Friday, 9 September 2011

Chocolate and almond brioche buns

These were supposed to be for a girlie Sunday breakfast, but my brunch buddy got horribly drunk the night before and we were forced to resort to a full English as an emergency measure. One plate of eggs, bacon, sausage, beans and grilled tomato later, and she was considerably perkier. And we still managed to finish a couple of these in the afternoon. Result.

Makes 16 small buns

~for the marzipan
80g caster sugar
80g icing sugar , plus extra for dusting
125g ground almonds
grated zest of 1 lemon or 1 orange
1 egg

~for the brioche
400g white bread flour
50g golden caster sugar
1 packet fast action yeast (7g)
1 tsp fine grain salt
4 eggs,and 3 egg yolks
250g room-temperature butter

plus, 16 small cubes of dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids), about 75g altogether
1 tablespoon of flaked almonds (optional)
and a beaten egg to glaze
16 pieces of greaseproof paper, each 12cm square

1) Warm the milk until it is lukewarm - not too hot - then stir in the yeast and a heaped tablespoon of the flour. Leave the mixture for half an hour until it is bubbling to activate the yeast.

2) Stir the eggs, salt and sugar into the yeast mixture, then stir in the rest of the flour. It will be wet, but don't worry, it is right! Now leave it for another half hour, then find a nice clean surface to knead in the soft butter.

3) Pop the dough onto the surface, and use your hands to spread in small amounts (about 1 tablespoon). You will need to spread the butter over the dough then fold it in repeatedly, stretching the dough as you go. Add more butter when the first bit has been amalgamated into the dough. Continue to add the butter, spreading and then gathering the dough over and over, until all the butter is incorporated. This should take about ten minutes, and the dough should have a little bit of spring-back when you press a finger into its surface. It won't be as springy as normal bread dough though. Chill for a few hours.

4) Meanwhile, make the marzipan by sifting the two sugars and ground almonds together, then stirring in the orange zest and egg. Roll into 16 equal balls and set aside. Now take the dough and separate into 16 evenly sized balls (weigh them if you need to), poking a ball of marzipan and a piece of chocolate inside each.

5) Tuck the paper squares firmly into deep muffin tins, folding them to fit where necessary, then drop one brioche bun into each. Leave to rise until doubled in size (about an hour in a warm room), then brush each one carefully (so as not to spoil the rise) with a liberal amount of beatan egg and sprinkle with flaked almonds. Bake at 375f/190c/gas mark 5 for 18-20 minutes on the bottom shelf of the oven, until golden.

Prepare ahead: If you don't want to eat all of these in one go, you can freeze them after step 4. They will need a longer rise when you take them out of the freezer, so pop them into the paper cases the night before you want them and they will be risen by the morning.

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