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almond brioche bostock

sometimes the payoff for a recipe truly is worth all the trouble.

there i was, saturday morning, 8 am, ready for a full day of baking. it’s been harder and harder to bake during the week, so i’ve taken to making 4 or 5 things on saturday and sunday to keep up. i had gone grocery shopping the night before so i wouldn’t have to run back out into the freezing cold for supplies and had even prepared the brioche dough the night before so it would be ready to work with in the morning. with a fresh cup of instant coffee (i know, i know, instant, ew) in hand, i set to work on the almond cream. and that’s when things went south.

almond paste can be really tough to work with – one second it’s rock solid, the next second it’s oily and crumbling apart in your hands. so after putting all the ingredients in a mixer, i ended up with a beautiful almond cream, full of small shards of rock-solid almond paste that just wouldn’t break up. i tossed that batch to gave it another shot, but had the bright idea of microwaving the almond paste for 30 seconds so it would break apart more easily. the result? burned funky smelling almond paste. i thought maybe i could salvage it, so i added the other ingredients, but adding cold ingredients to warm almond paste just made the almond paste’s resolve stronger. it became a burned mass of almond rock at the bottom of the mixer. failure.

at that point i had run out of almond paste and the thought of going out into the cold for an $8 tube of the stuff made me want to scratch the whole thing. but i bundled up, got to safeway, and after 20 minutes of searching (why do they keep rearranging the aisles?) found the almond paste, got back home and proceeded to make a wonderfully smooth delicious cream that worked perfectly. good thing too, i was ready to toss my mixer out the window.

then i realized i didn’t have enough flour to make all the other things i wanted to make that day and had to go back to the store AGAIN. but that’s another story.

the brioche was completely amazing and tasted better than i could have imagined. the combination of almond and orange gives it incredibly bright flavors and the bread itself is rich enough that it could be dessert. the instructions said to invert the brioche onto a plate after it came out of the oven but didn’t specify whether it should be served that way. in retrospect, it should have been pretty obvious to just flip it again onto another plate so the topping was, you know, on top, but the golden caramelized sugar coated bottom made me think twice.

one more thing: this is my 50th post! i know that’s hardly a milestone compared to the work so many other bloggers have accomplished, but as i began writing this post, i kept thinking about why i started pete bakes in the first place. when i launched the blog in april, it was a sort of test for myself to see if i could keep baking and writing on a regular basis. i wanted the experience to push me to try new techniques and recipes and still have it be fun. i never expected to get comments or responses aside from the friends and family who followed it.

i also could not have expected the level of talent, creativity and generosity of the food blogging community. if you’re reading this, you are the reason this blog exists – because what would all of these experiences mean without someone to share them with?

so if you’ve ever left a comment, or written an email (i try to respond to all!) or just tried a recipe, THANK YOU! it humbles me to find out that after being inspired by all of you who cook and bake and share it with the world that i could have some small impact as well. THANKS!

almond brioche bostock
from Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day [1].

brioche
3/4 cup lukewarm water
3/4 Tbsp yeast
3/4 Tbsp salt
4 eggs
1/4 cup honey
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, melted
3 3/4 cups flour

almond cream
1/2 cup almond paste
4 Tbsp butter (at room temperature)
1/4 cup flour
1 egg
1/4 tsp almond extract

topping
1/4 cup sugar
zest from half an orange
1/2 cup sliced almonds

1. make the brioche: mix the salt, yeast, eggs, honey and melted butter with the water in a large bowl. mix in the flour without kneading. the dough will be loose but will firm up when chilled. cover the dough and allow to rest a room temperature for 2 hours. cover the dough bowl with plastic wrap and chill in the fridge before trying to work with it.

2. make the almond cream: cream together the butter, almond paste, flour, egg and almond extract in a food processor (or by hand if you are brave) until smooth and set aside.

3. dust the surface of the refrigerated dough with flour and cut off a 1 1/2 lbs (about the size of a cantaloupe). dust the piece with more flour and quickly shape into a ball. roll the dough out into a long rectangle (about 1/4 inch thick), using enough flour to prevent it from sticking to the counter. spread the almond cream evenly over the rectangle and roll the dough up like a jelly roll, starting at the long end. chill the log in the freezer for about 15 minutes. meanwhile,  grease an 8 inch round cake pan with butter and sprinkle liberally with sugar.

4. cut the chilled dough into 8 equal pieces. place them evenly in the cake pan so the swirled edge is facing upward. allow the dough to rest in the pan for an hour. twenty minutes before baking time, preheat the oven to 350 F. just before baking, combine the sugar, orange zest and almonds and sprinkle over the brioche. bake for about 40 minutes or until golden and well set in the center.

6. when you remove the brioche from the oven the run a knife around the inside of the pan to release the bread from the sides and invert it onto a large plate (it could stick to the pan otherwise). eat while warm.