Beer Brioche

12 04 2013

Which came first, the bread or the beer? And what happens if you use beer as the liquid in bread? I can’t answer that first question with any certainty, but I can tell you that the second is a worthy experiment.

shapingbrioche

Curious about the flavor that a beer might impart to bread – whether the hops would be discernible, what the yeast would think of the alcohol, how gluten development would be affected, etc., yes, I’m kind of science-nerdy sometimes – I went about adapting a brioche recipe because I had a hankering for fresh hamburger buns and also because I like the way it sounds: beer brioche. It’s just as nice in French: brioche à la bière.

after proofing, round 2

My first attempt was not a success. I waited and waited, but the dough simply refused to rise. I worried that I may have killed the yeast with the alcohol in the beer, but then I told myself that beer doesn’t usually reach the alcohol concentrations required to kill yeast. So it probably wasn’t that. But it was definitely something. The yeast were there, they were moving, but so slowly that even after four hours in a warm, humid space created just for their liking in my oven, my rolls had barely puffed at all. I went ahead and baked them, and ate them, but they were heavy and dense and nearly cakelike. I considered that too much butter may have been the culprit – brioche is notorious for making life difficult for yeast with all that added fat requiring heavy lifting – and made a mental note to adjust the amount.

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Coulibiac/Kulebiaka

26 08 2008

So here is my other contender for entry into the Royal Foodie Joust at The Leftover Queen.

Coulebiac with Quinoa and Ginger

Coulibiac is the French name for the Russian dish Kulebiaka.  Traditionally, it consists of fish (usually salmon), baked in a brioche crust with rice, egg, and mushrooms, seasoned with lemon and dill.  It’s one of those seriously old-school recipes that would be right at home on a table laid by Carême.  Or it would be if you made it with an entire fish, and then shaped the brioche crust to look like a fish complete with glistening egg-washed scales and maybe an olive for the eye.

By comparison, my recipe is simple, though it looks like a monster undertaking.  (Writing it all down was no walk in the park, I’ll tell you that.)  But if you’re organized, you really can do all the prep while you’re waiting for the brioche to rise.  I made a few changes to the traditional dish, swapping out the rice in favor of quinoa and adding a hint of ginger.  I replaced the dill with fresh chives, because I thought they would be a better complement to the ginger.  I also omitted the egg, as it seemed extraneous.  And I threw some whole wheat flour into the brioche dough to increase the whole-grain factor.

Mushrooms sautéed with ginger and chives

After setting the brioche dough aside to rest, I started with the mushrooms.  Sautéed in butter and seasoned with salt, pepper, and fresh ginger, then finished with white wine and fresh chives, I could have eaten these on their own.  But they were destined for bigger things, so I set them aside to keep the brioche company.  While they were cooking, I simmered the quinoa in water seasoned with salt and ginger.  I undercooked it slightly in hopes that it would come out of the final dish perfectly cooked.  Lemon zest and more chives brightened up the flavor and then that, too, had to wait.

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