Pumpkin Brioche & French Toast

I hope all of you aren’t getting sick of pumpkin. I’m not! I recently made one of my favorite treats – Pumpkin Brioche. There are many things you can do with this dough, but this time I made it into loaves for the Best French Toast Ever. Yup. That’s right. You’ll agree with me when you eat it yourself. The pumpkin and spices, soaked in a custard, cooked until golden and then topped off with some fresh whip cream. Are you drooling yet? 

Now to have this as your delicious Sunday brunch, you’ll have to do a little planning ahead. Never fear though, while it is a little time consuming, there isn’t much hands on. Just a lot of waiting and you can knock off other things on your to-do list while you wait. This recipe is once again from Ciril Hitz, although I’m not sure what book it is from because it is a recipe I picked up in culinary school.

You’ll follow a similar technique to Classic Brioche, except this recipe has a starter called a Biga. The biga is super easy, but you need to plan for it to rest for at least 12 hours, preferrably 24. The biga has very little yeast so it won’t rise much, but it will help enhance the flavor.

Biga

  • 312 g    (11 oz)  Bread Flour
  • 190 g     (6.75 oz) Milk
  • Pinch instant yeast

Mix all ingredients together and then knead by hand until it forms a somewhat smooth, but still dry, dough. It will seem as though something is wrong, but it’s not. As long as it is mixed and kneaded, it will be fine and should look something like this: 

Cover and let rest at room temperature for up to 24 hours.

The next day…..gather all your ingredients and keep the cold stuff cold.

  • 500 g (17.6 oz) Bread flour
  • 1 egg
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 8 g (1 1/4 tsp) instant yeast
  • 25 g (0.9 oz) milk
  • 11.5 g (0.5 oz) salt
  • 375 g (almost 1 can) pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie!)
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 65 g (2.3 oz) sugar
  • 50 g (1.76 oz) honey
  • 125 g (4.4 oz) butter

Place all your ingredients, except for the butter, in your mixing bowl. It helps to put the liquids in first, then your biga (which you can cut into pieces), and then the dry ingredients. Keep your butter aside for later. Mix on speed 1 for five minutes. While the dough is mixing, make your butter pliable.

After the clean up stage, increase to speed 2-4, depending on your mixer. I usually do speed 4. Slowly incorporate your butter adding a little at a time and waiting until fully incorporated before adding more. Remember, this process will take about 15 minutes.

After all the butter is incorporated, mix until a good gluten window has formed and the dough is smooth.

Empty dough into a container sprayed with cooking spray and perform a stretch and fold. Let rest for 45 minutes and perform another stretch and fold. After another 45 minutes, the dough should be ready. But, if it looks like it needs a little more time (perhaps your kitchen is cold?) then let it rise a bit longer until double.

A loaf is the easiest way to do this dough if you are making it for french toast. We will explore other options (such as filling with pastry cream!) another time.

This will make two big loaves of dough. It would probably make three loaves if you like your slices a little on the smaller side. So, depending on your preference, divide your dough up into two or three equal parts. Loosely shape your dough into rectangles and lightly flatten. Then, to shape into loaves, fold half the dough over towards itself and then the other half so they meet in the middle.

One side folded over to the center. Repeat with the other half.

When both sides are in the center, fold one side again so that it completely covers the other side and seal by lightly “hammering” with the side of your hand. Then flip the dough over and cup both ends with your hands and pull gently towards yourself repeatedly until the seam has sealed. Once it is sealed, place the dough in a prepared bread pan (sprayed lightly) and let rest until double. To create a home proofer, put both loaves in the oven and spray the oven with water. If this isn’t possible, just cover with a damp towel.

Before proofing.

After proofing.

After proofing, brush lightly with egg wash. If you made two big loaves, preheat your oven to 325F. I made the mistake of baking at 375 and the very top burned ever so slightly, so I’d recommend baking a lower temperature. Bake until a thermometer in the center (insert thermometer from the side or bottom, not the top) reads 160F. If you made three smaller loaves, then 375F should be fine.

After a few minutes, remove loaves from pan (don’t let sit in pan for more than 10 minutes or bread may become soggy) and let cool completely on a cooling rack. This will be hard to do. You will want to taste it. Resist the urge!

After cooling you can do what you wish. Make toast with cinnamon sugar (yum!) or make French Toast, which as mentioned earlier was my sole purpose for making this bread.

My favorite french toast recipe is from Alton Brown, modified slightly.

  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 TB honey, warm
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon

Mix all ingredients together. Slice your bread and preheat oven to 250. Set up a cooling rack over a sheet pan. Place another sheet pan in the oven. Preheat a pan and have butter ready. Dip your bread in the custard and let each side soak for about 30 seconds. Move to cooling rack so excess can drip off. Add butter to your pan and brown the bread on each side, then move to oven to keep warm until you are finished with all the bread and custard.

Then, if you so desire, make some whip cream. I used about a cup of heavy cream, a couple tablespoons of powdered sugar, and some grand marnier. Whip until fluffy. This is all done to taste, so just experiment with what you like.

And then…dig in!

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3 Comments

Filed under bread

3 responses to “Pumpkin Brioche & French Toast

  1. Jayma

    Yeah, I *definitely* need to make this!!! I just made french toast for the first time using a king arthur recipe (had to get challah from whole foods in a pinch!)

  2. transplantednorth

    my family loves pumpkin anything and I am happy for it because of all the nutrients it contains. I also make a pumpkin brioche as a braided challah this time of year. We eat it as is, or I can make pumpkin cornbread stuffiing for Thanskgiving. Then there is pumpkin chocolate chip muffins, pumpkin waffles, it goes on and on. Beautiful photos.

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