08 December 2012

Offerings From Cinque Terre: Part II - Quick Brioche Minis

I really don't know where the last year has gone, but the holidays are upon us once again. What are you doing to prepare?

Thanks to my husband our house is now festive and cheery; lights hang across our windows, our silver and red table centerpiece found its' way to the dinning table, and a few Santa figurines are standing watch around the house. We took a day trip to Konstanz (southeastern Germany border) to visit our first Christmas Market and met up with friends who drove up for the day as well, where (to our surprise, and theirs too) they got engaged! We all came back that night to toast under our newly strung lights to their engagement and to having partners in life.

These Quick Brioche Minis are another reason to celebrate this holiday season. Little parcels of decadence that come together quickly and make for a great holiday gift to a neighbor or friend or allow for a break in the day to gather people together for an afternoon treat with a bottle of bubbly. Really people, we don't need a grand excuse to enjoy Champagne or Prosecco!

These treats were another creative product from our fall holiday at the Cinque Terre B&B (read Part I here) that I made a mental note to make. Our hostess, Laura, made these for our breakfast on the last day. The first bite of the pastry delivered a soft, subtly tangy, and buttery dough with a not-too-sweet local berry jam rolled up inside. It was rolled perfection. But as this was baking and required more exact measurements, I knew I had to ask for the recipe. Laura came out of the kitchen and in one fluid breath explained you mix together equal parts flour, ricotta cheese, and butter with a little sugar, no salt, and then roll the dough out. That was it. When I asked for the name, she said it didn't have one but then said, "I guess I'll call it a quick brioche". Brioche is a characteristically rich and buttery yeast bread, so this name made sense to me as the pastry obviously had A LOT of butter. 

In anticipation of the approaching holiday and wanting to share an idea for a balanced but indulgent treat, I went to work recreating this at home. I experimented with the proportions and used half the amount of butter called for and swapped regular white flour (all-purpose) for a combination of spelt flour and whole wheat pastry flour to provide a less refined, more substantial base. Of course all white flour,  a combination of white and whole wheat pastry flour, or a whole-grain gluten-free flour mix can be substituted. Nevertheless, this is a wet dough so you will want to work quickly and continue flouring the surface, dough, and rolling pin to prevent from sticking when you roll out. Use your favorite jam filling or sweet spread. I used strawberry jam for half of the recipe and Nutella (chocolate-hazelnut spread) for the other half. Nutella was my favorite and I would highly recommend it here.

Quick Brioche Minis
Serves 28-32 minis

3/4 cup spelt flour (I used light spelt flour)
1/4 whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup ricotta, at room temperature
8 Tbsp. butter (113 grams), at room temperature
1/4 cup sugar

Your favorite jam and/or Nutella

Icing sugar to finish

Preheat oven to 350° Fahrenheit (180° Celsius)
For the dough, in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment mix together all ingredients until just combined. Be careful not to over mix. Pour out onto a floured work surface and bring dough together with your hands, forming a ball and flouring the dough as needed so it has a smooth, non-sticky surface. Divide dough in half. Set one half aside and roll out the other half to ~1/4 inch thickness. Rotate dough after every few rolls and flour the surface and dough as needed to prevent from sticking.

Cut 2 strips down and 2 strips across to yield 9 squares. Cut diagonally across each square to form ~ 16-18 triangles. (This is simply a guide, so make as many squares as you would like).

Spread a thin layer of jam or Nutella on each triangle and roll dough towards the pointed end. Place rolls on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 15-17 minutes, or until the tops are just beginning to get lightly golden.

While the first set bakes repeat steps with the other half of the dough. Transfer cooked minis to a cooling rack and serve warm with a dusting of icing sugar.

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