After all that kneading at the end of our delicious croissants practical class, we put the dough to good use for some brioche. We watched the demonstration chef make all types of brioche variations (how many different ways can you shape buttered bread dough?) and the best part of the class was that he was in a fantastic mood. Our typically stern chef who can send my nerves into a tizzy with one sardonic look was all smiles and smirks. He shared jokes and stories with the class as he worked away merrily, and I wouldn’t have been surprised if he burst into song at any point. Since he taught at Le Cordon Bleu Ottawa prior to coming back to France, he was wearing a chef jacket adorned with a red maple leaf at the neck that we had never seen before. Towards the end of class, chef passed the loaf of brioche nanterre around for us to smell the sweet and light yeasty aromas, and someone took a piece off and ate it. When the loaf made it back to the chef and he tried to piece the two ends back together for his display platter, he noticed that the two pieces obviously didn’t fit together.
Normally we would’ve gotten a very stern talking-to. He lectured for probably a minute on proper etiquette and respect for other students and for the chef, and then went right back to his smiling self. Amazing!
That same afternoon, we had our practical class to make our brioche. We made a large brioche à tête, two small brioche(s?) à tête, and a nanterre loaf which is basically 6 little balls of dough squished together to rise. With the leftover dough, we rolled out raisin rolls, which was a bit sad for me. I wished we could’ve rolled out the dough, brushed on butter, and sprinkled with cinnamon sugar to make a little taste of home. Alas, it was the French way: pastry cream and lots of yellow sultana raisins. Bah.
Although I kept my fingers crossed to have the demo chef so I could witness his indestructibly happy bonheur in person and not be frightened by him for once, we got the overly angry/happy chef. He wasn’t really into watching us make these breads, though, as he was busy shaping his own dough into random shapes and baking them off. Thanks to the previous class, I had some good tips on making sure my little brioche à tête worked out well. The little breads all rose well with the heads in the middle, but at the last moment, I think with all that moving in and out of the proofer, and the pastry brushes attacking constantly with egg-wash, they all fell a little bit to the side.
The loaf rose well, and I squished in 8 balls of dough instead of the usual 6, because the pan size was a bit longer than usual. It was interesting to try everybody’s bread at the end though – one girl in my class ended up with a super light and airy brioche that I just loved. Comparatively, mine tasted much denser. Since I wasn’t a big fan of this bread anyway (if you had to squish half a pound of butter, by hand, into this dough you wouldn’t be either), I left most of my brioche at school. I brought home two raisin breads that were promptly devoured by Alex and Terence (no photo opportunity existed for those little discs), and the loaf for making French toast later in the week.
I’m glad to have kneaded this dough by hand to know how to do it, but I doubt I will be busting out this recipe on a regular basis any time soon. It is just too heavy for my liking, and I think I’d only make it for special occasions, or maybe to test out a cinnamon roll with this dough. Also, I may try it again to see if I can get that lovely airiness that my classmate achieved!