Cinnamon Swirl Brioche and Honey Butter

Brioche is a classic French yeast dough rich with butter and eggs.  Some believe that when Marie Antoinette made that famous remark about “cake”, it was brioche she had in mind.  Classic “brioche a tete” is made in a fluted mold and adorned with a little topknot.  But brioche is a versatile dough which can be used for both sweet and savory dishes including panettone, stollen, challah, sticky buns,  pate en croute, salmon coulibiac, and even pizza.  My version is a variation on cinnamon bread, with a thin swirl of cinnamon sugar through the bread, and a crusty caramelized exterior.  It’s perfect for teatime with a little honey butter on the side.

Cinnamon Swirl Brioche
(makes 2 9×5 inch loaves)
Sponge
2/3 cup whole milk at room temperature
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/2 cup bread or all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
Dough
3 cups bread or all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
Cinnamon Swirl
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 tablespoons melted butter, cooled
Egg Wash
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon water
Sponge:
Combine the milk and yeast in the bowl of a standing mixer and whisk until the yeast is dissolved.  Stir in the flour and sugar, forming a thick batter.  Cover with plastic wrap and let rest in a warm environment for 30-45 minutes, or until bubbly.
Dough:
Add the flour and salt to the sponge, then add the eggs.  Mix on low speed with the paddle attachment for 2 minutes, or until the eggs are absorbed.  Increase the speed to medium and knead the dough for 5 minutes.  The dough will begin to slap around the bowl.  If the machine seems strained, switch to the dough hook.  You may have to hold on to the bowl to stabilize it.  Decrease the speed to low and add the butter,  2 tablespoons at a time.  Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl occasionally.  Knead until the dough is shiny and smooth, about 5 minutes.  Scrape out the dough, wash and dry the bowl, and coat it lightly with oil.  Place the dough in the oiled bowl and turn it so the top is coated with oil.  Cover with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until doubled in volume, about 2 hours.  When the dough has doubled, deflate it by folding it over two or three times.  Replace the plastic wrap cover and let double again.  This should take 45 to 60 minutes.  At this point the dough can be refrigerated until you are ready to proceed.  Preheat the oven to 375F.  Butter or spray with pan spray two 9×5 x3 inch loaf pans.  Mix 1/4 cup sugar with the 2 teaspoons of cinnamon.  Have the melted butter ready in a small bowl.  Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and divide into two equal pieces ( each piece should weigh about 1 pound).  Refrigerate one piece while you shape the other.  Divide your 1 pound piece of dough into three equal pieces.  Roll each piece with your hands into a rope that is about as long as the loaf pan.  Brush each dough rope with butter, then sprinkle generously with cinnamon sugar.  Braid the three pieces of dough, tuck the ends under and place in the prepared loaf pan.  Repeat with the other 1 pound piece of dough.  Brush the loaves with any remaining butter and sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar.  Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until the braids are puffy and fill the pans, about 20 to 30 minutes.  (If your dough was refrigerated, this rise may take 1 to 2 hours).  Whisk together the egg yolk and water in a small bowl.  Gently brush the surface of the braids with egg wash.  Bake for 10 minutes.  Turn the oven temperature down to 350F and bake for an additional 20 to 30 minutes.  Watch the brioche carefully; the cinnamon sugar will caramelize and brown, but you do not want it to burn.  Cover the loaves loosely with foil if they are browning too quickly.  The bread is done when the crust is dark golden brown and the internal temperature is 180F.  Cool in the pans for 10 minutes then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.  Use within 2 days or wrap tightly and freeze for up to 2 weeks.
(recipe for brioche adapted from “The Secrets of Baking” by Sherry Yard)

Honey Butter
1 stick (4 ounces) butter,  at room temperature
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
a few drops of vanilla extract
Blend all the ingredients together in a small bowl with a spatula or small wooden spoon.  Taste and adjust the cinnamon and vanilla to your liking.  Store in the refrigerator.  Let soften slightly before serving.

 
** I would like to thank Louise at lickthatspoon.blogspot.com for nominating me for the Versatile Blogger Award.  I am honored, indeed. 

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