The original recipe advised that if you have a bread machine you simply put in all the ingredients apart from the butter. Put it on the dough setting and after about 10 minutes (or whenever it alerts you to add nuts or other ingredients) add the softened butter. Although I have a bread machine I used the conventional method so cannot comment on the success or otherwise of using a machine.  The instructions were not very clear but I assume that the brioche was kneaded in the machine but cooked conventionally in the oven.

300g of white flour, sifted
2 eggs, beaten
50ml of milk
10g of dried active yeast
50g of sugar
3 tablespoons of Fleur d’Oranger (Orange Flower Water)
70g of unsalted butter, cubed and softened
1 teaspoon of salt

For the loaf pan(s):
2 tablespoons of melted butter
2 tablespoons of sugar

1.   Preheat oven to 180oC/350oF/Gas 4 and place a pan of water on the lowest rack.

2.  Sieve the flour into a bowl.  Add the salt and sugar and then the dried yeast.

3.  Warm the milk slightly, which helps the yeast to start to grow more quickly and stir into the dry ingredients along with the beaten eggs and orange flower water.

4.  Gently mix together with one hand adding the butter little by little.  The mixture will be very sticky.  Avoid adding extra flour at any point as this makes the dough tough.

5.  Turn out onto a cleaned work surface and start to knead, bringing the edges in with a dough scraper or a palette knife.  It will come together eventually if you keep working at it and the dough will eventually form a soft ball.  Continue stretching and scraping until conventional kneading is possible.  This took at least 20 minutes.

6.  Once you have a soft ball of dough that is no longer sticky put it in a bowl, cover it with a tea-towel and let it sit in a warm place for 20 minutes to allow it to rise.

7.  Meanwhile butter the loaf pan (or pans) and shake over sugar so it is well coated.  The sugar can, of course, be omitted.

8.  When risen knock the dough back and knead well for a further 20 minutes.

9.  Make either one large or two smaller loaves.  Before placing the dough in the pan(s) the dough can be split into three strands and plaited or shaped into a long loaf with a gash cut down its length.

10.  Drop the dough into the prepared loaf pan(s), cover with a clean tea towel and leave it in a warm area for 20-30 minutes to allow it to rise again.

11.  Place in the preheated oven and bake for 30 minutes.  The finished loaf/loaves will be golden brown and doubled in size.

12.  Turn out of the pan(s) and cook on a wire rack.  Eat and enjoy!

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Sometimes it is good to eat Indian style food with a bread, such as Naan or this simple to make Paratha Roti, in place of the more usual rice.  If the meal has a sauce a bread makes it much easier to thoroughly mop up the plate, in any case.  It is important to think ahead slightly to allow enough time for the yeastless dough to rise.  Paratha roti can take a little practice to get absolutely right, but it is definitely worth persevering.

This recipe for Paratha Roti was featured in chef Gary Rhodes’ TV series Rhodes around the Caribbean, which I really enjoyed: learning about the islands, their history, culture and above all, their diverse foods.  Paratha Roti comes from the cuisine of Trindad, which enjoys spicy Indian style dishes, but would not be out of place at a meal on the Indian sub-continent where it would have originated.  The quantities given are for four circular roti, but I found them rather large.  On subsequent occasions I have halved the quantity and was still able to make four smaller circular roti: in fact I have used 200g flour and adjusted the other ingredients pro rata to make three roti, one each.  Certainly if this is one of many dishes then these smaller size breads would suffice, but if I was making the full quantity I would prefer to make them smaller and let diners choose how many they wanted.  They can be made in advance of a meal and kept warm for a short while, but not too long as they lose their soft, light, flaky texture.  A small paratha roti with a serving of Prawn & Tomato Korma makes a delicious light meal or a starter, especially when you are serving rice for the main course.

100_7989 Paratha Roti

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Paratha Roti
(Makes 4 large breads)

600g/1lb 5ozs plain flour, plus extra for dusting
1tsp Baking Powder
½tsp salt
400ml/14fl ozs water
10g/½oz Butter, melted, for brushing and cooking (use ghee if you wish, or vegetable oil)
1tsp vegetable or sunflower oil, aprox

1.  Mix the flour, baking powder and salt together in a bowl.  Make a well in the centre, pour in the water and mix well.  Knead well in the bowl or on a lightly floured surface until you have a smooth and fairly soft dough.  You may need to add a little more water or flour if the mixture is too dry or too sticky.

2. Sprinkle a little flour on the work surface to stop the dough from sticking. Divide the dough into four equally sized pieces (or one per person if you are adjusting the recipe). Roll each piece of dough into a round of about 15cm in size.

3. Brush the top surface of the circles with melted butter. Sprinkle with a little flour. Make a single cut from the centre to the edge of each circle.  Opening up the slit you have made start to roll, going around the circle, until you hae a cone shape with the point at the top. Place on a dish with the point of the cone at the top, press the point towards the centre of the paratha roti and flatten slightly. Leave to rest for 20 minutes. (I put them in the airing cupboard to aid rising.)

4. Sprinkle a little more flour onto the work surface and onto the rolling pin. Roll the dough cones into circles roughly 0.5cm thick.

