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Good brioche is impossibly buttery but not heavy; feathery but more substantial than cotton candy; tender but chewy; tempting as soon as it comes out of the oven, but just as good as French toast the next day.
The brioche in Soframiz, a new cookbook from Boston's Sofra Bakery and Café, has all of these qualities—and them some. Because Maura Kilpatrick, who co-wrote the book with Ana Sorturn, mixes 6 tablespoons of tahini into the brioche dough, which gives the final bread a "subtle, savory, and nutty" flavor. The tahini does not hit you over the head—rather, the "enriched enrichment" (my silly term, not hers) creates an earthy intrigue and an even more velvety texture.
Figuring that tahini isn't that unlike peanut butter in the arenas that would matter here (texture and fat content), I played Mad Baker-Scientist and replaced it for the tahini, one for one, in Maura's original recipe. (Cry "American obsession with peanut butter," if you must.)
Where the tahini is a background note, the peanut butter comes through strong. Six tablespoons of peanut butter goes further than six tablespoons of tahini—enough to make your kitchen smell like you're baking cross-hatched cookies; enough to make the final loaf taste like a peanut butter sandwich but without the tacky stickiness.
If you use commercial peanut butter (and I recommend it—natural peanut butters can be too grainy and inconsistent to incorporate nicely into the dough), the bread will also have an added sweetness that the tahini brioche does not. While Maura's tahini brioche is an elegant breakfast that would go well with Turkish coffee, the peanut butter version is more like an after-school snack, fit for a glass of milk.
But just imagine spreading it with Nutella or "cashewtella." Then imagine sprinkling cinnamon or layering banana slices over top.
Excited yet? That's only the beginning!
Whether you use tahini or peanut butter, think of all the ways you can shape and fill it!
Brioche dough is strong—ready to be stretched and twisted and lassoed in a million and one ways. Maura offers three options for shaping in Soframiz—
- Divide it in 12 balls and bake a bouquet of pull-apart rolls (topped with sesame seed confetti)...
- Divide it in half, then cut each half into three logs, and braid into 2 loaves...
- Use a quarter of it to make the Date Orange Brioche Tart, also in Soframiz, in which the dough proofs in a springform pan, then gets pressed down and topped with orange-y mascarpone, cooked dates, and halvah crumble
—but the limit does not exist!
- You could stuff each roll—with chocolate chips, apple or squash butter, blueberry preserves—as is done in this recipe.
- Or, you could roll out the dough into a sheet, spread it with jam or sprinkle it with streusel, roll it up into a fat log, and slice crosswise for swirly buns. Bake them side by side in a 9-by-13, give them individual compartments in a muffin tin, or snuggle them into a loaf pan (as I did in the photo above) and let nature takes it course.
- Or, you could take that rolled up log, cut it lengthwise to expose its layers, then twist the two strands together to make a swirl loaf (see a visual of that in the GIF below or read this article).
- Or, you could make braided loaves, as Maura suggests, but roll each one flat first, spread it with filling, then re-roll it into a log and braid away.
- Or you could try your hand at this insane (and festive) star shape.
Or, you could go try replacing the peanut butter with almond butter. Or, go back to the drawing board and use black tahini in place of the regular tahini. (If you try that last one, let me know.)
Head spinning yet? There's a lot of brioche in my future.
A note or two on the recipe:
- This recipes requires a stand mixer and it requires you to use it a lot—like nearly-30-minutes-of-active-mixing a lot. Do not start a riveting podcast right before you embark.
- My peanut butter dough was much softer than the tahini dough. It required 5 to 10 minutes of additional mixing in order to form the "gluten window" (the so-thin-as-to-be-transparent swath of dough you get when you stretch a small section)—and even then, it was delicate and fairly wet. I added flour to the bowl and to my hands when I transferred it from the bowl of the stand mixer to the bowl for its first rise. But don't worry: The dough does rise in the refrigerator for six hours and will be much easier to work with after its chill-out time.
- A sprinkling of flaky salt on the top of the peanut butter loaves before they bake will counter the PB's sugary leaning.
- You can freeze the dough after its final rise. Keep it in the freezer for up to 5 days, thaw it in the fridge overnight before baking, and then allow it to come to room temperature before proceeding.
- You can also freeze the baked loaves or rolls or buns. Let them come to room temperature before reheating gently in a low temperature oven.
For the sponge:
- 1/4 cup whole milk, warmed to 100° to 110° F
- 2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
For the dough and the finished loaves:
- 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 3 eggs plus 1 egg yolk
- 6 well-mixed tablespoons tahini or smooth peanut butter
- 1 3/4 sticks (7 ounces) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 2 to 3 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds (optional)
- Fillings like jams or preserves (optional)
- 2 eggs
- 2 teaspoons whole milk
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