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The first time brioche bread came in to my life, I was hooked. It was a blissful sunny day in Paris, and I ducked into a small bakery, looking to refuel myself after a lengthy stroll through the streets of Montmartre. Everything looked scrumptious, from the almond croissants to the baguettes, but this golden loaf glistening with bread and sugar called my name. One bite into its sweet and rich loaf, I thought I had died and gone to heaven.

Two years later, I still search for something that can be half as good as the one I had in Paris. But they all fell short. I decided that nothing could compare and retired my brioche search.

When I saw that Peabody chose Dorie’s brioche snails for this week’s Tuesday’s with Dorie, I felt a little anxious and nervous. First of all, I don’t have much experience in the bread baking department. I made challah bread twice, one with nutella and one with out it, and while they were tasty, I knew there was room for improvement. Secondly, the brioche that I’d made would have steep competition. Could I make something equally as tasty or would it go awry?

I decided to leave my apprehension at the door and go all out, balls-a-blazing. You can’t let fear stop you, right? Boy am I glad that I kept going too because this baking this bread was fabulous, even without a stand mixer. I really got to play with the dough, feeling its texture and memorizing it’s curves. Smashing the butter and blending it in was probably the best part.

But making the brioche was only the first step for these brioche snails. After you’ve made the dough, you let it sit in the fridge overnight. You also make a pastry cream and flambé some raisins with rum, and then roll these goodies in to the ready and waiting dough. It sounds complicated but if you assemble the pastries in a 2 day span, it’s quite easy.

I did have a few problems though. My house is ridiculously cold so letting it proof was tricky. I had to leave mine out for the first rise for 2 hours and even then, it could’ve stayed out longer. Also, I burned my first batch of pastry cream because I was too busy reading the paper and let my milk boil over. Whoopsies!

After that, I was a little nervous about the rum and raisin part and decided to forgo that step. I know, what a let down, but I didn’t let that part fall completely by the wayside. Instead of rum, I used my favorite Frangelico and let the raisins soak up that nutty liqueur. It might not have been as exciting as lighting the rum on fire, but the raisins tasted sublime with the spicy flavors from the Frangelico.

Minor difficulties aside, the snails turned out great. I made mine mini-sized and saved the other half of the dough for another time when a brioche craving would strike.

Thanks to Peabody for choosing an interesting pick for this week. I’m so happy that I experimented with this recipe. It’s nice to step out of your comfort zone every now and then. and this was a definite first for me. It brought me back to that wonderful morning in Paris when I didn’t have a care in the world besides chomping on some fresh and warm bread.

Be sure to check out Tuesday’s with Dorie to see the big roundup and head on over to Peabody’s to see how her experience went.

Brioche Raisin Snails
from Baking: from my home to yours

1 cup moist, plump raisins
3 tablespoons dark rum
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
Scant 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 recipe for Golden Brioche Loaves, recipe below (make the full recipe and cut the dough in half after refrigerating overnight)
1/2 Pastry Cream, recipe below

For The Optional Glaze:
3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
About 1 teaspoon water
Drop of pure vanilla extract

Getting Ready: Line one large or two smaller baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats.

Put the raisins in a small saucepan, cover them with hot water and let them steep for about 4 minutes, until they are plumped. Drain the raisins, return them to the saucepan and, stirring constantly, warm them over low heat. When the raisins are very hot, pull the pan from the heat and pour over the rum. Standing back, ignite the rum. Stair until the flames go out, then cover and set aside. (The raisins and rum an be kept in a covered jar for up to 1 day.)

Mix the sugar and cinnamon together.

On a flour dusted surface, roll the dough into a rectangle about 12 inches wide and 16 inches long, with a short end toward you. Spread the pastry cream across the dough, leaving 1-inch strip bare on the side farthest from you. Scatter the raisins over the pastry cream and sprinkle the raisins and cream with the cinnamon sugar. Starting wit the side nearest you, roll the dough into a cylinder, keeping the roll as tight as you can. (At this point, you can wrap the dough airtight and freeze it up to 2 months; see Storing for further instructions. Or, if you do not want to make the full recipe, use as much of the dough as you’d like and freeze the remainder.)

