I enjoy the process of making enriched breads with added sugar, milk, butter, and often a sourdough starter. I have a large collection of baking books and files of bread recipes from cookery courses, many of them include recipes that are good to eat with marmalade. Although I often make a sourdough multi grain loaf for our B&B guests to eat with complimentary marmalade.
First recorded in France in 1404, brioche is a cross between a bread and a cake. Originally from Normandy, the interest in making brioche spread to other regions in France and today you can find different flavoured ones in French bakeries. In Normandy, Buerre d’Isigny is a well known premium butter and I use it to make brioche and other enriched doughs. It’s sold in Waitrose and if you steel yourself for the price per 250g, you will not regret the expenditure, as the butter is a joy to use. Brioche dough is made with eggs, butter, milk, yeast or sourdough starter. The dough is sticky to work with and I refrigerate my dough overnight to prove, develop flavour and make it easier to shape the next day. In recent years, brioche made with a sourdough pre-ferment has become my favourite. The dough has a fluffy texture due to the high fat content.
I make brioche either in a 400g, fluted pan, or smaller, fluted pans for 70-75g of dough. If I am baking for our B&B I make Brioche de Nanterre ( named after the town, Nanterre) in a 900g loaf pan. I shape 7 x 70g balls of dough and put them side by side in the tin to prove to the top of the tin. Just before baking, the brioche is glazed with an egg wash. Glorious served warm and split with butter and Seville orange marmalade. The recipe I return to regularly is in Emmanuel Hadjiandreou’s How to Make Sourdough, Ryland Peters & Small 2016.
Also associated with France, croissants were originally an Austrian pastry, crescent shaped, made from a brioche type of dough and known as a Kipferi. These were heavier and not as flaky as the croissants we enjoy. In the early 1800’s, the Austrian August Zang, opened Boulangerie Viennoise in Paris and sold croissants, shaped like crescent moons. In 1915, the French chef Sylvain Claudius Goy published a recipe, similar to the ones we have access to today. If you are looking for a comprehensive yeasted recipe, I recommend the late Michel Roux’s recipe in Linda Collister’s The Bread Book, Octopus 1993. For a sourdough recipe, look at Emmanuel Hadjiandreou’s recipe in How to Make Sourdough.
Making croissants is labour intensive, even more so with sourdough. A sourdough pre-ferment is created and unless it is very lively and bubbling, the croissant dough will struggle to rise. Once the dough has risen, it’s refrigerated overnight and then the fun begins, laminating the dough. If you are a fan of making rough puff pastry, you will be in familiar culinary territory. Michel Roux’s recipe suggests using a 15 x 17.5cm isosceles triangle template when cutting out croissant dough before rolling and shaping, an example of his attention to detail, something I admire when reading a recipe. If Seville orange Marmalade is the King of marmalades then croissants are the Queen of enriched doughs that go together.
Pain au Chocolat
These are made using croissant dough and filling rectangles of the dough with chocolate.
August Zang is also attributed with introducing these to Parisians at the same time as croissants, although his were croissants filled with chocolate rather than rectangles of croissant dough filled with chocolate. Bars of thin couverture are good to use, something to add to a shopping list when on holiday in France.
For a reliable recipe with fresh yeast, again look in Linda Collister’s Bread Book. For a sourdough bake, I use Emmanuel Hadjiandreou’s croissant recipe from How to Make Sourdough and divided the dough into 8 rectangles, 15 x 6cm, then before shaping I add around 10g chocolate to each one. Once baked split and add a thin layer of Seville or Lime marmalade.
In October 2022, I enjoyed a “Beyond Basics” 1:1 class with Danielle Ellis who teaches bread classes in her home in Gloucestershire. I came home with a wealth of information and a set of recipes, including some for Viennoiserie. I made batches of the bun recipe, to make Spiced Buns. Mine are larger than Danielle’s, more like mini loaves, flavoured with ground ginger and topped with cubes of stem ginger. The recipe uses fresh yeast and optional sourdough starter. The buns are light and flavoursome. Once baked and split, they pair well with Seville and Ginger Marmalade.
All of these recipes challenged me as a baker and judging by the response from family and friends, well worth the time and effort. I have acquired some new skills and some recipes to add to my collection of favourites.