“… in front of the spring, a flower-strewn bed …” – Euripides, Fragments: Aegeus
My life revolves around a string of obsessions. Whether it’s over a new food, weird flavour combination, vegetable, feeling or even word – it’s just the way I am. I love things wholly, and I love them intensely. My current obsession? Cookbooks.
Though I’ve always adored and collected cookbooks… either brand spanking new or dog-eared, much loved and used – over the past few months, too many cookbooks have been accumulated. A new arrival yields feelings of un-fettering and instantaneous joy, and much inspiration. I like to read them from cover-to-cover, discovering the author’s personal story, admiring the recipes and visually feasting in the photographs.
Lately though, I’ve been sharing these moments with my mother. Most afternoons, we come together to read and study. We pour out a cup of strong black tea, share a plate of whatever freshly baked good is on the table and snuggle into the couch, rugged up in piles of blankets. Then out comes the new cookbook.
Together, we devour each page, make “ooh and aah” sounds about recipes that amaze and discuss what we would (or wouldn’t) love to make and eat. We call this special time our “bouchon hour’, a ritual named after Thomas Keller’s infamous baking tome Bouchon Bakery – the first cookbook we sat down together and shared.
These are special moments, shared between mother and daughter, and times, that I know, cannot last forever. Maybe that’s why I continue to buy more and more cookbooks… to hold onto these times for just that little bit longer. Times that I do, and will, continue to cherish – for long into the future.
This Poached Champagne Grape Stuffed Brioche has been sitting in the back of my mind for months ever since I received a copy of Huckleberry, a cookbook celebrating good, classic baking. As we perused each page, my mother and I both agreed that out of all the recipes in the book, Huckleberry’s fresh blueberry stuffed brioche is what we were attracted to the most.
So I made it, but with a few changes. I’ve been quite intrigued with playing around with different flavour combinations of late so I opted to stuff my brioche with juicy muscat grapes that were first poached in a stick-y, sweet champagne infused syrup. And it turned out crazy good. The brioche was buttery, fluffy and oh-so moist… perfect on its own but given a delicious new flavour life and texture by the addition of the poached champagne grapes.
Pity I can’t share it all with you! But no worries, this Poached Champagne Grape Stuffed Brioche can be yours too. So make the recipe and enjoy it. This is a brioche that should not be missed out on nor failed to be shared with those you love.
- 1 ½ cups / 8.8 oz. / 250 g muscat grapes, or seedless dark grapes of choice
- ½ cup caster (superfine) sugar
- ¼ cup champagne
- ½ tsp. vanilla bean extract
- 3 tbsp. whole milk, at lukewarm temperature
- ¼ oz. / 7 g instant yeast sachet
- 2 cups + 4 tbsp. / 17 oz. / 480 g all-purpose flour
- 6 ½ tbsp. / 2.8 oz. / 80 g caster (superfine) sugar, divided
- 1 tsp. salt
- 3 eggs
- 1 egg yolk
- ½ cup + 2 tbsp. / 5 oz. / 140 g unsalted butter, very soft
- 2 egg yolks and 2 tbsp. heavy cream, whisked together for egg wash
- Add the grapes to the bowl of a small saucepan. In a separate small bowl, whisk together the caster sugar, champagne and vanilla. Pour this mixture over the grapes then set the saucepan over medium heat. Bring the liquid to a light boil, then reduce the heat to low and let the grapes simmer in the syrup until the sugar has dissolved, the liquid has become slightly thick and the grapes have just begun to burst and swell with juice. Remove from the heat then transfer the grapes and syrup into a small bowl to macerate and cool down until needed.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment, whisk together the lukewarm milk and yeast to form a smooth paste. Once smooth, add in the flour, 2 ½ tbsp. of sugar, salt, eggs and egg yolk. Mix on low speed until the dough begins to come together, 2 to 3 minutes.
- Increase the mixer speed to medium-low and work the dough for a further 6 minutes. Pause every few minutes or so to push the dough back down into the bowl and off the hook until it pulls off the sides and looks like strong bread dough.
- Reduce the mixer speed to low and slowly add in the butter, a little at a time, over the course of 3 minutes. Pause to scrape down the bowl and dough hook as needed. When the butter begins to blend in, increase the mixer speed to medium-high to fully incorporate the butter and bring the dough back together, 6 minutes longer.
- Dump the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and press into a 16-by-10 inch / 40-by-15 cm rectangle. It does not need to be exact. Position the dough vertically, with the shortest side facing you. Strain the grapes from their syrup, then distribute the grapes and 2 tbsp. of the sugar along the top edge. Gently roll the dough down toward you, into a log. Place on a greased sheet pan, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or preferably, overnight.
- Grease and line a 9-by-5 inch / 23-by-12 cm loaf pan. Re-shape the dough one last time by pressing it gently into an approximate 12-by-6 inch / 30.5-by-15 cm rectangle and cover with the remaining 2 tbsp. of sugar. With the dough positioned vertically, roll down toward you, tightly this time. Place the log into the prepared loaf pan, loosely cover it in plastic wrap and allow it to rise in a warm place until more than doubled in size, about 3 hours.
- As the brioche nears readiness, pre-heat your oven to 350 F / 180 C. Carefully brush the dough with the egg wash then liberally sprinkle the top with extra sugar. Bake until golden, 40 to 45 minutes. Allow to cool for about 15 minutes in the pan before transferring to a cooling rack.