With a chef’s knife, using a gentle sawing motion, trim just a tiny bit from the ends if they’re ragged or not well filled, then cut the log into rounds a scant 1 inch thick. Put the snails on the lined baking sheet(s), leaving some puff space between them.

Lightly cover the snails with wax paper and set the baking sheet(s) in a warm place until the snails have doubles in volume–they’ll be puffy and soft–about 1 hour and 30 minutes.

Getting Ready To Bake: When the snails have almost fully risen, preheat the oven: depending on the number of baking sheets you have, either center a rack in the oven or position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Remove the wax paper, and bake the snails for about 25 minutes (rotate the sheets if you’re using two, from top to bottom and front to back after 15 minutes), or until they are puffed and richly browned. Using a metal spatula, transfer the snails onto a cooling rack.

If You Want To Glaze The Snails: Put a piece of wax paper under the rack of warm rolls to act as a drip catcher. Put the confectioners’ sugar into a small bowl, and stir in a teaspoon of water. Keep adding water drop by drop until you have an icing that falls from the tip of a spoon. Add the vanilla extract, then drizzle the icing over the hot snails.

Golden Brioche Loaves:

2 packets active dry yeast
1/3 cup just-warm-to-the-touch water
1/3 cup just-warm-to-the-touch whole milk
3 3/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature but still slightly firm

For The Glaze:
1 large egg
1 tablespoon water

To Make The Brioche: Put the yeast, water and milk in the bowl of a stand mixer and, using a wooden spoon, stir until the yeast is dissolved. Add the flour and salt, and fit into the mixer with the dough hook, if you have one. Toss a kitchen towel over the mixer, covering the bowl as completely as you can– this will help keep you, the counter and your kitchen floor from being showered in flour. Turn the mixer on and off a few short pulses, just to dampen the flour (yes, you can peek to see how you’re doing), then remove the towel, increase the mixer speed to medium-low and mix for a minute or two, just until the flour is moistened. At this point, you’ll have a fairly dry, shaggy mess.

Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula, set the mixer to low and add the eggs, followed by the sugar. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat for about 3 minutes, until the dough forms a ball. Reduce the speed to low and add the butter in 2-tablespoon-size chunks, beating until each piece is almost incorporated before adding the next. You’ll have a dough that is very soft, almost like batter. Increase the speed to medium-high and continue to beat until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl, about 10 minutes.

Transfer the dough to a clean bowl (or wash out the mixer bowl and use it), cover with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature until nearly doubled in size, 40 to 60 minutes, depending upon the warmth of your room.

Deflate the dough by lifting it up around the edges and letting it fall with a slap to the bowl. Cover the bowl with the plastic wrap and put it in the refrigerator. Slap the dough down in the bowl every 30 minutes until it stops rising, about 2 hours, then leave the uncovered dough in the refrigerator to chill overnight.

The next day, butter and flour two 8 1/2-x-4 1/2-inch pans.

Pull the dough from the fridge and divide it into 2 equal pieces. Cut each piece of the dough into 4 equal pieces and roll each piece into a log about 3 1/2 inches long. Arrange 4 logs crosswise in the bottom of each pan. Put the pans on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat, cover the pans lightly with wax paper and leave the loaves at room temperature until the dough almost fills the pans, 1 to 2 hours. (Again, rising time with depend on how warm the room is.)

Getting Ready To Bake: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

To Make the Glaze: Beat the egg with the water. Using a pastry brush, gently brush the tops of the loaves with the glaze.

Bake the loaves until they are well risen and deeply golden, 30 to 35 minutes. Transfer the pans to racks to cool for 15 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the pans and turn the loaves out onto the racks. Invert again and cool for at least 1 hour.

Pastry Cream:

2 cups whole milk
6 large egg yolks
1/2 cups sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch, sifted
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into bits at room temperature

Getting ready:
Bring the milk to a boil in a small saucepan.

Meanwhile, in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk the egg yolks together with the sugar and cornstarch until thick and well blended. Still whisking, drizzle in about 1/4 cup of the hot milk– this will temper, or warm, the yolks so they won’t curdle. Whisking all the while, slowly pour in the remainder of the milk. Put the pan over medium heat and, whisking vigorously, constantly and thoroughly (making sure to get the edges of the pot), bring the mixture to a boil. Keep at a boil, still whisking, for 1 to 2 minutes, then remove the pan from the heat.

