Oh the smell of bread – makes me so happy! That must be German because my friends are not really crazy about bread where I could eat an entire loaf a day. The smell of bread is comfort to me, it also reminds me of my young(er) adult time in Germany when I was working in a bakery to substitute my pocket money/allowance and later to support my living expenses during college.
What prompted me to bake Brioche was the fact that I had a huge packet of strawberries in my fridge and once again they were about to turn bad, so I needed another idea for what to do with not so pretty strawberries. I finally put up the courage to make JAM! And that jam needed a really good bread base, one that I can’t find in regular supermarket stores, so “selbst ist die Frau” (a German saying for when you can do stuff on your own, literally translated: “self is the woman”) and I baked my own super soft, tasty eggy Brioche – there is nothing better for jam than to put it on fresh Brioche.
I am actually not really a jam person, but once in a while someone gives me a jar of homemade jam and I love it on freshly baked thick cut white bread. And of course I am always impressed when someone can make homemade jam, to me that process just sounds intimidating.
But today was the day to get one food item preparation off the bucket list and that was jam. Good that I didn’t read up too much prior to making it because once I made the jam and read a bunch of instructions that came with the pectin booklet I was intimidated again. All I can say is, if you don’t insist on super thick jam, go with this method, its fast, easy and tasty!
You will see on the photos that my jam is not completely set and a little bit runny, so more like fruit spread and I loved it that way! Maybe that’s why I don’t like store bought jam, the store jam consistency is more like super thick jello with very little fruit where my jam is packed with fruit and has a soft consistency, I found it delicious. But I also didn’t put it into the fridge, so maybe it gets thicker and sets after some time in the fridge. The “pectin” package said that some jams take a couple days to set firm. Either way, I liked it just the way it came out. Oh and I used 1/2 the sugar. I mean 4 cups of sugar for 4 cups of fruit – yuck! I used 2 1/2 cups of sugar and 2 would have also been fine.
Now the Brioche: Don’t fear the yeast! I know lots of folks who find baking with yeast hard, but its not, you just have to follow three guiding principles: 1. All your ingredients HAVE to be at room temperature. 2. Let the yeast bloom (meaning mix it into warm milk (115 degrees) with 1/2 a teaspoon sugar and wait for 10 minutes, if it foams, its good and you can use it.) 3. Put the dough in a warm place to raise. I heat up the oven to 100 degrees, turn it off and put the dough into the oven and close the door, that way the room temperature doesn’t matter. And last but not least – have time! Sometimes dough rises in 30 minutes, sometimes it needs 2 hours.
Ingredients for the strawberry jam (makes 2 1/2 big glasses of jam)
- 2 pounds of hulled strawberries
- 2 – 2 1/2 cups sugar
- 1 package pectin (I used the sugar free one)
- Juice from one lemon
- 3 big or 8 small “ball jam jars”
- Hull the strawberries and mash them in a wide bowl with a potato masher. Don’t put them into a blender, you want to have lots of fruit pieces in your jam.
- Put the strawberries into a heavy bottom pot and mix in the pectin. Let it sit for 10 minutes
- In the meantime, clean your ball jam jars with hot water. This is very important step so that you can preserve your jam and it doesn’t start to mold because of any residue bacteria. There is special equipment for canning out there but I don’t have any of that with the exception of the ball jam jars, which I use as regular drinking jars and everything worked out fine. Just make sure the lids, the rings and the glasses are rinsed out with boiling hot water and then set on a paper towel upside down to drain out the water. They don’t have to be dry when you use them, just make sure there is not a whole bunch of water left in the jar.
- Now bring the mixture to a boil and add the sugar and the lemon juice, let it boil for 1-2 minutes, until the sugar is dissolved, it should boil the entire time.
- Take the mixture off the stove and ladle the jam into the jars – you might need gloves as the hot jam makes the jars really hot – wipe the rims, and seal the glasses with the lid and ring. Then put the glasses into a pot with boiling water. Let the glasses sit in the mildly boiling water for 10 minutes. Then take them out (tongs are needed – the glasses are ultra hot) and let them cool out (best on a rack). After an hour your glasses should be sealed, maybe even sooner, I did the test after an hour and the glasses were sealed (press down on the center of the lid and if it stays put its sealed, if it pops back up its not sealed and you have to use that glass of jam first and refrigerate it). Now you can keep the unopened glasses in your pantry for up to 6 months, no refrigeration needed!
