I couldn't have been more excited when I saw the cover of the Spring 2011 issue of the Art of Eating. Pop art brioche! It doesn't get much better. This quarterly, advertisement free, food literature magazine is based out of Peacham, VT. I first became acquainted with it while baking at The Patisserie in Milford, PA where it regularly appears on their newsstand.
Upon receiving the this issue, I immediately skipped to the article "Brioche" by James MacGuire...a man after my own heart. MacGuire included details about the history, travels and types of brioche along with a recipe and instructions to make your own. Through his text and dialogues with French bakers, brioche was romanticized in a way that would make Proust (and his madeleine) proud.
He writes: "Within the chestnut-colored exterior lies a yielding delicacy. So complex is the mix of the buttery fermented flavors of the crumb and the contrasting dark, well-baked toastiness of the crust that brioche is often used as a metaphor to describe yeasty, full-flavored cuvees of Champagne - a compliment to both."
MacGuire also discusses how underrated brioche tends to be. Pastry chefs are too wrapped up in chocolate and cakes to care about baking a yeasty delicacy. On the other hand, bread bakers are too consumed with baguettes and sourdoughs to work with a fickle, buttery dough. Alas, the poor brioche gets stuck in the middle...not quite a bread, not quite a pastry. MacGuire himself fell into this trap. In pastry school he admits he was too "busy" to learn how to make brioche. However, he confesses, "When I did learn to make it, I understood Maurice's [the head baker] insistence that something so delicious yet so simple must be perfect." This took me straight back to my days at The Culinary Institute of America where I was required to present six perfect brioche a tete in order to graduate.
If you haven't had the pleasure of reading an issue of the Art of Eating, order a copy from their website. You won't be disappointed. I highly suggest ordering this particular issue as "Brioche" was far and away the best article I have encountered to highlight the joys of eating and baking this special bread.