Fact: writing recipes is hard. Perfecting them is even harder.
Not even the best of us kitchen people get it right the first time — I’ve read quotes from top chefs talking about how they’ve spent years developing and tweaking their signature dishes.
And recipes don’t happen in a vacuum, either — in the pastry industry, we walk a path that’s been largely paved for us, relying age-old techniques that allow us to experiment with new forms of presentation and flavours.
If you engross yourself in the work of others and you’re suddenly inspired, then that’s a gift meant to be shared and passed on, not horded and used to polish your own self image.
This issue is often on my mind, because I often see recipes online with no credit given to their original authors.
And it bothers me, because it’s ridiculously disrespectful.
I’m not going to finger-point, but I’m often disgusted by how some of the “big bloggers” out there fail to light the way for those ahead of them by dimming the lights on those behind.
You should never be ashamed to give credit or cite inspiration.
If a reader can flip through more than 5 recipes in a row on a pastry blog and not see a single “adapted from…”, then it’s likely you’ve been pilfering from somewhere (unless you’re David Lebovitz — but even he talks about his inspiration and the recipes picked up from colleagues).
In a nutshell: not giving credit — just don’t do it. Sheesh.
Anyways, with all that off my chest, I bring you an inspired recipe: honey and pink peppercorn brioche.
Michel Roux has a recipe for a honey and pink peppercorn madeleine (gorgeous with a milky earl grey tea). Tosi has a recipe for black pepper brioche (but a brioche recipe without sugar, eggs, or milk).
Together, they make magic — and, although it’s my own recipe, I didn’t really do it alone.
Honey & Pink Peppercorn Brioche
- 2 & 1/2 cups (400g) all-purpose flour
- 3 tablespoons (45ml) whole milk
- 2 & 1/2 tablespoons (50g) honey, good quality
- 2 tablespoons (25g) sugar
- 1 packet (8g) active dry yeast (or 15g fresh yeast)
- 3 large eggs, room temperature
- 1 & 1/2 teaspoons (6g) kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon (4g) pink peppercorns, finely crushed & tightly packed
- 10 tablespoons (140g) unsalted butter, cubed and kept cool
- egg wash
Start by activating the yeast — gently heat the milk until it feels warm (but not hot) to the touch.
Transfer the milk to the mixing bowl, add the active dry yeast and stir to dissolve. The yeast should bubble up and “come to life” within 5 minutes — if not, you’ll have to throw out the milk and yeast and start over.
Lightly whisk the eggs to break them up, then combine the flour, honey, sugar, milk, yeast, eggs, and salt together in a stand mixer fitted with a bread hook.
Start the mixer on low and mix for 2 ~ 3 minutes, or until the dough comes together (scrape around the bottom of the bowl if needed).
Once the dough has come together, turn the mixer up to medium-high and machine-knead for about 8 ~ 10 minutes.
After 8 ~ 10 minutes, turn the mixer down in speed a bit and add the butter, one or two chunks at a time. Wait until the last chunks of butter are completely absorbed before adding more.
When all the butter is incorporated, the dough should appear smooth and shiny (but not greasy).
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, sprinkle with the crushed pink peppercorns, and gently knead them in.
Form the dough into a ball, then place it in a large bowl that’s been coated with a thin layer of butter or vegetable oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let stand in a warm place for 1 hour.
After 1 hour, remove the plastic wrap and gently press down on the dough to deflate it. Re-cover in plastic wrap and let rest in the fridge overnight.
Brioche is much easier to handle and shape the next morning, so, when it’s ready, remove the dough from the fridge and shape it as you please.
Brioche à tête are pretty if you like buns — they should be 40 grams for the “body” and 10 grams for the “head” for a total of 50 grams. If you don’t have brioche à tête molds, you can always use a muffin tin coated with non-stick spray.
For a brioche loaf, simply line a 8 x 5 inch loaf tin with parchment and non-stick spray and drop 50 gram mounds of dough into it, arranging them to fit snugly in the tin.
After shaping, cover the brioche with plastic wrap and leave in a warm place for its final rise — about 60 minutes.
After 45 minutes of waiting, preheat the oven to 350°F/175°C.
The brioche have finished their final rise when a gentle poke barely leaves an indent in the bread.
Brush a thin layer of egg wash over the top of your brioche, sprinkle with pearl sugar (or more crushed pink peppercorns), and bake for about 25 minutes for buns, and at least 45 minutes for a loaf.
Allow to cool for at least 30 minutes before slicing.
There’s nothing like the smell of homemade bread to drive you up the walls (in a good way)!
I stuffed a bun in my mouth as soon as the first batch came out of the oven, which gave me the patience to wait until the rest of the loaf had cooled down enough to eat with a generous slather of whipped butter and vanilla honey. Yum!