Whisk in the vanilla extract. Let sit for 5 minutes, then whisk in the bits of butter, stirring until they are full incorporated and the pastry cream is smooth and silky. Scrape the cream into a bowl. You can press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface of the cream to create an airtight seal and refrigerate the pastry cream until cold or, if you want to cool it quickly–as I always do–put the bowl into a larger bowl filled with ice cubes and cold water, and stir the pastry cream occasionally until it is thoroughly chilled, about 20 minutes.

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March 18, 2008 - 7:08 am

Marie - I, too, was a brioche virgin. I don’t think I’ll quite become a brioche whore now, but I do think that I may be tempted to try this again! Your snails look fabulous!

March 18, 2008 - 7:23 am

Caitlin - I think I’d become a brioche whore if it weren’t for all the butter – yikes! Your snails look drool-worthy, and that’s not just my middle of the morning sweet tooth talking!

March 18, 2008 - 7:51 am

noskos - Beautiful pictures! And nice that it brought back memories of Paris!!

March 18, 2008 - 8:14 am

mari - Brioche is the way, and that light! I too fear that I’m well on my way to becoming a brioche whore.

I’m kinda jealous that you kneaded yours by hand, but have to give it a try next time. Good job, your snails look de-lish!

March 18, 2008 - 8:25 am

CB - Another virgin brioche-er! Your snails looks so good and I love the idea of frangelico! Great job!

March 18, 2008 - 12:01 pm

Cecilia - The brioche looks great! I also miss the pastries commonly found in France, so I’ll have to try this recipe sometime.

March 18, 2008 - 12:10 pm

Gretchen Noelle - Wonderful job! I do enjoy your photos, they are great!

March 18, 2008 - 1:14 pm

Madam Chow - Your snails look wonderful. How did this brioche compare to the one you had in Paris?

March 18, 2008 - 2:13 pm

Heather Peskin - Excellent Brioche! – am so pleased you made and enjoyed it. I also made brioche for the first time with this challenge – couldn’t believe I’d actually made such nice soft bread.

March 18, 2008 - 2:39 pm

Michelle - I had never made brioche before either, it was wonderful! I’m curious though – does this brioche measure up?!

March 18, 2008 - 5:33 pm

joythebaker - Great job conquering your fears- balls a blazin! Your snails look just darling… which mean, you rock.

March 18, 2008 - 5:34 pm

Natalie - Lovely! I was worried about this one too, but so glad I did it.

Frangelico, huh? Hmmmm….. :)

March 18, 2008 - 7:16 pm

cakespy - Oh my this looks gorgeous. Fresh out of the oven…what could be better!?

March 18, 2008 - 8:26 pm

Thip - Your brioches look awesome, Amanda.

March 18, 2008 - 8:45 pm

Jaime - great job! i’m not sure i would have had the patience to make these w/o the KA Mixer! you should try to flambe the raisins next time, it was so fun and they add another great dimension to these :)

March 18, 2008 - 9:25 pm

Amanda - thank you everyone! I had a great time with this recipe… and they were ALMOST as good as the one I had in France. but there is definite room for improvement :)

March 19, 2008 - 3:41 am

Victoria - I just woke up and your post is making me hungry. Brioches are perfect for breakfast, and yours look delicious. I like that you used frangelico-soaked raisins, I did use frangelico too on a bread I made recently, it tastes so good…

March 19, 2008 - 6:38 am

Donna - MMMM! They came out great! Nutella and Brioche, now that would be a great combination, yes???

March 19, 2008 - 6:33 pm

Rebecca - No KA? You badass!

March 19, 2008 - 8:15 pm

Julius - First time making brioche here too!

Gotta break out that Nutella jar. :)

Your snails look great.

from Occasional Baker

March 30, 2008 - 12:29 am

peabody - Yes, the colder weather does make it more difficult. Glad that these brought you memories of Paris.

August 30, 2008 - 9:57 pm

pocket full of sunshine- DB Challenge « Slow like Honey - [...] dense and clumpy. It still tasted good, thank god, but it didn’t look very appetizing. Using a Dorie Greenspan recipe for the pastry cream, I flavored pastry cream with a couple of tablespoons of coffee to make a chocolate coffee cream [...]

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