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Recipes with Brioche

After yesterday’s post, I realized I could have written about 10,000 more words about brioche and its many uses. Chances are you just want me to get to the recipes and not the reasoning/science behind it, but I do want to explain a little bit more about this delicious bread.

Brioche is lovely toasted with jam and butter. It makes a rich, flavourful bun for burgers, sausages and lobster rolls (as you’ll find in Clodagh McKenna’s restaurant at the Arnott’s in Dublin) and, at Christmas time, I love to add dried fruit and nuts to the dough to make a decorative (and delicious) bread wreath drizzled with orange vanilla glaze. It’s so versatile. It’s a well-known fact that the most delicious grilled sandwich you’ll ever consume features brioche (croque monsieur/madame, anyone?) and, probably the simplest (and my favourite) way to enjoy brioche is by using it to make French toast and bread pudding.

If you let the bread sit and dry out slightly for a day or two, brioche absorbs liquid and flavour perfectly. There are a few other breads that make excellent “absorbers” like challah, pannetone or even day old croissants (which is what we used for our baked French toast at the restaurant), but for me, nothing beats brioche when it comes to the perfect French toast or bread pudding.

The following are two of my favourite recipes for each. This past weekend we had a decadent brunch of French toast with Canadian maple syrup (of course!) and fresh Irish cherries while my father-in-law was visiting. It was divine! Then, to use up the last of my brioche batch from last week I made a very simple orange and vanilla bread pudding served with a classic crème anglaise.

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Perfect-Every-Time French Toast

Ingredients:

1 loaf 1-2 day old brioche, thickly sliced

10 eggs, room temperature

2 tsp good quality vanilla

1/2 cup sugar (can be substituted with honey or maple syrup)

3/4 cup whole milk or heavy cream (cream is obviously better, but not necessary)

butter

maple syrup (for drizzling)

mixed fruit or berries of your choice (strawberries, cherries and blueberries are my faves)

Directions:

  • In a deep casserole dish, mix the eggs, sugar, vanilla and milk or heavy cream (this mixture is also called a sweet crème royale – you can use the same mixture of eggs and cream for a quiche, minus the sweet stuff). You don’t want to see any chunks of egg left in the royale mixture, so whisk it well (or, for even better results, whisk it using a hand or stand mixer).
  • Fit as many slices of brioche in the royale-filled casserole dish as you can. While letting the bread slices soak, heat a non-stick or cast iron frying pan over medium heat.
  • Flip the soaking bread slices to ensure both sides are evenly soaked. When the bread is fully soaked through, melt some butter in the hot pan and place as many slices in as you can. Cook evenly on both sides. Repeat this process until the entire loaf has been used (there should be enough royale mixture for 10-12 slices of brioche).
  • When the French toast has been evenly cooked on both sides (to a golden brown), I usually place the finished toasts on a lined baking sheet and keep them warm in a 200 degree oven (95 degrees Celsius) until ready to serve.
  • When all the French toast has been made, serve hot with maple syrup and fresh fruit.

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Orange Vanilla Bread Pudding with Warm Crème Anglaise

Ingredients:

1/2 loaf of 1-2 day old brioche or two large brioche rolls (I just use my leftovers for this recipe, this time it was two leftover hamburger buns)

1/3 cup sugar (or honey, or maple syrup)

2 eggs, room temperature

1/2 cup heavy cream

2 tsp good quality vanilla

rind of one orange

For the Crème Anglaise:

1/2 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup milk

2 Tbsp sugar

2 egg yolks

1 tsp vanilla

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees (180 Celsius, no fan). Slice the brioche into 1 inch cubes. Butter a round sandwich tin (or if you have a small casserole dish this will work, too). Place bread cubes into the buttered dish.
  • In a bowl, whisk eggs, sugar, cream, vanilla and orange rind to make a creamy royale mix. Pour royale over the brioche cubes and leave for 30 minutes so the bread absorbs as much moisture as possible.
  • Cover with tin foil and bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, remove the tin foil and return the pudding to the oven for an addition 15 minutes.
  • Make the crème anglaise: heat the cream, milk, vanilla and 1 Tbsp sugar in a heavy bottomed saucepan. You don’t want the mixture to boil, but you want it to start to bubble around the sides of the pot. Remove from heat.
  • Whisk the egg yolks and remaining 1 Tbsp sugar until the mixture is pale yellow and ribbon-ey. Temper the eggs by adding a splash of hot milk and mixing well (this avoids a potential “scrambled egg” situation). Once the egg mixture is tempered, add the remaining hot milk mixture while stirring constantly.
  • Return to the saucepan and heat, stirring constantly, on medium-low until the crème anglaise has thickened (and easily coats the back of a spoon). Remove from heat and cool slightly before serving with the warm bread pudding.
  • Take the finished pudding out of the oven (the final 15 minutes are more for colour than anything else) and cool slightly in the dish. Slide a knife around the edge of the dish and carefully remove the pudding from the dish. Serve warm with warm crème anglaise.

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