A few days ago my husband got sucked into a website with a gazillion pictures of Eggs Benedict in every conceivable configuration. He’s an egg fan, I am not. But being a good friend often means spending time doing things you don’t really care about, so here we go. With the weather forecast today predicting 40 MPH winds, more snow, and a temperature drop from 28ºF at 6 a.m. down to -20ºF overnight, this sounds like a good day to bake. There is a woodpile mostly buried under all that snow in the photo, making the trip to gather firewood a bit of a treasure hunt.
Brioche is something I like though, so that’s my first step. It’s been quite a while since I made it in the bakery and because of its white flour and buttery richness it’s not one we regularly keep around. But it will make an excellent base for Eggs Benedict. We’ll be trying a few variations this weekend – post on that next week.
No huge secrets here. Use whole milk, pastured organic eggs if you can, and real butter. The dough seems stiff when you first finish it, but becomes a wonderfully stretchable, pliant dough once it’s proofed. It can be made into loaves or buns, even brioche à tête if you’re inclined to buy the molds. There are richer variations of brioche too, using even more eggs and sugar, but this one delivers plenty of flavor for me. Because I intend to use part of this for the Eggs Benedict experiment, half of it will be formed into large buns. The other half might find itself made into a Saturday morning French toast treat for my granddaughters, topped with whipped cream and fresh berries.
– Joan, 14 February 2020
- ¾ cup (96 grams) bread flour
- 3 teaspoons instant yeast
- ¾ cup (170 grams) warm milk
- all of the sponge
- 6 eggs, whisked together
- 4¾ cups (617 grams) bread flour
- 3 tablespoons (42 grams) sugar
- 1¾ teaspoons salt
- ¾ cup (170 grams) butter, room temperature
- 1 egg for egg wash before baking
Use a spoon or spatula to mix together the sponge ingredients. Cover and set in a warm spot to rise for about 45 minutes. It’s ready to use when it looks slightly risen, shows some bubbles, and deflates if you bump the bowl.
Add the eggs to the sponge in the bowl of a stand mixer. Use the flat beater to mix together, then switch to a dough hook and add the flour, sugar and salt. Mix until all the ingredients are blended. The dough will seem stiff at this point. Let it rest for 5-10 minutes, then start mixing in the butter a few tablespoons at a time. Stop the mixer and adjust the dough if necessary so that the butter gets mixed in evenly. When all the butter has been added you can either let the machine knead for a couple of minutes or remove it from the bowl and give it a few kneads by hand. Grease the bowl and return it for a 90-minute rise.
When the dough looks almost doubled, divide it into 2 loaves or other shapes.* Cover and let it rise again till almost doubled. Whisk an egg till well blended and use a pastry brush to brush the tops of the loaves or buns. Bake loaves at 350°F till golden brown, 30-40 minutes. Bake buns or small shapes at 400°F for 15-20 minutes. Cool completely before storing or freezing.
*Update – Make perfect-sized buns for Eggs Benedict or sandwiches by dividing the dough into 100 gram pieces. Flatten them slightly with the palm of your hand so they’re about 3″ in diameter before baking. Place close together but not touching in a pan. Let rise and bake as directed above. They freeze beautifully and you can unthaw just what you need.