Brioche Braid

Briochestriezel

Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Medium

  • Makes

    1

    very large braid

Appears in

One morning, I sat in on baking classes at the prestigious technical school Berufsschule für den Lebensmittel-Textilbereich, Technische Zeichner und Zahntechniker (BS LTZ), where they include textile design and dental technology along with culinary studies. I had already met some of the students because they were the apprentices at some of the best bakeries in Vienna. I recognized a young woman whom I had seen stretching strudel dough at Demel just the day before, and I was able to compliment her professionalism in front of her professor/chef. This put me in very good stead with the teachers, who responded by sharing some of their favorite recipes with me.

Here’s a recipe for an outstanding sweet bread from Paul Skop, director of the BS LTZ. It is an old family favorite; the recipe he wrote down for me is entitled Briochestriezel von Opa, or “Grandpa’s Brioche Braid.” It makes a very large braid, one that just might last an entire weekend with lots of guests. Under normal circumstances, cut the loaf in half and freeze one piece for another time. Even stale, this bread can be revived in the toaster, and it also makes incredible French toast.

Read more

Ingredients

Sponge

  • 1 ounce (½ cube) fresh compressed yeast or teaspoons (about envelopes) active dry yeast
  • ½ cup milk (heated to 105° to 115°F if using dry yeast)
  • ¼ teaspoon sugar
  • ½ cup unbleached flour

Dough

  • ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons milk
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 tablespoon golden rum
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • teaspoons salt
  • cups unbleached flour, as needed
  • 7 tablespoons (½ stick plus 3 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • ½ cup golden raisins
  • 1 large egg, well beaten, for glaze
  • 3 tablespoons pearl sugar, optional (see Note)

Method

  1. To make the sponge: Crumble the yeast into the milk in a small bowl and add the sugar. Let stand for 3 minutes. Add the flour and whisk until smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand in a warm place until bubbly and doubled in volume, about 30 minutes.
  2. To make the dough: Mix the sponge, milk, sugar, egg yolk, rum, lemon juice, and salt in the bowl of a heavy-duty standing mixer. Attach to the mixer and fit with the paddle blade. On low speed, add enough of the flour (about cups) to make a sticky dough. One tablespoon at a time, beat in the butter, allowing each addition to be absorbed before adding more. The dough will look somewhat shaggy at this point.
  3. Stop the machine and gather the dough in the bowl into a ball. Change to the dough hook. Knead the dough on medium-low speed, gradually adding about ¼ cup flour, until the dough is smooth and glossy, about 6 minutes. During the last minute of kneading, add the raisins.
  4. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and knead to check the texture; if the dough doesn’t stick to the work surface, it has enough flour. Form into a ball and place in a large, well-buttered bowl. Turn the dough to coat with butter. Cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let stand in a warm place until doubled in volume, about ½ hours.
  5. Transfer the dough to a clean, flourless work surface and knead briefly. Cut the dough into three equal portions. Working with one piece of dough at a time, loosely covering the other pieces with plastic wrap, roll the dough back and forth on the work surface, pressing down on the dough at the same time, slowly moving your hands apart until the dough is stretched into a 17-inch-long rope. As the ropes are formed, cover loosely with plastic wrap.
  6. Vertically line up the three ropes next to each. Begin the braid from the center to one end, dropping the ropes loosely into place without stretching them. When you have finished half of the braid, pinch the ends together. Flip the dough over with the unbraided ropes facing you. Braid from the center to the other end, and pinch the ends together.
  7. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the braid on the baking sheet and slip the sheet into a “tall” kitchen plastic bag. Close the bag and let stand in a warm spot until the braid is doubled in volume, 45 to 60 minutes.
  8. Meanwhile, position a rack in the center of the oven and heat to 350°F. Remove the baking sheet from the plastic bag. Brush the braid with some of the beaten egg. Sprinkle with the pearl sugar, if using.
  9. Bake until the braid is golden brown, 35 to 40 minutes. During the last 10 minutes of baking, if the braid seems to be browning too deeply, cover it loosely with aluminum foil. Transfer to a wire rack and cool completely.

,