I resented this brioche. Never having made brioche before, I didn’t realize it was so needy. Measure, mix, knead, rest. Sure, fine. That’s the deal with homemade bread. But this required sustained attention that left me trudging back and forth to the kitchen every half hour, muttering to myself, “This better be good.”
Once the brioche dough comes together, the weary chef must punch it down every half hour, for over two hours. When it finally gives up and stops rising, it sits overnight in the refrigerator. And the dough is very sticky, like a big bowl of paste. This makes it difficult to shape and activates that little inner voice that says, “you may very well be doing this all wrong.”
Here’s the thing. I’ve got two kids under the age of 5. On the one hand, you might ask, what do you have going on after 8:00 pm anyway? The kids are in bed. Go punch down the dough and be quiet about it.
But that’s just it. It’s 8:00. The kids are in bed. My responsibilities for fulfilling other people’s (or bread dough’s) needs is done. But this dough demanded that I come back into the kitchen and slap it around.
And yet. It’s worth every punch, slap, and curse. The bread is heavenly — so light and so rich at the same time. The recipe calls for plums, but the apricots looked much better at the store, so that’s what I used.
The next morning, after the dough sat overnight, there was still more work to do. My 4-year-old, Sofia, was able to help. The dough had miraculously transformed from the consistency of hot tar into a lovely soft dough that could be handled with ease. Sofia happily buttered the tart pan and pushed the dough into its corners, while I chopped almonds and sliced apricots.
Enter my husband, Dave. Always ready to lend a hand, especially when we’re in the final stages of a Dorie Greenspan recipe, he offered to bake the tart. It’s not at all common for Dave to handle the baking, but my brother was visiting and we wanted to go for an early-morning run together. I left with a little wave, and reminded him to check on the brioche after 15 minutes, just to be sure it doesn’t get too dark. “Got it!” he said, cheerily.
Meanwhile, he turned to the various other tasks that awaited him. We had visitors coming, so he washed sheets, moved a bed from one room to the next, set out towels, all while managing our two kids on his own. The brioche got lost in the shuffle.
When I got back from the run, he was distraught, sure that he’d ruined the brioche. He looked miserable and announced that it was burned.
I took one look and said, “It’s not burned. It’s deeply caramelized.”
Parenting teaches you a few things. I’ve been trying to get my 4-year-old and my 2-year-old to share the same bedroom. Sometimes it works, and they lie there like perfect angels, so sweet and tender it makes you want to cry. Other times, my daughter turns on the light and capers around the room in her little brother’s diapers while he jumps up and down in his crib and watches the evening’s entertainment with undisguised glee. When I expressed my discouragement about this to my mom, she said: “They’re not misbehaving. They’re bonding.”
So keep an eye on that brioche, but rest assured that even if you let it go too far, the deeply caramelized edges are delicious.