Sourdough is sometimes a misunderstood creature. Sourdough doesn't have to have the signature acidic flavor associated with San Francisco; it can take on a variety of flavors from sweet to nutty to bracing. Sourdough simply means long fermentation with wild yeast. The longer fermentation gives the yeast more time to digest sugars in your flour, which means that the bread becomes easier to digest, nutrients become more readily available for absorption, and the flavor of the bread becomes more complex.
In the spirit of changing sourdough's reputation, I have adapted the Rich Man's Brioche recipe from Peter Reinhart's The Bread Bakers Apprentice. I hope you enjoy!
Firing Your Oven
The oven should be fired to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Spread embers around the floor to ensure even heating (unless the oven is pre-heated from previous cooking). All embers and ash should be removed.
Unbleached Bread Flour 54 g
Starter 20 g (need starter?)
Whole Milk (lukewarm) 55 g
To make the sponge: mix milk and starter until fully dissolved, then add flour and mix until hydrated. Cover with plastic and allow to ferment for 1 hour.
5 large eggs
Unbleached Bread Flour 453 g
Granulated Sugar 35 g
Salt 11 g
Unsalted Butter 453 g
1 egg, whisked, for egg wash
To make the dough: add eggs to the sponge, beat until smooth. Combine separately the flour, sugar, and salt. Add this mixture to the sponge until smooth. Rest for 5 minutes. Using a paddle attachment on medium speed, incorporate the butter in, 1/4 at a time. Allow each addition to fully combine before adding more. The dough will be very soft and smooth. Line a baking sheet or zippered plastic bag with parchment paper. Spritz the parchment paper with spray oil. Place the dough in the pan or bag, press into a 6" x 8" rectangle. Cover the pan in plastic wrap or zip the bag closed and refrigerate overnight.
Shaping the Dough
Shape the dough while it is very cold; if it warms up, simply return the unshaped portion to the refrigerator. To achieve this flower-like loaf, I rolled out the dough to about 1/2". Using a circle cutter, punch out as many circles as possible. Re-combine the leftover dough and refrigerate.
Cut each circle in half, overlap 3 half circles, and roll into a tight rosebud configuration. Place each bud around a spring form pan. Roll out the refrigerated dough once more, repeating the cutting and rolling until your spring form pan is almost full.
Create a dough ball from your leftover dough trimmings and place in the center of the pan to form the pistil of your flower.
Proof & Bake
Mist with the loaf with oil and cover with plastic wrap or place in a zippered plastic bag. Proof until the loaf nearly fills the pan (2+ hours). Brush the top with egg wash and cover again until the dough fills the pan (30 minutes).
Bake 35 to 50 minutes and watch for browning on the top. If your loaf should brown quicker than it bakes, tent it with foil. The loaf is baked when the internal temperature is 190 degrees Fahrenheit.
Remove the brioche from the pan as soon as possible; careful not to burn yourself, of course. Allow to cool on a rack for one hour before serving.
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