November 11, 2009

Again with the Bread!

Back in our Dublin days, we were car-less, and except for Will who rode a bike, pretty much completely wheel-less. Well, unless you count the stroller, and the bus, and the train. OK, so we weren't wheel-less. But we didn't have our own personal form of transportation. Which led to a lot of walking. Fortunately we lived in a little village in the middle of Dublin that had just about everything we could want within a few blocks of our flat.Actually, we lived smack in the middle of three little villages. Every day Briton and I would walk down to the center of Rathmines to the grocery store and then up the road to Rathgar to the butcher and the bakery and then home again with out haul. But there were times when walking even a few blocks with a tired toddler and the pouring rain was just too much, which meant we often shot across our square to the little convenience store.

Now when I say convenience store, I'm not really talking about the grungy 7-11's we're used to here in America. These were actually closer to very very small grocery stores. You could, and we often did, buy everything we needed for dinner at the local SPAR. They had sandwich bread (including half loafs of sliced bread which I never got over laughing about, who buys half a loaf? OK, we had no storage so we did but still?) and french bread and pasta and sauces and pizza and milk and a pretty decent selection of cheese and even some meat. It was a little more expensive sure, but if you needed to, you could live pretty well off of just food from SPAR.

My favorite thing to get at SPAR however, was the brioche loaves. It looked like sandwich bread, it cost about the same as sandwich bread, but oh, it did not taste like sandwich bread. I'm not sure at that point I'd ever had brioche before and later when we went to Paris I had REAL brioche which was, of course, a different beast altogether, but this SPAR brioche was pretty darn fantastic. They also sold little packs of brioche buns, with and without chocolate chips, which were one of Briton's all time favorite snacks.

Now you know me, I get all nostalgic for things as time. And when it's gray and rainy and cold out, well, I get a little homesick for Ireland. And since I'd made a batch of Brioche dough for our supper clubs camping trip over the weekend (yum) and still had a little left, I decided to make a batch of chocolate chip buns for the kids for an after school snack. Well OK, I ate one too. Just right with a big steaming cup of tea.

Brioche Buns - Adapted from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day

(this makes a LOT of dough. Two large loaves and two batches of buns. You can cut the recipe in half or freeze the dough after the first rise, defrosting and baking later)

1 1/2 cup lukewarm water
1 1/2 T yeast
1 1/2 T salt
8 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup honey
3 sticks melted butter(reserve wrappers for greasing pans)
7 cups unbleached flour (the original recipe called for 7 1/2 but it has been so moist here I've been reducing the amount of flour in the bread to get a good wet dough)
1/2 cup chocolate chips

Mix yeast, salt, eggs, honey and butter with the water in a large (5 quart or bigger) bowl. Add the four and mix without kneading, using a spoon and/or wet hands until you have a nice wet dough. Cover and allow to rise at least 2 hours then refrigerate until ready to use. (You need to refrigerate it even if you are using it that day so that the dough is workable)

Using about 1/4 of the dough, mix in the chocolate chips and divide into 1/2 cup sized balls, shaping them into flattened ovals. Allow the buns to rise for about 30-45 minutes then bake for 20 min at 350. I brushed them with a well beaten egg so the top would be glossy but you wouldn't have to do this for it to turn out great.

For a larger loaf, put 1/4 of the dough into a loaf pan and allow to rise for 1 1/2 hours, baking 35 minutes at 350. I added chips to one of the loaves as well. Both were delicious.