Savory Saffron Brioche with Rosemary and Vermont Ham

April  5, 2010
0 Ratings
  • Serves 6
Author Notes

This brioche is divine; it is light as air, and deliciously fragrant with saffron, fresh rosemary and Vermont ham. It's buttery and crisp on the outside, and delicate and tender on the inside. You could have this for lunch, with a glass of white wine, or pair it with a vegetable gratin for dinner. —SueVT

What You'll Need
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 pinch saffron threads
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 1/2 cup tepid water
  • 3 tablespoons lukewarm milk
  • 3 eggs
  • 6 ounces unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks)
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 cup snipped fresh rosemary leaves, loose not packed
  • 3/4 cup lean Vermont ham, 1/4-inch dice
  • 1 1/2 cups active sourdough starter (plus 1/3 c. flour, see below)
  • 1 egg yolk mixed with 1/4 cup milk
  1. Two hours in advance: Put the pinch of saffron in 3 TB warm water; set aside for 2 hours to steep.
  2. Mix the sourdough starter with an additional 1/3 cup flour, to feed it and make it thicker. Set aside while saffron is steeping.
  3. When saffron has steeped for 2 hours, butter a brioche pan or large metal bread or cake mold.
  4. Make sponge: In a small mixing bowl, mix 1 cup of the flour with the instant yeast and the tepid water. Knead it together into a sticky ball. Cover with plastic wrap and float this bowl in a larger bowl of 100F water for at least 20 minutes.
  5. In a bowl for electric mixer, combine the remaining 1 1/2 cups flour, milk, liquid drained from saffron infusion (removing and reserving the threads in a bit more water, because they will continue to infuse), eggs and salt. Mix 3 minutes at medium speed with dough hook to develop gluten.
  6. Add the sponge dough ball, and continue mixing with the dough hook for another 3 minutes.
  7. Add rosemary and ham, blend until just mixed. Cover with plastic film and let rise for 1 hour.
  8. Remove plastic, and fold in the thickened sourdough starter thoroughly, along with any more saffron infusion drained from the threads. Replace the plastic. Let rise for another half hour.
  9. On a floured counter, shape the dough into a ball. Reserve a handful of dough for the brioche topknot. The dough will be soft, and a bit sticky. If it is too sticky and has no body, fold in a bit more flour. Place the main dough ball in the buttered brioche pan. Add a pinch more flour to the topknot, roll it around (this is to give it more body), and place on top of the dough in the pan.
  10. Allow this to rise on the counter until doubled in bulk, about 2 hours.
  11. Brush on the egg yolk/milk glaze, very gently, being careful to not let it drip down into the side of the pan.
  12. Bake in a preheated 425F oven for 40 minutes or until well-browned.
  13. Remove from pan and cool on rack for 30 minutes. Slice with serrated bread knife, and enjoy.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • mrslarkin
  • SueVT

9 Reviews

SueVT April 15, 2010
Hi mrslarkin,

Yes, the initial starter is a traditional thick (ball-like), kneadable starter. It is verbatim from James MacGuire (http://www.amazon.com/Taste-Bread-Raymond-Calvel/dp/0834216469), and Jeffrey Hamelman, when I took their class at King Arthur. After 7 days, when the starter is active, take it in a looser direction. It should be about the consistency of heavy pancake batter/muffin dough most of the time. Keep it on the counter, don't refrigerate it, and feed it twice a day. Good luck! Sue
mrslarkin April 15, 2010
Thanks so much Sue!! Do you think the starter will be ready to use on Monday if I start it today? Or is there something i can do to it speed it up. Was hoping to bake it on Monday. Let me know what you think!
SueVT April 15, 2010
Well that seems a bit unlikely ;-). Sourdough takes its time getting started.
However, having said that, the real point of the SD in this recipe is to speed up the process by having a portion of the dough be an already-developed dough. So, you could use something like a piece of the famous no-knead bread which I'm sure you are familiar with (http://www.nytimes.com/2006/11/08/dining/081mrex.html). Same difference, a trifle less flavor. If you have an 18-hour-old no-knead dough, quite soft, that should suffice. Then next time, if you start to maintain the sourdough, you'll always have a ready supply on your counter. Regards, Sue
mrslarkin April 15, 2010
OK. So in step 8, how large a piece of the no-knead bread should I use instead of the starter? About 1 3/4 cups? Thanks so much for your help!
SueVT April 18, 2010
I think the proportion would be about the same, yes.

However, if you know days in advance that you'll be making the brioche, you can do it in the conventional manner, by making a yeast dough and retarding it overnight to develop texture and flavor. So, you could make it Sunday night and finish it on Monday, omitting the sourdough altogether.... just put in a bit more flour/water to compensate.
Hope this helps!
mrslarkin April 15, 2010
Hi SueVT! I'm making your bread. I checked your website for the starter recipe, but when I made it, I got a ball of dough, instead of a loose starter. I made it twice, thinking I messed up, and used your suggested 100g wheat flour/100g reg flour/130 g water. Should I have a ball of dough at this initial starter stage? Looking forward to making the brioche!
mrslarkin April 19, 2010
Thanks Sue! One more question: when do I add the butter? Doesn't say.
SueVT April 23, 2010
Add the butter in step 6 along with the sponge. Sorry for the omission!
mrslarkin April 5, 2010
THAT looks so beautiful! And your blog is gorgeous (love the maple onion and bacon pie!)