When you have been baking for a while, simple recipes are simply not enough. As a confident baker, you turn towards more complicated and challenging ways of making bread, cakes etc. That’s why when I stumbled upon this recipe twice on Italian food blogs, La Tarte Maison and Trattoria da Martina, I decided to give it a try. The concept behind it is very interesting. If normally a brioche is made with eggs, milk and flour, to make these small brioche (bun-size ones) you ditch the eggs and the milk in favour of water. The fat component (traditionally butter) can either be provided by lard, butter (ditto) or, in my case, oil. Martina from La Tarte Maison jokingly said that when this recipe came out on the web, her blogger friends and herself managed to try all ‘3 shades of fat’ in making it. I decided to use oil and the result is a very soft and moreish texture.
Making these is very easy and you will be better off kneading the dough by hand rather than in a freestanding mixer. It is easier to incorporate the oil by hand – if you do it in a freestanding mixer, the dough just floats in the oil and does not absorb it. However, I still put my dough in the mixer to knead for a couple of minutes once the oil had been worked in and this made it extra soft and pliable. The dough also needs to be rested in the fridge: this also makes it easier to work with it afterwards.
- 250g strong bread flour
- 125ml water, at room temperature
- 1 x 7g sachet of dried yeast
- 70g caster sugar
- pinch of salt
- 30ml vegetable oil
- zest of half a lemon
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- In the bowl of a freestanding mixer (or in a normal bowl), pour the flour, yeast, salt, sugar, vanilla and lemon zest, then add the water and mix it all together for 8-10 minutes on low speed.
- Once all of the ingredients have been thoroughly incorporated, tip the dough on a clean work surface and spread it out a bit. Pour some oil in (adding a teaspoon at the time is the best way forward), then knead that in, ensuring the oil if fully absorbed. If needed, put the oily dough back in the bowl of the freestanding mixer to knead a little bit more.
- Once all of the oil has been slowly worked in (it will take you about 30 minutes by hand), transfer the dough back into the bowl of the freestanding mixer and knead for another 10 minutes – the mixture should be shiny, elastic and smooth and come away from the sides of the bowl.
- Transfer the dough in a bowl or a plastic container, then cover with clingfilm and leave to rise in a warm environment until doubled (an hour should be enough). Punch the dough down, cover tightly with clingfilm and put the dough to rest in the fridge for 3 hours.
- Once the dough has been properly chilled and rested, remove from the fridge and tip onto a work surface. Use your hands to roll the dough into a long sausage, then cut it into 8 equal pieces using a small knife.
- Line a baking tray with some parchment paper, then use your hands to slightly roll each small piece into a ball and place them on the baking tray, well spaced. To give you an idea – I saw Paul Hollywood doing it on TV once – put your hand, finger down, in the shape of a cage around the dough, then roll each small piece until it’s completely round and resembles a small ball.
- Turn your oven on to 50C, cover the tray with a towel and put the small uncooked brioches to rise again in the oven (don’t worry, they won’t cook) for about 40 minutes. They should more or less double in size.
- Turn the temperature of the oven up to 180C, remove the towel and bake the small brioches for 15 minutes. They will be well browned when cooked.
- Remove from the oven, let them cool down slightly, then dust with icing sugar before serving.