Ingredients for 2 Brioche Breads:
- 2,5 cups of flour (possible a little bit more or less depending on the size of the eggs)
- 3/4 cup milk at room temperature
- 3 teaspoons instant yeast
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 6 egg yolks (keep the egg whites to make macaroons ;-)) at room temperature
- 2 eggs at room temperature
- 1 3/4 (almost 2) sticks butter at room temperature, us the rest to butter the bread forms
- 4 tablespoons sugar
- 1 tablespoon salt
- Additionally: 1 egg yolk and 2 teaspoons of milk for the egg wash, butter for the bread forms and a little bit of flour for kneading the dough
- Mix the milk (heat it to 115 degrees – this is important) with 1 teaspoon of sugar and the yeast. Let is sit for 10 minutes and see if the top is covered with a layer of foamy yeast, if it is, your yeast is good, if its not start over again, either the yeast was bad or the temperature of the milk was not right.
- Put all the other ingredients into a stand mixer and pour the yeast/milk mixture over it. Start the mixer off slow and then increase speed after the dough comes together. Don’t worry; what starts out as a sticky mess becomes beautifully satiny as it kneads. The dough should “ball up” all around the kneading hook. If it doesn’t; add a little bit more flour, one tablespoon at a time and see if the dough will form into a ball leaving the sides of the bowl “dough free” and “clean”.
- Once done, form the dough into a ball (it’ll be very soft), place it in a greased bowl, cover the bowl, and it let rise for 1 hour. I usually put my dough into a warm oven – not hot, just cozy warm, like 80-90 degrees. Some recipes recommend to refrigerate the dough overnight but I’ve never done it and it always comes out fine.
- After an hour (or when the dough has doubled) knead the dough by hand for a couple minutes and divide the dough into 2 pieces. Now you can put the dough into 2 buttered bread forms or you can form 12 little balls out of 1/2 of the dough and out of the second half make a braided loaf (easy 3 strand braid). Depending on the size of your bread form you might need 2 layers of 6 or 8 balls, so a total of 12 or 16 balls. Put one layer of 6 balls divided into 2 rows, so 3 each row on the bottom of the buttered bread form and then repeat with one more layer. My bread form needed 8 balls in two rows on the bottom and then the same on top (so a total of 16 balls, which made the other 1/2 of the dough smaller but still yielded a nice small braided bread).
- Cover lightly, and let rise for another hour or two, depending on when the volume doubled and it looks very puffy.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees and put the rack on the lowest shelf. Brush the dough with the mixture of one egg yolk and two teaspoons of milk. Place both pans into the oven (lowest rack) and bake for 40 minutes. If you have one bigger and one smaller loaf, bake the smaller loaf only 30 minutes or until it reads 190°F. Check the brioche after 15 minutes; tent with aluminum foil if it appears to be browning too quickly. Brioche should be a deep brown when done, should sound hollow when tapped, and will read 190°F at the center using an instant-read thermometer. (It’s easy to underbake, since it browns so quickly!) Remove the brioche from the oven, and remove it from the pan to cool completely on a rack.
Once done, cut into thick slices, butter up and slather with jam! I had some “Mexican Crema” left and put that on first and then the jam and it tasted heavenly! Ricotta and Jam would also be great. In Germany we pair the jam with “Quark” which I would describe as a thicker type of sour cream and the sour and sweet combo make for a great taste explosion in your mouth. Fork and Knife needed!
Of course you don’t have to make 2 loafs, but since its easy enough, I made 2 and will either freeze one, maybe make some bread pudding or some home made croutons, the possibilities with this delicious bread are endless. And so are the possibilities with the jam: spruce up plain yoghurt, mix a spoon or two into your vinaigrette and make strawberry vinaigrette for a spinach/strawberry salad or mix it into home made or store bought vanilla ice cream – endless like I said ;-).
Hmm…and just as I type up the endless possibilities for the Brioche and Jam, Mike comes home and asks: What have you been making (smelling the sweet scent in the air)? Me: Bread. Mike: Are you no longer on your diet? Me: No, I can’t stick with a diet. Mike: I take the 2nd loaf of bread and jam and bring it over to Sam. And that’s how the story goes – sometimes the best use for a loaf of bread in a household with a carb addicted member, is for it to give it to your friends!