Thursday, December 10, 2009

Looking for a reasonably healthful holiday treat?

Well, look no further. This little brioche might just do the trick! It is rich in chocolate, dried cherries and hazelnuts but rather low on fat and sugar, completely butter-free and made with a healthy proportion of white whole wheat... To top it all, it doesn't contain a single speck of commercial yeast. What's not to like? Of course it doesn't compare to a pan d'oro but, for health reasons, who would eat (or make for that matter) a pan d'oro more than a few times a year? My family likes to munch on something chocolatey while watching the kids open their presents. This year, I think I'll make this brioche (but I'll double the proportions). The idea comes from a slim French book entitled Les Pains des Quatre-Saisons, an appealing compilation of bread recipes (sometimes with accompanying memories) contributed by readers of an organic gardening magazine. I took some liberties with the recipe to adapt it both to our taste and to the family health requirements. Ingredients (for one smallish brioche): For the dough 150 g unbleached all-purpose flour 100 g white whole wheat flour 20 g agave syrup 1 egg, beaten + 1 other, beaten as well for the wash 50 g milk (you might need more according to how thirsty your flour is), at room temperature 50 g roasted hazelnut oil (the hazelnut oil contributes nicely to the taste but, if not available, a neutral vegetable oil - not canola - will do), at room temperature (soft butter is used in the original recipe) 40 g mature white starter 1 pinch of salt For the garnish 60 g hazelnuts, roasted and skinned, chopped 50 g dried cherries, quick-soaked in warm milk and drained 50 g good quality dark chocolate chips, chopped
  1. Pour the flour in a large bowl
  2. Make a well in the center and pour in: milk, salt, agave syrup, egg, starter
  3. Mix well, adding milk as necessary
  4. When incorporated and gluten is starting to develop, progressively add the oil
  5. Continue mixing until smooth and flexible (but the dough should be rather firm)
  6. Ferment in a tightly covered bowl until doubled in volume (in my case, it took 12 hours @ 68ºF/20ºC)
  7. When the dough is ready, preheat the oven to 400ºF/204ºC, making sure there is an empty cast-iron (or other metal) pan at the bottom and a baking stone (if available) on the middle rack
  8. With a rolling pin, flatten the dough into a rectangle (0.20"/0.5 cm thick), spread the garnish on the rectangle, taking care to stay away from the edges
  9. Roll the dough tight, as you would a jelly roll and pinch the ends closed
  10. Shape as desired and set on a parchment-covered baking sheet, brush with the egg wash and let rise another 40 minutes inside a tightly closed plastic bag
  11. Pour 1 cup of water in waiting cast-iron (or metal) pan and slide the brioche into the oven
  12. Spray the oven once with water and close the door
  13. After 20 minutes, rotate the brioche
  14. Bake another 30 minutes and cool on wire rack.
Raisins (soaked in rum or not) could be used instead of cherries, white chocolate instead of dark and, if opting for raisins, you might want to use walnuts instead of hazelnuts and to spice up the whole thing with some cinnamon. You can also use only all-purpose flour and replace the agave syrup by sugar (which was in the original recipe). However you end up making it, enjoy!


  1. Looks very festive...I like the snowy look...
    or is it real...LOL
    I am getting closer to a proofing chamber and
    a better understanding of the pan d'oro process..been doing some research...
    have a great sojourn...

  2. Love this recipe! I've been experimenting with agave syrup and I love dried berries and hazelnuts, I've got to try it!

  3. Qué receta tan estupenda! El sirope de agave es una buena alternativa al azúcar :)

    gracias y unas Felices Fiestas!


  4. @Miriam, let me know what berry/nut combination you try.
    @Carmen, muchas gracias! Igualmente!

  5. Hi, I am looking at your recipe which calls for 40g of mature white starter. How do I make this white starter?

    1. Hi Mich, you may want to google the question of how to make a levain (a starter) or look it up in a book at your local library: Nancy Silverton's Breads from the La Brea Bakery, Jeffrey Hamelman's Bread, and How to make bread by Emmanuel Hadjiandreou all come to mind but there are many others. You can also buy starter from King Arthur or from a website like Northwest Sourdough. But before you do that, you should know that starters are cultures which need to be kept alive (a little bit like kefir grains) and so it is a commitment. You can achieve the same kind of leavening (although a different flavor) by using a one-time pre-ferment (a poolish or a sponge for instance). Best of luck, MC



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