Lesson 14: The Dichotomy of Brioche


Brioche class was the most divisive of classes, with the demonstration class being painful and the practical a pleasure. As such it can be classified as a dichotomous and almost satirical situation.


Is it a paradox that it is not the actual pastry we make but the environment that we make it in which imbues the flavour into the pastry – as they say a cake made with love not war tastes so much sweeter!




Well by the end of demonstration class late one evening, all of us had endured enough brioche for a lifetime, we had it coming out of our eyeballs, and there was certainly enough to make you go mad!

We had been at school since 7:30am and had the prospect of rushing home, having a shower and putting on formal clothes and somehow being presentable at a restaurant by 7:30pm!


And as he kept saying ‘and another surprise’… and ‘another variation’… and ‘another region’… Our eyes were all becoming heavy and we were becoming less patient.



It is seriously tiring sitting in a warm room literally watching dough rise both whilst proofing and then in the oven!

No one ever actually watches grass grow! Well we do something a little similar…


We were all expected at the student dinner in less than an hour by the time we all clambered into the packed change rooms and tried to change quickly and get out of that smelly cramped space as soon as possible!


The Brioche was Brioche! What can I say! As amazing and light as it was! As golden as the crust was! As incredible as his different compositions were, they were still all just derivations of a very simple brioche in different shaped pans!



Above you may identify the following endangered Brioche Species – please note that in less than 20 minutes, all will be consumed or hidden and stolen away for people’s families…


Lesson 14: Brioche ßà Brioche ‘Rich Yeast Dough’

  • Briochesa multitude of shapes and sizes


  • Brioche Parisienne in a fluted mould


  • Brioche MousselinesTall Brioche


  • Brioche Bostock – brioche filled with large chunks of sugar


  • Brioche Bordelaise – a circle filled with bergamot extract, candied orange zest and glace cherries


  • Brioche Swisse – multiple swirls filled with candied fruits and made into a cake, then covered with nappage and almonds


  • Pains au Laitcovered with nibbed sugar in a loaf shape


  • Pains aux Raisins “Escargot” made with brioche dough


  • Kougloffilled with candied orange zest and golden raisins



Please take note that I’m not ungrateful, I’m being a little harsh just because I am writing this on the sardine like cabin of the metro at 7pm in between class and the dinner and I am exhausted!


I’ll try and be there on time… though I doubt it!


We are all intending to have a great time tonight despite our collective exhaustion and in spite of our sense of frustration.


It is coming up to our exams soon, we just got given the list of 8 cakes we must learn off by heart in case we draw that name from a hat and have to reproduce it by hand as well as a sweet tart pastry dough together with perfectly lining a tart tin in 2hours!


Not as relaxed a holiday from medicine as I had pictured – but it is a famous institution and this is the exactement Paris!


Oh and did I mention that the metro just broke down and we all had to disembark!


Today just gets even more interesting by the minute!


It began with triumph with amazing croissant and ended with being suffocated in an overcrowded peak hour metro with people playing corners in a moving train!



Three days and a lifetime later…





It is a unique situation when you have a chef who makes you smile and brings out the best in his students day after day!


Chef Daniel Walter is a seasoned professional having trained many of the other chefs himself!


He is also a gentleman and amazing teacher! He is calm, understanding and encouraging. He explains our techniques and expectations well despite obvious language barriers. He makes us smile, and when we are lucky enough to enter the practical kitchens and see him standing there with a warm bonjour we all know that today will be a good day!


If only he knew how much we all like and respect him!


So, today is dedicated to Chef Walter.


Even he can turn the most mundane and frustrating class into a joy!


And such was his task today, turning the Brioche Practical from torture into training and a little fun!


We had made our Brioche dough at the end of the croissant practical the other day as it needs to rest, rise and ferment overnight.

It began with 6 simple ingredients which we worked hand until our arms were ready to fall off.


All the elasticity that is necessary for good brioche needs to be developed before the resting period as once it has cooled it must be barely touched to ensure it rises to perfection.


Well normally this is done with a large mixing machine until the dough slaps on the side of bowl.


We, the foolish few, completed this task by hand, and if not too careful could end up with sticky dough over our entire arms and uniforms.

I survived largely unscathed – just!


Watching everyone’s different methods of generating the elasticity was like viewing a bad black and white English comedy.


The chef is inspecting our final products and separating them into individual portions.



Moving back to the present day, back with Chef Walter, we removed our dough from the fridges and began our procession of rolling and moulding our different Brioche styles.



The Chef expertly producing the Pain aux Raisin…


We all had a ball and given the huge amount of pâte we had left over some of us had a little more fun!


Two of us made plated brioche akin to a challah, I made Pain au Lait and my partner in baking crime made Pain Swisse with chocolate after we had all made the mandatory brioche in a loaf tin, and brioche parisienne in the fluted moulds.

The process of making each boule or ball was a blast akin to pottery. We would then shape it into a bowling pin by creating a body and head with a long neck then lovingly caress it into the moulds.


Each was lovingly given the time to rise in the proofing oven and then delicately egg-washed so as not to destroy their smooth surface or release the trapped air.


They became golden brown and fluffy in the baking heat of the oven. They had barely been tapped out of the hot moulds when people already began tearing apart the steaming brioche and eating its’ airy goodness!

Tired but riding high on our success we took a break for lunch before our next demonstration class!


The Final Products were truly special and the next day I was lucky enough to take them to London to share with my incredible sister and her tallented husband!


Me ‘The Novice Hobbyist


My Friend ‘The Professional Pastry Frenchman’

Le professionnel



Pain aux Raisin

Pain aux Raisin

Pain au Lait with nibbed Sugar

Pain Swisse with Chocolate


A great friend and a great example, we strive harder to follow his standards!


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