It never ceases to amaze me how like my parents I am. There are certainly big differences...they eat dinner early, go to bed early, I eat dinner late, go to bed late. They live in a bucolic location surrounded by gardens, I live in a apartment (albeit plant-filled) far from any soil. West coast/east coast, liberal/centrist...the list goes on.
But there are a lot of little commonalities. As a child, I remember going with my mom to Berkeley Bowl (the grocery store to end all grocery stores) each Saturday at 9:00 a.m. to help her with the week's food shopping. Now, as an adult, I do my food shopping on Saturday mornings as well...farmers market, the butcher, a swing by Citarella if I need anything I haven't found at the first two locations.
And growing up, my dad used to make us all breakfast each and every Sunday. It was usually some sort of sweet bread type thing...muffins, coffee cake, cornbread...there was generally fruit and always whole wheat flour involved. It was a wonderful treat, and always something I looked forward to. A very cozy family moment, and it took the sting out of the specter of school the next day. And now, I am the one who cooks breakfast on Sundays.
But, unlike my dad, I am not particularly imaginative when it comes to this ritual. Rather I've found one breakfast bread that I like (and Paul loves) and have pretty much stuck with it for the past four years: Chocolate Brioche.
These buns are little packages of loveliness. Rather than butter, the dough uses olive oil, which gives it a certain austerity that I love.
And this austerity is tempered just a bit by a morsel of chocolate melting in the middle.
It takes a little work to make these, but much of it can be done the day before, leaving only the shaping and baking to do in the morning. Then you can go about your business enjoying coffee, papers, your loved ones and a steaming hot chocolate brioche. Perfection.
Baby Chocolate Brioche
From At Home In Provence by Patricia Wells
Makes 12 rolls
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
2 tablespoons lavender honey (or other fragrant honey)
250 ml (8 fl oz) lukewarm whole milk (about 105 degrees)
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons fine sea salt
About 1 1/4 pounds flour
90 g (3 oz) bittersweet chocolate, preferably Lindt Excellence, divided into 12 portions
For the glaze:
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon whole milk
1 tablespoon sugar
Note: Because I don't have an electric mixer, I make this recipe by hand. I actually prefer it that way, because I think it makes it easier to get the amount of flour correct, but do as you please.
1. In the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine the yeast, honey and milk, and stir to blend. Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. Stir in the olive oil, eggs and salt, and stir to blend.
2. Add the flour, a little at a time, mixing at the lowest possible speed until most of the flour has been absorbed and the dough forms a ball. (be careful at this step not to add too much flour, it is better to have a dough that is a little too sticky than too dry) Continue to knead until soft and satiny but still firm, 4 to 5 minutes, adding additional flour to keep the dough from sticking.
3. Cover the bowl tightly with film and refrigerate. Let the dough rise until doubled or tripled in bulk, 8 to 12 hours. (The dough can be kept for 2 to 3 days in the refrigerator. Simply punch down the dough as it doubles or triples.)
4. About an hour before you plan to bake the rolls, remove the dough from the refrigerator. Punch down the dough and divide into 12 even portions, each weighing about 90g (3 oz). With the palm of your hand, flatten each portion into a disc. Press a piece of chocolate into each portion of dough and shape into a neat round, pulling the dough around itself to form a tight ball so that the chocolate is completely covered with the dough. Place the portions of dough on a baking sheet, cover with a clean towel and let rise for 30 to 45 minutes.
5. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
6. Prepare the glaze: Place the egg yolk in a small bowl and beat lightly with a fork. Add the milk and sugar and blend. Remove the towel and brush each piece of dough with the glaze. Place the baking sheet in the center of the oven. Bake until the rolls are a deep golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes, turning the baking sheet from time to time if the oven is heating unevenly. Some chocolate may seep from the rolls, which is normal.
7. Remove the rolls from the oven and transfer to a rack to cool. Let rest for 10 to 15 minutes before serving. If stored in a sealed plastic bag, the brioche will stay fresh for 2 to 3 days.