When you combine high butterfat butter, duck eggs, pastry cream, and dark chocolate, only good things can happen. One of my tasters just asked me “are these good for you?” while holding a brioche au chocolat in one hand. I recited the list of ingredients in sing song voice and said “nothing that you cannot pronounce, right?”. As far as treats go, these buttery buns filled with pastry cream and dark chocolate are worthy candidates. They may not be wholesome like fruit and vegetable. But I would pick homemade brioche au chocolat over potato chips any day.
I had the urge to make brioche since last week but the warming weather suggested my craving was misdirected. Although the kitchen remained cool enough to work with copious amount of butter, it felt wrong to turn on the oven. I distracted myself briefly by looking at no-bake dessert recipes but I could not get brioche out of my mind. Last night I finally came up with a justification. I wanted my house to smell nice when the insurance agent arrived for home inspection. Freshly baked bread ranks right up there along with apple pie as my choice of home fragrance.
At first I was drawn to Joanne Chang’s recipe for brioche au chocolat in the first Flour cookbook. Upon closer look, I wasn’t keen on making brioche dough using the traditional French method that slowly works softened butter into the dough. Then I recalled Cook’s Illustrated poor man’s brioche using a food processor. With only 3oz of butter to 11.25oz of flour, the dough is much leaner than most brioche recipes. Normally it would be a deal breaker for me. I mean, the point of brioche is the immense buttery taste and delicate crumb! But in the context of brioche au chocolat, it makes sense. A generous filling of pastry cream and dark chocolate more than compensate for the lack of butter in the brioche itself.
Of course I could not leave well enough alone. Instead of regular chicken egg, I used duck egg for the brioche dough. The soft pliable dough at first looked too wet to be kneaded by hand before an overnight chill in the fridge. To my utter surprise, it was not terribly difficult to work with. The dough smoothed into a ball easily enough.
I went back to Chang’s recipe for brioche au chocolat for further directions. I made her version of pastry cream replacing cake flour with cornstarch. The amount was just right to fill one batch of brioche. As soon as I woke up, I took the risen dough out of the fridge to take off some chill. I rolled it out to 20x10 inch rectangle and spread with pastry cream, leaving half inch border along the top and bottom. I scattered a lot of dark chocolate chips over the bottom half of the dough and folded in half. I sealed the long side of the dough carefully and divided into 2-inch pieces using a bench scraper. When I moved the buns to a parchment paper lined baking sheet, I tucked the sealed edge under itself to ensure every piece was of even thickness.
Once the buns proofed, I egg-washed the tops generously with a mixture of egg yolk and water. I sprinkled plenty of sanding sugar to create a crunchy sugary topping. The buns took merely 25 minutes to bake. The pastry cream filling puffed slightly during baking and held on to the melted chocolate beautifully. The brioche was light and delicate. It was fancy bakery treat made right here at home. Chang’s recipe for Pain au Raisin also looks terribly tempting. I better make it before the weather turns warm for real.