Brioche dough used in making a Walnut-layered, apricot jam-filled Yeast-leavened Sweet Cake

If you recall, in my earlier post about yeast-leavened cakes, I promised to write a post about how seemingly minor differences in a recipe will create a substantially different cake.

I love to bake sweet yeast-leavened cakes, because they are great for a coffee break, they have a glorious appearance for presentation, and when eaten fresh out of the oven (Yum!) their spongy characteristics is delightfully satisfying. (BTW the cake can be frozen, but only while it is fresh; then re-warmed in a microwave for nearly the same soft, springy feel as it was when taken out of the oven).

This cake can be eaten as is (without any filling), but can be filled with cinnamon/golden raisins, cocoa powder/golden raisins, poppy-seed, sweet farmer cheese filling to enhanced its taste. The cake is also a great partner for baked fruit (you can wrap the dough around apples, pears, apricots and more) and the result is a delightful combination of the juicy aromatic fruit in a light and fluffy, melt-in-your mouth cake. I am sure you guessed by now that I am talking about the brioche dough.

French toast or bread pudding made with older brioche slices is not comparable to any other dough (not even the Challa Bread) and there is no better Beef Wellington on this Earth than the one uses brioche to wrap around the filet mignon. You must trust me on this.

Since I wanted to show the effects of different mixing methods on the characteristics and textures of the cake I needed to bake two brioche-doughs using the same recipe, but not the same method of preparation. Unfortunately, (or fortunately from a tutorial point of view) I also made two errors, so you have an opportunity to see the effects of these errors, as well, and the two preparation methods. With respect to the taste and texture difference you will have to trust my description. I will try to do my best to be poetically descriptive.

Ingredients for the Dough

1 teaspoon (4g) and ¼ cup (1.75g) bakers’ sugar

1 tablespoon (0.33 oz/9g) active dry yeast

1 cup (237 ml) warm water (Temp:110F/43C); it is advisable to measure the temperature of the water because cold water kills the yeast

4 cups (20 oz/500 g) bread flour
2 cups (16 oz/454 g) unsalted butter, tempered

5 large egg yolks (3.25 oz/92g)

3 large egg whites (3 oz/85g)
1 3/4 teaspoon(10.5g/0.35 oz) salt

1 whole egg for egg wash
may need some extra water
cooking pray

Method of Preparation 1.

1. Stir together the warm water (130F), 1 teaspoon sugar, and the yeast in a bowl. Let it stand for 2 minutes until grey foam appears, indicating that the yeast is alive. Add the egg whites and 2 cups of the flour and beat it either in a standing mixer, with a hand-held mixer, or with a whisk for 2 minutes to incorporate air. Let it stand for about 30 to 60 minutes for improved flavored and texture.
2. Add the egg yolks, the remaining ¼ cup sugar, 2 cups flour, and the salt. Beat the mixture until you get a very elastic sticky dough (with a standing electric mixer it should not take longer than 3-4 minutes; with the hand-held mixer it may take up to 6 to 8 minutes).
3. Let the dough rise in a warm place  for about 10 to 15 minutes, then mix in the tempered butter (Tempered butter is still cold, but softened) on low-speed. NOTE: the butter is added as the last ingredient in this method that results in a light, airy brioche.

4. Cover the dough and let it rise at room temperature for 30 minutes, then refrigerate for 1 hour (the dough must be cold before punching it down). After 1 hour, remove the dough from the refrigerator and punch it down. The dough can be refrigerated overnight at this point, if desired. Collect the dough into a ball shape and cover it with plastic wrap and leave it on the counter for 10 minutes.

5. Preheat the oven to 475F, but just before placing the dough in the oven for baking, cut the temperature to 375F.

6. Prepare the baking pans (you will need two for this quantity) for the dough. Most likely you will need to spray the pans with Pam for baking. I used a loaf pan; you will see the reason(s) below.
7. You need to brush the dough with egg wash and let it rise one more time for about 2 hours (depending on how cold is the dough), or until the dough doubles in size.

THE ERRORS: Luckily (if you can call it luck), both errors occurred in this dough.

• First, in a haste I used the instant yeast instead of the active yeast. There are two problems with that:

– Instants yeast is not recommended to be used in doughs that are refrigerated

– It should have been incorporated into the dry ingredients without dissolving it in liquids
• Both weakened the yeast.

• The other error occurred when I allowed the dough to be over-proofing (let it rise for too long time). The yeast ran out of steam and the limited gluten formed lost its ability to support the cake (see the photo below) Meaning, the cake will not go nowhere in the oven.

The dough has very little gluten – it is not stretching – it is tearing


My Improvisation

8. Divided the dough into 12 balls. The first six balls received apricot jam into their center and were placed into the loaf pan.

9. Prepared 1 cup ground walnut with 1 cup granulated sugar, mixed them well,  and sprinkled it on the balls in the loaf pan

10. Covered the walnut mixture with the other six balls

11. Brushed the top with egg wash and let it rise for another 30 minutes (the photo was taken after it risen, ready to be baked)

o I created steam in the oven, by spraying water on the oven walls. Steam helps the dough to rise and assists in creating a crust

o Once again I brushed the dough with the egg wash and placed the pan in the center of the oven. The beautiful color of the cake you see on the photo was achieved by the combination of the egg wash and he sugar in the dough.
o Baked the cake until it was nicely browned (50 minutes)

o Removed the dough from the oven and checked if it is done by inserting an instant thermometer in the center of the cake. When it read 200F/93C, the cake considered to be done. I let the dough cool for 5 minutes in the pan then turned it out on to a nice serving tray.


Brioche dough needs to rise twice.

Yeast is a living fungus tha produces carbon dioxide when mixed with warm water which allows the dough to rise. Make sure to mix the water and yeast into a smooth paste.

Mixing and kneading liquid and flour produces elastic sheets of gluten that remain intact when the butter is added, producing a light, well-leavened cake.

Well-developed gluten allows the dough to stretch and expand as it rises. (Not in this case due to the errors)

The second rising gives a better volume, a more mellow yeast flavor and a finer texture to the cake.

To determine if the dough is ready to be placed in the oven for baking, you need to do the ripe test. Simply touch the side of the dough with your fingertip. If the indentation remains, the loaf is ripe and ready for the oven.

The ratio of flour to liquid is critical. Neither dry, stiff dough, nor wet and sticky dough rises well.

Yeast dough should always be baked in the center rack of a preheated oven.

You can use a range of bakeware to bake brioche – bundt pan, loaf pan, muffin tins, kuglopf pan, etc.

Brioche dough is highly versatile – it can be molded into different shapes. Just remember that in addition to doubling in size while proofing, it will still rise in the oven.

All in all, the cake was suprisingy, maybe even better then an “error-free” creation. I was truly elated that we did not need to call for an ambulance (especially on Sunday). Although, if I would explain the dispatcher the situation, I have a feeling that they would dispatch two ambulance filled with health care professionals hugging a clean fork in their hand.  The softness of the texture allowed the cake to dissolve in my mouth – and what is wrong with that? We just tore the cake apart for eating (it would be hard to cut it with a knife) that added a sense of communal camaraderie and we all departed as best friends.

Thanks for visiting. I trust you learned some valuable information about yeast-leavened cakes. Make sure to come back to see the other cake with different mixing method and NO ERRORS.

If you have a story to share where you were able to save a cake that was created with an error, won’t you share it with us?

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