Autumn is a happy time for bakers. It's cooler, there's less humidity, and while it may take a bit of coaxing to get the levains up and going, all-in-all it's a pretty lovely time to be in the kitchen. For me it's also the season of favourite ingredients and, ever since these tarts, I've been thinking about how to pull some of these together into a shortlist of ideal baked treat combinations. So for my first take on baking the Holy Trinity, I give you: browned butter brioche feuillete with honey custard and poached quince.
A rich, browned butter brioche laminated with even more browned butter, these lovely little buns involved strips of dough spread with a thick honey pastry cream, that were then rolled around thin slices of deep crimson quince and baked until golden, crispy and delicious.
For a first attempt they were reasonably glorious, although there are a number of changes I'll be making for the next iteration. First and most obvious is trying to improve the appearance. While initially the quince buns puffed up beautifully, by the time they were baked I'd lost the tight curl and they'd collapsed markedly when compared to those rolled up with cinnamon sugar alone. The taste was still fabulous but, as a result, they'd also lost that nice, almost chewy, fluffiness that I find particularly agreeable in a brioche.
In fact, the best texture came from the mess of scraps I'd thrown together with custard and sugar in an ad-hoc and somewhat ugly miniature loaf, which was a little denser than the muffin-sized versions and therefore had that lovely, doughy chew. So while this may mean the appearance of a brioche feuillete loaf in the very near future, it also suggested that my structural problems stemmed from the quince, which was either too moist or too heavy, thus preventing the delicate crumb from holding its shape. A bit of paste or slight drying out of the slices before layering next time may therefore be in order.
On subsequent attempts I also intend to use less butter. There was a large range of quantities in the recipes I scoured, and while I settled on 25% of the dough weight for lamination because that's what most of the recipes used, at the end of the day I think this was too much. The buns were still beautiful and flaky but you had the sense that these feuillete were bordering on greasy, so I intend to drop it to 10% next time and see what affect that has on the crumb.
But all that being said they still tasted good, smelled even better, and made for a really nice introduction to brioche feuillete. They're lovely as an indulgent breakfast pastry, and, if you're thinking more along the lines of dessert, the unwanted gaps can always be conveniently hidden by a good dollop of spare honey crème pâtissière. Speaking of which, I wonder how the day-olds would go in a quince and brioche bread and butter pudding...
BROWNED BUTTER BRIOCHE FEUILLETE WITH HONEY CUSTARD & QUINCE
For the brioche
- 2 tsp instant yeast
- 125 ml milk
- 490 g bread flour
- 100 g sugar
- 1 ¼ tsp salt
- 4 eggs
- 325 g butter, browned, cooled and brought back to room temperature
For the honey crème pâtissière
- 250 ml milk
- 1 tsp butter
- ½ vanilla bean
- 1 egg*
- 50 g honey
- 20 g cornflour
- 10 g bread flour
- A few pieces of poached quince
To prepare the brioche, first make a sponge by mixing the yeast, milk and 70 g bread flour together until just combined and leaving it sit, covered, at room temperature for 30-40 minutes, until active.
Next, add the remaining flour, sugar, salt and eggs to the sponge and, using a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, mix at low speed for 2-3 minutes until it the mixture resembles dough. Rest for 10 minutes then beat on medium speed for 15 minutes until smooth. Slowly incorporate 225 g of browned butter into the dough by adding a piece at a time, then place in a buttered bowl and leave to prove, covered, at room temperature for 2-2.5 hours until risen by half again. Fold the dough once, then cover and refrigerate overnight.
To prepare the crème pâtissière, in a small saucepan bring the milk, butter and vanilla to a boil. While you're waiting, in a separate bowl whisk together the egg and honey until it dissolves, then add the flours. Once boiled, pour the hot milk into the egg mixture, whisking continually, then return to the heat and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens. Remove from the heat and pour the crème pâtissière into a clean bowl. Cover with cling film, making sure it is in direct contact with the custard surface, and chill completely. Whisk the crème pâtissière lightly, to loosen, before using.
The following day, remove the dough and remaining 300 g browned butter from the fridge and warm at room temperature until the butter begins to soften. Block the butter into the dough then roll out and perform a book fold*. Rest at 4°C for 30 minutes then complete two single folds, resting for 30 minutes at 4°C in between. After the final rest, roll the laminated brioche dough into a rectangle 3-mm-thick and cut strips of dough measuring 20 cm ╳ 4 cm.
To assemble the brioche feuillete, cover each strip in a thin layer of crème pâtissière and thinly-sliced poached quince, then roll up and place, spiral-side-up, in the cup of a buttered muffin pan. Prove the brioche buns at room temperature for 2 hours before baking in a 190°C oven for 20 minutes until golden brown. Serve warm.
** I used a number of recipes in bringing this combination together, including: this browned butter brioche from The Traveler's Lunchbox; some ideas for brioche feuiletee from The Fresh Loaf; and a basic crème pâtissière recipe from Christophe Felder's Patisserie.
** I made a lighter custard by preparing it using a whole egg. If you prefer the richer version, use two egg yolks in place of the whole egg.
** My directions for laminating the dough are based on assumed knowledge, so you'll need to do some homework if you're after more detail about the technique and the different types of folds used. The principle is the same as for preparing puff pastry and croissant dough.