Almost eight years ago I was on my honeymoon on the Orcas Island outside of Seattle. My husband and I grabbed a day old candied orange brioche loaf from a local bakery to snack on while we explored places we had dog-eared in our Frommer’s travel book. We ripped off hunks from the loaf as we toured the island in our electric blue PT Cruiser rental car.
Orcas Island is amazing, but Frommer’s did us wrong on a couple of occasions. For one stop, Frommer’s boasted tours of a quaint family farm complete with rides in wagons pulled by Clydesdale horses. In reality, the farm offered lots of mud, a few scraggly llamas, and a handful of grumpy chickens. Not a Clydesdale to be found. We left as quickly as we could but not before a dachshund bit by my husband.
While our travel book mislead us, this brioche treated us to the true gift of the day. We eagerly enjoyed the rich brioche loaf that was studded with candied orange pieces. The bread, enriched by eggs and butter, even a day old was moist and pillowy. The candied orange blessed the entire loaf with an amazing citrus flavor. It was one of the best things we ate on our honeymoon and we fought over every last bite of that loaf.
The brioche, for me, was an inspiring moment. I was battling a bad case of bronchitis during my honeymoon, which left with me very little appetite. This brioche was one of the first things that my taste buds could truly enjoy. It was in that moment that I decided that I wanted to explore more with food and writing. I wanted people to know about this brioche. I wanted to recreate this treat, write about it, and share it with others. And so I began cooking, baking and writing first on a blog and then here at The Gazette.
I did have one hilarious attempt at this brioche in the months following my honeymoon. My brioche dough was kneading away in my new KitchenAid Mixer and I walked away for a minute. A loud crash got me racing back to the kitchen to find my mixer on the floor, somehow performing the greatest leap known to kitchen appliances. My dough thankfully was still in the bowl and unscathed (although my mixer has never been the same). I placed the dough in a glass bowl to sit and ferment in the refrigerator overnight. The next morning I pulled out the dough only to drop it on the floor, the glass bowl shattering into pieces. The dough now boasted not only candied orange pieces but also glittering shards of glass. To the trash went the dough and I put this recipe re-creation goal on hiatus.
I have chosen this moment to finally remake this brioche as this is my last From the Pantry column. It feels like the perfect full circle moment for my food writing explorations. When I started writing From the Pantry almost six years ago I was working full-time and planning and writing my next column in my spare time. Fast forward to the present and I am now a stay-at-home mom of two girls, 4 and 5 months old. My 4-year-old has her own dreams of creating recipes all by herself and my 5-month-old has no idea the goodness ahead of her.
I am immensely thankful to The Gazette for allowing me this space to share stories and recipes and to those of you who have read my column over the years. Rest assured, I will still be cooking up a storm surrounded by two girls eager to help and to create stories of their own.
CANDIED ORANGE BRIOCHE
Makes 12 small buns or 4 small loaves
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This brioche requires some planning ahead as the dough needs to sit in the refrigerator overnight. Also, if you plan on making your own candied orange (Find a great recipe at epicurious.com.) you also will need to plan an extra two days to prepare it. It’s not hard to make (it’s mostly hands off) it just takes time. Otherwise, you can find candied orange at specialty food stores or online.
This recipe does make a lot but you can enjoy the leftover brioche sliced and toasted or made into French toast.
3 cups flour (plus enough for sprinkling)
2 teaspoons dry yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup warm whole milk
4 large eggs
6 ounces butter, room temperature, cut into pieces
2/3 cup candied orange, chopped
1 egg yolk for egg wash
1 tablespoon orange juice
Turbinado sugar for sprinkling
Day 1: Sift 3 cups of flour, yeast, sugar and salt into food processor bowl. Pulse a few times to blend, then switch the processor to the on position and add eggs and warm milk. Process continuously until the dough starts forming then start adding chunks of butter. Keep processing until the dough is smooth. If dough is too sticky, add one teaspoon of flour at a time and pulse until smooth. Dough should be soft and slightly sticky. Resist urge to add too much flour. Dough will be sticky but should easily pull away from the bowl.
Transfer dough onto a floured working surface and knead with floured hands enough to form a shiny, smooth ball (may take 5 to 10 minutes). Scrape any dough that stuck to the working surface with a dough scraper and knead back into the ball. Once the dough is almost ready, add in the candied orange a handful at a time and work into the dough. Put the dough in a bowl, seal with a lid, and let it rise overnight in the refrigerator.
Day 2: Prepare baking sheets: turn them upside down and line with parchment paper, sprinkle with flour. While dough still is cold, cut into half to form into small buns or large loaves or a combination of both. If forming into small buns, use dough scraper to cut each half into six equal pieces. If forming into small loaves, cut each half into half. For both sizes, form them into a smooth ball shaped by rolling it with the heel of your hand on the counter. Lightly push in any pieces of orange that are sticking out. Place on prepared sheets in a warm place and cover with a clean towel. Allow to rise for 1 1/2 to 2 hours until it gets larger (it may not quite double in size) and looks soft and pillowy.
Heat oven at 350 degrees. While the oven heats, whisk the egg yolk in a small bowl with the orange juice and brush over each bun. Sprinkle with turbinado sugar. Bake small buns for 10 to 12 minutes or until lightly brown. Bake small loaves for 15 to 20 minutes.
Source: Adapted from “Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home” by Julia Child and foodsmartmom.com