There are many iconic symbols of France, whether they be the coq gaulois, the tri coloured flag, la tour Eiffel, le croissant… but for me, a cutie that I cannot bypass is the brioche a tête, with his stout, adorable fluted body and a little round head atop!
There is something utterly romantic about sitting down to a breakfast of brioche à tête that feels so luxurious. The form alone, is adorable and splitting one into two pieces makes way for a lovely slather of home made jam. Whilst fossicking in a brocante once, I came across the marvellous tea service platter featured in this post, a vintage piece including a tray with croissants as cupping handles and little fluted brioches as the milk jug and sugar bowl. Alas I know there are other pieces that are missing and I doubt I shall ever find them, but how I so love this service!
The famous writer, Alexandre Dumas proposes the theory that Brioche is named as it is because it supposedly used to have the cheese ‘brie’ in it’s dough. What a curious thought! There are so many forms of brioche that are different, whether it be the brioche de Nanterre, which is a loaf shape with two rows of little domes across the surfaces, or brioche vendéenne, which is flavoured with orange flower water and often uses crème fraîche as one of it’s ingredients. There is the fabulous pogne, which is found in Romans-sur-Isere and that is a favourite of my husband. There are plaited brioche, others strewn with large sugar grains, some leaning toward the flavour of vanilla, others toward orange flower water. Some studded with enormous nuggets of brightest pink sugared almond confections called pralines.
Brioche à tête (brioche parisienne)
500g all purpose flour
1/2 cube of fresh yeast
1 tsp salt
80 mls milk
90g of sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract (or use vanilla sugar)
20g vanilla sugar
Dissolve the yeast in the milk at room temperature, Leave to froth for 10 minutes. If it doesn’t foam, throw it out and start again. Add the flour, sugar, vanilla and salt, working in the eggs, before adding the soft butter. Knead this lovely glossy mixture for a good 10 minutes, then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 12 hours.
Remove from the refrigerator and knead a little on a floured surface, before forming into a series of balls of two sizes – a smaller and larger to drop into greased, small fluted tins and then a larger to balance on top. Join the two together by piercing through the centre with a skewer, cover and leave to rise an hour.
Preheat the oven to 200°C and bake the brioche until they become puffy and golden. You may wish to glaze them with egg yolk before baking, but I find them quite lovely with their golden, matt finish.
When well baked, tip them out onto a cooling rack or invert in their little tins to cool.