Peter Reinhart’s Poor Man’s Brioche, Sourdough Version

13 June 2009
By

This is the next bread in line for the Bread Baker’s Apprentice Challenge. I was looking forward to making brioche since so many people were huge fans, but since I hadn’t had brioche before, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect.

I cut the recipe in half, converted to grams, then replaced the yeast with sourdough starter (aka wild yeast, natural leaven, and so on) and adjusted the water and flour amounts down to compensate for the flour and water in the sourdough starter.

Here’s my result:

Ingredients – Sponge

  • 64 grams sourdough starter (100% hydration), refreshed and room temperature
  • 22 grams water, lukewarm
  • 3 grams whole milk powder

Ingredients – Dough

  • 2 large (94 grams or 3.3 ounces) eggs, slightly beaten
  • 209 grams (7.375 ounces) flour
  • 14 grams (0.5 ounce or1 T) sugar
  • 5/8 t (0.31 ounces) salt
  • 57 grams (2 ounces or 1/4 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature

Sponge

  1. When the sourdough starter is refreshed, add the remaining water and milk powder. Since the sourdough starter is active, move on immediately to the dough phase.

Then I followed the instructions in the book from there.

My Poor Man’s Brioche has a texture somewhat similar to cream puff pastry. Please tell me this is normal. #bba #

For the first rise, my brioche dough had made no expansion moves whatsover at 90 minutes. Sourdough usually takes longer than yeasted breads, so that it hadn’t doubled was unsurprising. That it had made zero progress did. My sourdough starter is very active and, with some recipes, it more than doubles in an hour and a half. I was not a happy camper. I gave it a couple or so more hours, but no, not a thing. So I did what any frustrated baker would do who didn’t even know if the texture was right.

I shaped ’em and hoped I’d get some rise after that.

Given that I didn’t have any brioche shells, I decided to do bun-like things, only they didn’t rise after oh my goodness hours and hours, so I baked them anyway and they wound up more like over-inflated cookies.

Sadly, I was so frustrated by these hockey puck things that I ddin’t even take any photos. How sad.

I gave it another try a couple of days later, only this time, I added extra flour to get the texture Reinhart says – not sticky but tacky. No longer resembled cream puff pastry, but not like some of the other brioche dough. Results were no more successful. Here are a couple of my tweets about it:

Giving the poor man’s brioche (sourdough, no yeast) another try. Not rising after 2 1/2 hours. Sourdough was refreshed as normal. Urgh. #bba #

After 14 hours (overnight rise), the poor man’s brioche finally rose. Lumpy bubbles, looks like baaad acne, but at least it rose. Urgh. #bba #

They were disappointing, and I’m being kind. I shaped them into buns and tossed them into a glass pie plate. Just prior to baking, I sprinkled sugar on them. But, because they took so long to rise, they were sour – we don’t like sour. And I’ve never had sour before – my starter is very mild and not at all sour.

And the texture – it was too cakey and, well, nobody really liked them. We ate some, but a fair bit went into the freezer and later became bread pudding. But the bread pudding was good!

If this is what brioche is supposed to be like – and I’m not at all convinced that it is – then we’re not fans. But really, I’m in the camp of it-didn’t-work-for-me and someday-I’ll-figure-it-out.

[pg-image src="http://pics.laurieashton.com/tn/20090601-05.jpg" link="http://album.laurieashton.com/v/SriLanka/kitchen/20090601-05.jpg.html" caption="poor mans brioche dough, mixed – batch 1" alt=""] [pg-image src="http://pics.laurieashton.com/tn/20090601-06.jpg" link="http://album.laurieashton.com/v/SriLanka/kitchen/20090601-06.jpg.html" caption="poor mans brioche dough, side view, mixed – batch 1" alt=""] [pg-image src="http://pics.laurieashton.com/tn/20090601-14.jpg" link="http://album.laurieashton.com/v/SriLanka/kitchen/20090601-14.jpg.html" caption="poor mans brioche dough, mixed – batch 1 – hours later" alt=""] [pg-image src="http://pics.laurieashton.com/tn/20090602-03.jpg" link="http://album.laurieashton.com/v/SriLanka/kitchen/20090602-03.jpg.html" caption="poor mans brioche dough, mixed – batch 2" alt=""] [pg-image src="http://pics.laurieashton.com/tn/20090603-00.jpg" link="http://album.laurieashton.com/v/SriLanka/kitchen/20090603-00.jpg.html" caption="poor mans brioche dough, bunned & baked – batch 2" alt=""]

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6 Responses

  1. #1
    Barbara 

    Laurie…what a great experiment. I love your sense of adventure in trying something different. After all how would you know what works and what doesn’t if you don’t try. I made the Casatiello and Challah this weekend. The Casatiello posed it’s own “interesting” challenges(http://strangerkiss.wordpress.com/2009/06/28/casatiello-and-challah/)
    .-= Barbara´s last blog ..Weekend Cookies =-.

  2. #2
    Laurie 

    Barbara, you’re so right – experimentation is key. And it makes life fun. πŸ˜€

    Thanks for visiting and commenting. πŸ™‚

  3. #3
    Susie 

    Hey, how did I ever miss this post? πŸ™‚
    I didn’t care for the brioche too much. I made the rich (TOO MUCH BUTTER) and had to add extra flour.
    Love reading your adventures. That is great that you are always ready to try again.
    Susie

  4. #4
    Laurie 

    Hey, Susie, if I gave up after the first failure, where would I be? πŸ™‚

  5. I’ve come to realize that yeast is all-so important for brioche dough, perhaps because of its relatively high butter content (compared with other breads), it needs an enzymatic turbo boost to make it rise! I had 3 failed attempts with flat brioche dough so I feel your pain πŸ™‚ Maybe try increasing the amount of starter the next time around? Or I could ship over some yeast from the US to help!
    .-= Danielle/Bon Vivant´s last blog ..BBA Challenge #4 – Brioche, je t’aime =-.

  6. #6
    Laurie 

    Danielle, thanks for your very kind offer of yeast, but I prefer using no commercial yeast since it doesn’t agree with me. πŸ™‚

    About the more sourdough bit – it’s possible, but I don’t know for sure. It’s one of those things about converting from a commercial yeast to a wild yeast recipe – it takes some experimentation, sometimes. It’s also possible that I need to decrease the amount of sourdough starter.

    Knowing me, though, I’ll give this another try at some point. I’m a bit like a dog with a bone in that respect… πŸ˜€

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About LMAshton

Howdy and welcome to my site! I'm Laurie and I'll be your, er, hostess today. :)

I'm a Canadian expat currently living in Singapore. I'm married to a Sri Lankan and lived in Sri Lanka for nearly a decade. We also lived in New Zealand for half a year.

I cook Sri Lankan curries, sambols, and mallungs. I bake bread using wild yeast (sourdough that isn't sour). I bake on the stove. I experiment with Indian / Malaysian / Indonesian / Thai / whatever cuisines interest me. And I experiment wildly.

Life is an adventure. Join me! :)

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