I think that brioche has got to be just about my favourite thing to come out of France…I’m not talking about the mass-produced stuff that you get in supermarkets that has the texture (and flavour…) of cotton wool; I’m talking about proper brioche, heavily enriched with butter and eggs and yet seemingly impossibly light.
I was given some brioche moulds a while ago and have been itching to put them to good use; and these mini chocolate stuffed vanilla bean brioche à tête were the ideal use for them. I have some 4 inch moulds and some 2.5 (I believe you measure across the top rather than the bottom…?) so made a few of each; don’t worry if you can’t get hold of any though, you can use a muffin tin instead; although they don’t look quite as cute… I have given the quantities of dough to use per mould for each of those sizes and for a muffin tin in the recipe; if your tins are different sizes to those given then just remember that you need to use enough dough for the mould to be about 2/3rds full, don’t overfill them or they will overflow and end up looking very odd! You can also simply shape the dough into plain buns, minus the ‘tête’ (the bobble on the top, tête meaning ‘head’) and place them spaced apart on a baking sheet.
I make my brioche dough by hand, which is perfectly do-able, but quite hard work and very messy as it is a very soft, sticky dough, even before you add the butter. So if you are lucky enough to own a stand mixer then I suggest that you use it! If not then prepare to get messy and have a bit of an arm workout… I decided to flavour my dough with vanilla, I used both the seeds of a vanilla pod and a tablespoon of vanilla extract, which sounds like a lot, but bread dough seems to really soak up vanilla and needs a lot more for the flavour to come through. I filled the buns with dark chocolate because although buttery brioche is delicious enough on it’s own, the addition of chocolate elevates it to new levels of deliciousness. The combination of light, soft, butter and vanilla scented bread dough and melted dark chocolate is truly heavenly.
- 500g (4 + ¼ cups) strong white bread flour
- 7g (1 tsp) salt
- 50g (1/4 cup) caster (superfine) sugar
- 10g (3 tsp) fast action yeast
- 120ml (1/2 cup) full fat milk, lukewarm
- 5 eggs
- the seeds from one vanilla pod
- 1 tbsp vanilla extract
- 250g (1 cup) softened butter
- about 200g (7 oz) dark chocolate, chopped
- melted butter for greasing
- 1 beaten egg to glaze
- Start the day before you want to bake.
- Place the flour, salt, sugar and yeast in a large bowl or in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add the milk, eggs, vanilla seeds and extract and mix on a
- slow speed for 2 minutes, then on a medium speed for 6 – 8 minutes more, until the dough is soft, glossy and elastic. If you are kneading by hand you will need to
- knead the dough for at least 10 minutes, if not 15. The method to knead very sticky dough by hand is to lift and stretch it up from the worksurface (it will stick), slap it
- back down, fold and turn it and repeat, you will need a dough scraper to prise it off the worktop, and don't add any extra flour, or you will end up with tough bread.
- Once the dough is elastic, add the softened butter and continue to mix for a further 4 – 5 minutes by machine, or 8-10 by hand, scraping down the bowl periodically to
- ensure that the butter is thoroughly incorporated. The dough will be very soft.
- Tip the dough into a large bowl, cover, and refrigerate overnight, this will allow the dough to rise and firm up enough to handle.
- The following day, brush your moulds with melted butter, don't be fooled into thinking that because there is so much butter in the dough it wont stick! Remove the dough from the fridge.
- For 4 inch moulds, you will need to divide the dough into 115g (4oz) balls (approximately 10 or 11 overall), divide these into 100g (3.5oz) for the base and 15g (0.5oz) for the head. Shape the base into a ball and then roll it out on a lightly floured surface into a disc, don't roll it too thin or they may split and ooze chocolate when you bake them. Place about 20g (0.75oz) of chopped chocolate in the centre of the disc, bring the edges up over the top and pinch tightly to seal. Reshape into a ball and place, seam side down in the mould. To make the tête, roll the 15g portion of dough into a ball then pich one side of it to create a carrot or cone shape - fat and rounded at one end and narrow at the other.
- Press a lightly floured finger into the centre of the base to create a deep impression, don't go all the way to the bottom though. Place the narrow end of the tête into the impression and press gently around the edges to seal it in place. Try and work fairly quickly as as the dough warms up the butter will soften and the dough become sticky. Place the tins on a baking sheet. (If none of that made sense to you there are some step by step photos below.)
- For 2.5 inch moulds, follow the same procedure but use 25g of dough for the base and 5g for the tête, with 5g chopped chocolate in the centre, this will make about 40 (they are very small). For a deep muffin tin, use 65g dough for the base, 10g for the tête and 15g of chocolate.
- Place the baking sheet inside a large clean plastic bag, making sure that it doesn't touch the dough. Leave to rise until almost doubled in size, this will take about 1½ hours for larger ones and 45 minutes for the tiny 2.5in ones.
- Heat the oven to 190°C/375°F/gas mark 5. Gently brush the risen brioche with beaten egg, make sure it doesn't drip down between the dough and the tin or it will make the buns difficult to remove. Bake the brioche for 20 minutes for larger buns, 15 minutes for small ones, until golden brown and the internal temperature registers as 90°C/194°F on a digital thermometer, or a skewer inserted comes out clean (apart from the chocolate).
- Remove from the oven and unmould onto a wire rack, allow to cool a little but serve warm. Brioche rolls are best served fresh but once completely cooled can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days. Reheat in a warm oven – 160° to 180° C (325° to 350° F/gas mark 3-4)