Sunday, January 20, 2013

Babka Brioche

My first job as a culinary professional (and I use that term loosely) was as the breakfast baker at a trendy Center City eatery. I was green, raw green, but I was promised that I'd be given training and as long as I could show up there every morning at 6 AM everything was going to be fine (and I did and it was).

I'll never forget my first day. I met Vince outside the restaurant at 6 AM and he didn't stop talking until I left around 2:30. It was a ton of information to absorb but I managed to keep up. The first thing Vince had me do was form the brioche and get them proofing so they'd be ready to go when the restaurant opened at 8. I had never heard of brioche before. But I paid attention to Vince and soon I was twisting off lumps of dough and forming them into balls and making smaller balls to go on top. Once in a while one of the tops would pop out in the oven and we couldn't sell it so we got to eat it. Yes, I was only making minimum wage but sometimes I got to have brioche for breakfast! And as anyone who's had brioche for breakfast can tell you- it is the best thing you can have for breakfast on this planet. 

All this was brought back to me when I found out about Sourdough Surprises January challenge, make sourdough brioche and then make a babka with the dough. Now there's a reason brioche is the best thing you can have for breakfast. It's a yeast dough made with eggs, butter and milk. It's bread with a pedigree, with breeding. Yes, eggs and butter and milk and yet it's light. How does that happen?

Well, it doesn't just happen. Brioche is as much about the method as it is about the ingredients. So I was a little apprehensive going into this challenge. I'm still apprehensive because as much as I wanted to go straight up sour dough I found that I didn't have the confidence in my starter alone to do the job. Brioche is an investment in time and money and even though I think my starter is looking mighty healthy I really wanted to have something at the end of it all that had that light brioche quality.  So, I did a batch with just sourdough starter following this recipe (after converting it as best I could from grams) and adding a cinnamon and raisin filling and a crumb topping...

It was good, but a little dense.  If you like something you can really sink your teeth into, this is it.

And I also made a batch with a little yeast  and a cup of starter that I turned into a dozen broiche. They were, in my husband's own words "insanely good"!

babka broiche 


2 1/2 cups flour
1/3 cup sugar 
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon yeast
3 eggs
1 cup starter (100% hydration)
1/2 cup warm milk 
1/2 cup soft butter
1 more egg for egg wash


1/2 cup soft butter
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup cinnamon
7 ounces good dark chocolate, cut into small pieces
1/2 cup raisins

crumb topping

4 tablespoons cold butter
1 cup confectioners sugar
1/2 cup flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Heat the milk just until it's warm. Pour 2 tablespoons into a small bowl and stir in just a pinch of sugar and 1 teaspoon of yeast. Set aside to proof. Combine flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer on low. Add starter, yeast and milk and mix on low until everything is combined.  Turn the speed up to medium and mix for around 5 minutes until the dough begins to get smooth. 

Add the butter into the dough on low speed a little bit at a time. Take your time and make sure the butter is incorporated before you add the next bit. Once all the butter has been added turn the speed up to medium and mix for another 3 to 5 minutes until the dough is smooth and glossy. The dough will be somewhat sticky so use a spatula to turn it out into a large buttered bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight. 

With any luck dough should have doubled in bulk over night. If not, let is sit out for another hour or so. In the mean time butter 12 brioche tins or you could use a muffin tin as well. Once the dough has doubled, turn it out on to a lightly floured surface. Roll the dough into a large rectangle, roughly 20" by 16".

Cover the dough with the soft butter up to about an inch on the far long side. Combine sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle on top of the butter, followed with chocolate pieces and raisins. Starting at the long side nearest you, roll the dough away from you. Tuck the uncovered long side on the bottom. Cut the roll in half, and cut each half in half again. Cut each portion into 3 equal rolls. Tuck each roll into the prepared tins, cover lightly with plastic warp and sit in a warm place to rise for about an hour.

While the brioche are rising make the crumb topping. Combine sugar, flour and cinnamon. Add butter and mix with a fork until crumbly. Set aside. 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Crack that one egg into a small bowl, beat it lightly and use it to brush on top of the brioche. Top each with a couple of spoonfuls of crumb topping. Place brioche into the middle rack and bake for 20 minutes. Check the brioche, spin the tray to ensure even baking and bake for another 5 to 15 minutes or until the center of the brioche springs back when touched. 

Cool the broiche on a rack and remove from tins as soon as they can safely be handled. 

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  1. Wow, both of your versions look beautiful. How awesome that you have professional experience with brioche to back this one, up, too! I relied solely on my sourdough starter for my version and, given enough time, it was still a light, airy, decadent bread, so I have faith that your starter is up to the task, but your yeasted buns (I love those brioche pans) are perfection. Thanks so much for baking with us!!

    1. Thanks Shelley, I'm growing more sympatico with my starter everyday so I'm hopeful that a true sourdough babka brioche is in my future!

  2. I love the mini ones! The next time I make this I need to make some small ones too.

  3. Awesome Babka, Robyn! I love the little buns, too, so cute! That is a great idea, because then you only have a small amount to eat at one time...hahaha.

    1. Thanks GW! It's all about portion control, but I couldn't stop at just one :-D

  4. Yup, that would be a pretty perfect breakfast. I was also a bit worried that my starter wouldn't be able to handle brioche, but it turned out really well - it just took a LOOOOOOONG time!

  5. Kudos to all you guys! I need to learn some patience!!

  6. The individual buns look heavenly! Would they freeze well? They would be wonderful to keep on hand for unexpected company.

    1. Thanks, I haven't tried freezing them so I can't say for sure.

  7. I love the little pans. Slicing the flaky crust makes such a mess, having little buns instead would be handy.

  8. Those buns look adorable! And I think the loaf must have tasted just as good. I agree with you that the best thing for breakfast is brioche.

  9. I love the individual portions too! I'd bet the breads would freeze well, I didn't have any to test it with, but I've had good luck with other enriched breads in the freezer.