A while back I saw an episode of Hubert Keller's Secrets of Chefs on making brioche. Now, brioche is a very buttery French bread with a thin flaky crust and a light, almost cake-like interior. Anyway, what caught my attention was the fact that Mr. Keller baked the bread in small terra cotta pots. I finally got around to trying it a few days ago and thought I would share the process, so here we go.
Step 1: The Pots
Mr. Keller used the miniature terra cotta pots to make individual brioche rolls, but the smallest I could find were the 4.25" size (any size will work though). They were a little less than a dollar a piece so you won't be breaking the bank by getting a few; I bought four, which turned out to be perfect for the recipe I had. On a side note, there were two options for pots: made in china or made in Italy. I opted for the Italian made pots since they felt like a little better quality, go figure.
Now, before you can start baking in the pots you need to clean and season them. To clean them, I scrubbed them down with a damp cloth. Then to season them you have a couple options. Mr. Keller recommends that you deep fry the pots for 8-10 minutes and let them cool. This is pretty quick, but not all of us have deep fryers and they do take a lot of oil. The other option is to wipe the pots down liberally with cooking oil (I prefer olive), bake them in a 275* Fahrenheit oven for about thirty minutes, let them cool, and repeat three times.
Once the pots have been seasoned, you can bake in them immediately. When cleaning the pots after each use, avoid soap, seriously. All you really need to do is scrape any food off and rinse them out with water. You might wipe the inside lightly with oil every now and them, but other than that, they don't need a lot of care.
Step 2: The Brioche
The recipe I used came from traditional-food.com, and it is for just the basic brioche. I have read recipes that add just about any spice you can think of, from saffron to lemon zest, so don't hesitate to be creative with extra flavoring.
When working the dough, it will be very wet, almost batter-like, so it definitely needs the refrigerator time to set up. Also don't be worried about overworking the dough, Huber Keller says that added elasticity actually helps this bread.
Sorry I don't have a picture of the dough, I'll try to remember to take a few and add them the next time I make brioche.
1 package active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water (105 to 115 degrees F)
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg white
1 cup butter, softened
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon water
Dissolve yeast in warm water in large mixer bowl. Add sugar, salt 4 eggs, egg white, butter and 2 cups of the flour. Beat on low speed, scraping bowl constantly, for 30 seconds. Beat on medium speed, scraping bowl occasionally, for 10 minutes. Stir in remaining flour until smooth. Scrape batter from side of bowl. Cover with plastic wrap; let rise in warm place until double, about 1 hour.
Stir down batter by beating about 25 strokes. Cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap; refrigerate at least 8 hours.
Stir down batter which will be soft and slightly sticky. Divide the dough into quarters and shape into somewhat oblong balls on lightly floured surface.
Place balls into pots, patting to fit. Cover and let rise until double, about 1 1/2 hours. (I just let them rise uncovered in the oven.)
Beat egg yolk and 1 tablespoon water slightly; brush over tops. Do not let egg-yolk mixture accumulate around edges of pans.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Beat egg yolk and 1 tablespoon water slightly; brush over tops. Do not let egg-yolk mixture accumulate around edges of pans. Bake until golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Immediately remove from pans. (Baking time in my oven was exactly 25 min.)
When removing the brioche from the pots, you might need to use a knife or spatula to break them loose from the rim.
Step 3: The Result
Finally after all that hard work and waiting, you get to enjoy your delicious flower pot brioche. There's not a lot you can't enjoy on brioche, but in my opinion, it is at its best warm from the oven with a little butter on top. Bon apetite!