Another holiday-ish inspired post – Brissants!
“Quoi!?” I hear you exclaim. Quite. Allow me to elaborate.
Picture the scene…
The sun is barely over the horizon and the first decision of the day is already upon you: Brioche? Or croissant? Even the soothing balm of fresh coffee fails to make this no less stressful a judgement.
Brioche: so rich, doughy, soft and comforting – but there’s no crunch!
Croissants: so flaky, buttery and crisp – but there’s no substance!
I’d be willing to bet even Solomon himself would have chewed his lip a bit over this dilemma – but no more!
For here lyeth the answer……*drumroll* Brissants!
A name cleverly thought up by my daughter to describe this fabulous combination of buttery brioche dough and buttery, flaky croissant layers.
Buttery, buttery, buttery.
More substantial than a croissant, lighter, crispier, flakier than a brioche.
Confession: Apart from the name, there’s nothing new about this recipe. If you want to get all nit-picky, it’s proper name is “Brioche feuilletée au beurre” but that isn’t very descriptive if your French is a bit rusty, and “Brioche made-all-layered-and-puffed-and-stuff with butter” is a bit long-winded. (I may have missed my calling as an international translator of unique repute.) Not sure who came up with the idea – I like to think whoever it was was working from an old baker’s book whose pages were stuck together: started off as a brioche, unwittingly ended up as a croissant method. Win!
It’s the Cronut for 2015 without all that greasy deep-frying. *shudders*
They are made with fresh yeast. *waits until you’ve stopped running round shrieking a la Edvard Munch*
Be not alarmed – it’s a ‘throw it all in the mixer’ method. No sponges, no Faff™.
The only downside, if any, is the rising time. Brioche, with it’s enrichment of butter and eggs, already takes longer-than-average to prove. Add to that the layers of butter and it rises (see what I did there? </subtle>). You can’t – let me rephrase – you shouldn’t put it in a warm place to prove, because the interleaved butter will melt and run out and all your hard work will be for nothing. Best to accept it’ll be about 2 hours and plan accordingly.
These Brissants are unflavoured, apart from the richness of the eggs and butter, but as such are infinitely customisable.
- Philippe Conticini adds a sprinkling of nibbed sugar in his recipe, before rolling up the dough.
- Maple sugar is another option, as indeed are all the caramel, dark sugars such as Muscovado and Demerera.
- If your butter tends towards the ordinary, try whipping in some citrus zest. NB If you try this, do it far enough ahead so that it has time to chill thoroughly to firmness before adding to the dough.
- Flavouring the dough with orange-flower water, vanilla, cocoa (remember to remove an equivalent weight of flour), chocolate chips…. Have at it!
I use my stand mixer and a dough hook to mix, but you can also use a bread maker or do it by hand.
500g strong white bread flour
60g caster sugar
15g fresh yeast
75ml warm water
4 large eggs
100g butter, cut into cubes
For the lamination
1 large egg to glaze
- Put the flour, sugar and salt into a bowl and stir to mix. Crumble in the yeast and add the water and two of the eggs. Mix.
- Add the rest of the eggs once the mixture has started to come together.
- Knead thoroughly for 5 minutes.
- With the mixer running, add the butter piece by piece. You don’t have to wait until it has been worked in before adding the next piece, just don’t dump it all in at once.
- Knead until the butter is fully incorporated, about another 5 minutes.
- Tip out onto a floured surface, shape roughly into a flat square and wrap in plastic.
- Put into the freezer for 10 minutes. NB No more than 10 – this is important – you want it chilled enough to match the consistency of the butter, but not so cold as to kill the yeast, so SET THE TIMER.
- While the dough is chilling, prepare the butter. Flatten it roughly, then wrap it in an envelope of baking parchment, making a 15cm square. Make sure all the folds are underneath, then use a rolling pin to roll the butter out. The envelope will contain the butter very effectively, allowing you to spread it right to the edges to make a very neat square. Chill. The butter that is, not you. Unless you’re becoming a little frazzled making an enriched, laminated dough, in which case – Chill!
- Remove the dough from the freezer and roll out to a square large enough to hold the butter.
- Fold the corners in and pinch the edges to seal.
- Roll out into a long rectangle and then make a book fold – that’s folding the edges into the middle (or preferably a little off-centre), and the folding them in again, like a book.
- Turn 90 degrees so the fold is on the left and the edges on the right and repeat.
- Wrap in plastic and chill in the freezer for another 10 minutes. Set the timer.
- Prepare your tins – I used mini pudding cups like this, but you can also use individual foil cases. Brush with butter or spray liberally with cooking spray.
- After chilling, roll out the dough to a rectangle 0.5cm thick. Roll up from the wide edge into a sausage, as you would cinnamon buns.
- Cut into 12 thick slices and place end-up into your prepared tins, so the spiral is visible. The dough should half-fill your tins.
- Set aside to rise for about 2 hours.
- Preheat the oven to 190°C/170°C Fan.
- Whisk the egg and lightly brush the top of the dough. Try not to get it dripping down the sides – it’ll glue your dough to the tin and impede the rise as it bakes.
- Bake for 15-18 minutes until risen and brown and glossy.
- Cool on a wire rack and devour with gusto! Or a fresh coffee. Your call.
 Or Crioches, as my far-too-clever-for-his-own-good friend Dr Dan suggested *shakes fist at his cleverness* 😉