A few years ago, I had the wonderful opportunity to visit Europe with my mother on a “mother-daughter” trip. We toured several countries during the trip, spending time in France, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom. During our time in the United Kingdom, we spent a few weeks visiting some dear friends from the past, Jan and Peter Keevil.
The Keevils are very special to my family.
Many years ago, they left their home in the UK as missionaries, and moved to the city in Venezuela where my family lived. I grew up alongside their children, and many of my memories from childhood include them.
The Keevils loved our nation, and learned our language and culture. I greatly admire their love and dedication to the people in need, and their practical love reaffirms my conviction of the real freedom that is found in genuine love. They are a great inspiration to me!
It was springtime during our visit, so the weather was beautiful as the Keevils brought us to visit the many touristic sites in London, where Jan is from. Of course, we had to stop to get authentic fish and chips multiple times.
We visited Peter’s hometown in Wales, where we sampled the traditional English breakfast. And we enjoyed the incredible landscapes, green pastures and meadows, mountains draped with flowers, flocks of sheep grazing. That place was definitely like a movie scene!
Later, we spent time in Cornwell County (geographically speaking, the part of the UK nearest to the American continent), where we hiked daily and explored new places often.
From walking through the cobbled streets of small cute towns full of history and tradition, to hiking through the forest and to the top of imposing cliffs overlooking the southern coast of England and the northern coast of France. Feeling the strong cold wind that had traveled across the Atlantic Ocean to reach the coast hitting our faces, our hikes always ended at home having a good cup of tea.
Tea time was my favorite time of the day!
While this tradition wasn’t foreigner to me, since in many places of South East Asia, where I lived for 7 years of adulthood, they still follow the practice as a result of the British influence in those areas.
Though, Jan is not a tea lover, as “a good British woman” she knows the proper way to make tea. Every evening, we would start the ceremony of the tea preparation: They filled the kettle with fresh water - “Never use water that has already been boiled!” said Papa Peter the first day he taught me how he makes it.
They warmed the teapot by rinsing it out with some hot water, they added the right amount of English breakfast tea, and just before the water boiled, they poured it into the warm pot, without stirring it. They just closed it and let it infuse for a few minutes. Then it was ready to be served into cups. We added milk and sugar and sat to enjoy our tea time.
That first day, they offered us some bread buns to eat with our tea. I took the first bite of that bread and realized that it was the softest bread I have ever had in my life! (Haha … Maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but it was definitely one of the softest.) It was the perfect balance of sweetness and buttery-ness, but it was incredibly light and fluffy. The texture was soft but firm, and it didn’t need anything added onto it. It was a magic pairing with the tea. That delicious bread was Brioche.
Every evening I looked forward to sipping tea with that exquisite Brioche bread!
The funny thing is that there were moments during the day that Pastor Peter would say “Joha wants to eat some brioche, I am going to get her some!”, and he would have to make the “sacrifice” of joining me on “my” craving. Of course, it was he that wanted the bread the most. So we would sit and have some of the delicious brioche at random times during the day.
Now, I make my own bread at home, and every time I have a cup of tea with a piece of brioche, I remember the Keevil family with much love and affection. All the fun my mom and I had with them while visiting the UK is certainly a memory I hold dear.
So, today I want to share with all of you this delicious recipe for homemade brioche! This recipe is my variation of chef Patrick Ryan’s recipe, I hope you enjoy making it!
4 cups of bread flour (500 gr)
2 1/4 sticks of cold butter chopped in pieces (250 gr)
1 tsp of salt
2/3 cups of sugar (100 gr)
1/2 cup of milk (100 gr)
15 gr fresh yeast [or 7 gr of dry yeast]
1/2 of one Lemon zest
1/2 of one orange zest
2 spoons of milk to wash the bread
1) In a large bowl – or if using mixer the mixer bowl - add eggs, flour, salt, sugar, milk, yeast and lemon zest and orange zest.
2) Use the hook attachment and mix at medium speed for about 10-12 minutes. Be patience, do not bring the speed up, it will achieve the desired texture, but it needs a little time.
3) After about 4 minutes, when the dough is still wet but is starting to come off the sides of the bowl, start adding the cold butter. Add it, piece by piece, little by little. This will allow the butter to incorporate perfectly into the dough. Don’t rush! Take your time while doing it.
4) Once you have added all the butter. Keep mixing until the dough no longer sticks to the sides of the bowl. You will notice that the dough looks smooth and comes together.
5) Take a separate bowl and coat it with a little olive oil (The dough will not stick to the bowl while resting).
6) Turn off the mixer and transfer the dough to the oil coated bowl, cover with plastic and let it rest overnight in the refrigerator.
This recipe makes two standard loafs of bread (8-1/2 x 4-1/2 x 2-1/2 inches). So, I would recommend that you divide the dough in two parts at this point. Take one half out of the fridge and keep the other one in, so you can bake it fresh in a couple of days.
It can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 days with no problem.
7) The next morning (or after about 8 hours) take it out of the fridge and let it rest on the countertop for about 1 hour, allowing it to reach room temperature.
8) Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and fold in all the edges towards the middle, like forming a ball. You will notice that the consistency of the dough is firmer and easier to work with than the night before.
9) Divide the dough in 4 equal parts, forming small balls. Shape each part folding in the edges towards the middle, and pressing them in to make them look smooth by rolling each to give them a slightly cylinder shape and place them next to each other in a floured loaf pan. (Don’t worry, they don’t have to be perfect!)
10) Cover with a towel and let it proof (or rise) for 2-3 hours in a warm place (I suggest setting it inside an unheated oven) without air circulating. This time will depend on your specific location, altitude, air temperature, etc. It may take a little shorter or a little longer time to rise. For example, if you are in a colder climate or in a low altitude, it may need a little extra time.
11) Once your dough has risen, press lightly with your finger, if it bounces back to the same shape, it is ready to bake! If your dough sinks and does not bounce back, it means that you overproofed your dough, and have to repeat the process of mixing the dough, dividing in 4 parts and letting it rest again, but leaving it for less time.
12) Brush your bread with one egg, beaten, or with 2 teaspoons of milk.
13) Set your oven at 390°F (200°C).
14) Before placing your bread into the oven, splash some water on the bottom of the oven (simply to create some steam) and immediately insert the dough.
15) Bake for about 30-35 minutes, or until golden brown.
If you notice that your bread is browning way too early - before it bakes completely - quickly cover with aluminum foil.
16) After the set time, take the bread out of the oven and let it cool.
Brioche is the perfect bread paired with some fruit jam. It also makes an excellent French toast. But my favorite way to eat it is alone with some English tea!
Try this recipe and share your experience with us in social media using @johastable and #johastable. We would love to hear from you!