Grande Tête Brioche

Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Medium

Appears in

Bread

By Jeffrey Hamelman

Published 2004

  • About

Method

  1. Dividing and Shaping: Refer to the illustrations for a visual description of the shaping process. This traditional shape (which translates to “big head”) is formed using 2 balls of dough, in this case 1 ball weighs 9 ounces and the second weighs 3 ounces (these weights are for a mold that is inches in diameter at the opening, with 14 flutes). Round the balls tightly and allow them to relax for 2 or 3 minutes. Take the larger ball and place it into the mold, with seams down. Using both thumbs, hollow out the center, bringing the thumbs down to the very bottom of the dough, leaving just a thin film of dough at the bottom (refer to illustrations A through D). Now take the 3-ounce ball, turn it onto its side, and using the flat part of your hand, taper it to a cone shape; the seam side of the ball should become the point of the cone, and the smooth side is the rounded part. Insert the cone into the hollowed out larger piece, with the round side up (illustrations E and F). Now begins the process of adhering the head (smaller piece) of the dough to the body (larger piece). Keep flour close by, and be sure the first two fingers on your shaping hand remain dry the entire time. For right-handed bakers, use your left thumb to pull the head of the brioche towards the left—this exposes the “neck” on the right side of the dough. Plunge the floured index and middle fingers of your right hand at about a 30-degree angle into the dough, at the junction where the head meets the body of the dough. Dive down until your fingers can feel the metal at the bottom of the mold (illustration G). Remove the fingers, rotate the dough about one-sixth of a turn, and repeat. Continue in this manner until the head is securely fastened to the body (illustration H). You will in all likelihood make two or three complete circuits before the head is adequately affixed. Note the following: dry fingers are imperative so they don’t stick to either the head or the body; each plunging of the fingers should go all the way to the bottom of the body of the dough so that there is a clear distinction between the head and the body, and each plunging should remove a little of the dough from the body—not the head, and with each stroke the head becomes more and more integrated into the body; it is important that the fingers enter the dough at an angle—if you insert them vertically, too much of the body will diminish and the proportion between head and body will be imbalanced.

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  2. Proofing: Proof the Grande Tête for about 1½ hours 80°F, until the dough almost entirely fills the mold.
  3. Baking: Egg wash the dough lightly but thoroughly, snip the body 5 times with a scissors held vertically, and at even intervals around the perimeter of the dough. This helps the brioche rise evenly. Bake in a 380°F oven for about 28 minutes. The finished brioche should have a rich and deeply golden crust and an unforgettably fragrant aroma. If underbaked, there will not be sufficient structure to hold the brioche up, and it will cave in and collapse, a woeful and avoidable sight.

Variation

Little brioches à tête are similar to their more imposing relatives with one main exception—they are shaped from just one ball of dough. Here’s how to fashion the head and body portions: After letting a tightly shaped ball of dough relax for 2 or 3 minutes, turn the ball onto its side (illustrations A and B). For right-handed bakers, the seam side of the dough should be facing towards the right. Place the side of your hand on the dough so that roughly one-third of the dough is to the left of your fingers (the “good” side of the dough, which will become the head of the brioche), and the remaining two-thirds of the dough is to the right (the eventual body of the dough). Illustration C shows the correct hand position. Roll your hand back and forth over the dough a few times in order to create a neck of sorts, with the head on one side and body on the other. Use enough pressure so that there is a clear delineation between the two parts of the brioche, but avoid decapitating the head. When finished, the brioche looks something like a bowling pin (illustration D). With your thumb and two fingers, plunge the brioche into the mold (illustration E) and proceed with the final shaping as for the Grande Tête brioche above, with the thumb pulling the head to the side so the fingers can enter the dough from an angle (if your hands are large, use just one finger). Comprising less dough weight, these brioches rise slightly quicker, about 1¼ hours at 80°F. Brioche molds that are 3 inches in diameter at the opening, with 10 flutes, hold about 1.8 ounces of dough; bake time is approximately 14 minutes at 380°F.

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