5.  Using a medium heat and a large frying pan, melt together a little more butter and some vegetable oil, which helps prevent the butter from burning.  (If you have a baking stone, a tawah, then this can be greased and used.)  Cook one piece of the paratha for around 1 minute on the first side, until it starts to bubble up.

6. Turn over, lightly brush with a little more butter and cook for another minute.  There should be a few brown spots on the cooked paratha roti.  Remove paratha roti from the heat, place inside a clean tea towel and gently scrunch up to expose the layers inside the bread.  It can be broken up and served in pieces if you wish. Repeat with the remaining dough cones.

7.  Serve hot as a side dish with curries.

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Stollen is a traditional rich Christmas bread eaten in Austria and Germany.  It is full of dried fruits and candied peel with hidden marzipan centre topped with a drizzle of glace icing.  The way the yeast dough is rolled around the marzipan log is intended to remind us of the cloths that swaddled baby Jesus in the manger.  The usual shape is to simply fold the sides of the dough in over the marzipan centre so there is a central ridge.  I decided to make my Stollen dough into a plait so it looked more like swaddling bands.  I make Stollen on Christmas eve to eat at Christmas morning breakfast.  If there is any left later in the week it is lovely toasted.

The recipe I use comes from the book Delia Smith’s Christmas (1990 edition).  It is worth making a double quantity, especially if you have guests for Christmas. Delia says it freezes very well, though I have never done so.  Despite Delia’s original instructions saying that you should not use easy blend yeast, I have used it very successfully and have amended the instructions accordingly.  The remaining ingredients are as listed in the original recipe, but are simply added in a slightly different order. Delia suggests a light glaze of glace icing, but I simply dust my Stollen with icing sugar, which is more traditional making it much less sweet.  I also decided to make my own marzipan, which was very quick and simple: better than buying it ready made.

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Stollen

5fl oz/150ml milk
2oz/50g caster sugar
1 sachet easy blend yeast
12oz/350g strong white bread flour
¼level teaspoon salt
4oz/110g softened butter
1 large egg, beaten
1½ oz/40g currants
2oz/50g sultanas
1½ oz/40g no-soak apricots, chopped
1oz/25g glacé cherries, rinsed, dried and quartered
1oz/25g mixed candied peel, finely diced
1oz/25g almonds, chopped
grated zest ½ lemon
6oz/175g marzipan – home made is so easy!

For the glaze:
4oz (110g) icing sugar, sifted
1 tablespoon lemon juice
alternatively
1tsp (aprox) icing sugar

1.  Pre-heat the oven to 190oC/375oF/Gas 5

2.  Warm the milk, first of all, till you can just still dip your little finger in it.  Warm the butter until just starting to melt.

3.  Sieve the flour into a large bowl reserving a little to flour the surface when you knead later – about 1oz/25g.   Add the salt, sugar and yeast and combine. 

4.  Pour in the warmed milk, part melted butter and egg.  Mix together well with your hands. 

5.  Begin to pull the mixture together into a ball.  When it is well blended and leaves the side of the bowl cleanly, turn it out onto a floured work surface.  Knead until it starts to lose its stickyness and becomes a smooth ball.

6.  Flatten the ball onto the work surface and pile the fruits, peel, nuts and lemon zest onto the middle.  Fold the edges of the dough over the fruits and continue to knead, distributing the added ingredients as evenly as possible.  If any pieces fall out then just push them back into the mixture.  Continue to knead the dough until it is springy and elastic – about 5 minutes more.

7.  Return the dough to the bowl and leave the dough in a warm place, covered with a clean tea towel or a layer of plastic, until it has doubled in size.  I use the airing cupboard. (The time the dough takes to rise varies depending on the temperature and it could take up to 2 hours.)

8.  Turn the risen dough onto a board floured with the reserved 1 oz (25 g) of flour.  Knead the dough, knocking the air out of it and continue kneading until it is smooth and elastic.  Roll or press out the dough to an oblong 10 x 8 inches (25 x 20 cm).

9.  Using your hands, roll the marzipan into a sausage shape that almost fits the length of the oblong.  Place this along the centre of the dough, finishing just short of the edges.

10.  Either: Fold the dough over the marzipan (for the traditional shape),
or: make 3 or 4 diagonal slashes along the long edges of the dough.  Alternately fold each one over the marzipan to give a plaited appearance, making sure the marzipan is fully enclosed. (This gives the appearance of swaddling bands.)

11.  Carefully place the Stollen on a baking sheet, big enough to allow for expansion. Leave it to prove in a warm place until doubled in size once more.

12.  Bake in the oven for 35-40 minutes. Leave it to cool on the baking sheet for about 5 minutes and then lift it on to a wire rack to finish cooling.

13.  For a glazed Stollen: Mix the sifted icing sugar with the lemon juice.  Using a small palette knife spread it over the top of the stollen (while still warm).
For a icing dusted Stollen:  Gently sprinkle icing sugar over the Stollen while still warm.  I find the easiest way of getting a fine powder rather than lumps of sugar  is to rub it through a plastic mesh tea strainer or similarly fine sieve.

14.  Serve as fresh as possible, cut into thick slices, with or without butter.  It also toasts well when it is no longer fresh.

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