It’s Spring! Well, not really. There’s not a flower in sight, and the trees are as bare as ever.
But it’s starting. Slowly. I’ve begun to hear the faint chirping of birds again, music to my ears, and one morning when I stepped out, it was misty and cool and it felt like Spring was right there, hanging patiently back in the sky and waiting for the perfect moment to make its grand arrival.
With the semi-advent of Spring, my creative crisis has disappeared as quickly as it came. All I needed was a new season to get my gears turning again. Now, I’m flooded with images of bright green asparagus, pink radishes, pastas with peas and lemons and all manner of desserts; ideas keep coming and I keep baking and cooking. Spring has awakened my imagination just as it has the earth.
These strawberry brioches are the first Spring pastry to come out of my kitchen this year. Inspired by the beautiful strawberry creations I saw in Paris patisseries this past winter, I decided to give my favorite Spring arrival, strawberries, a luxe welcome atop a bed of creamy frangipane and buttery brioche.
The brioche is simple and traditional. It feels like any yeast dough, but is made with significantly more butter, eggs and sugar, giving it the richness- and also, lightness- it’s known for. The frangipane, which is dolloped in generous quantities onto the risen brioche, is delicately flavored with orange zest and vanilla bean. The orange zest perfumes the entire pastry and enhances the strawberries, which have been macerated with vanilla, sugar and a drop of salt, further bringing out their sweetness.
The pastries are somewhat time consuming, but each component is relatively uncomplicated, and I can’t think of a better way to welcome the new season than with these buttery, nutty, creamy brioches. I’ve found my kitchen harmony again, and with these, you’ll definitely find yours, too.
Yields: 10 brioches
Adapted from here
Why I love this recipe: patisserie inspired, these brioche pastries are beautiful and delicious. The brioche dough is buttery, quick and easy and the orange almond cream is intensely flavored, playing off the sweet, juicy strawberries. Vanilla bean adds flavor to both the frangipane and the strawberries and salt in the strawberries brings out their full flavor. As an added plus, each component can be prepared separately and in advance, which makes final assembly and baking a breeze.
Notes: read through the recipe to make sure you have all the ingredients before you begin baking, as the process is somewhat lengthy. The frangipane will last in the fridge for up to a week and in the freezer for a month.
Variations: use any berry, or rhubarb, in place of the strawberries.
For the brioche dough:
- 2 1/2 heaping cups bread flour
- 1 tsp instant dry yeast
- 7 tablespoons sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons fine sea salt
- 3 tablespoons whole milk, lightly warmed
- 5 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
For the orange almond cream:
- 1/2 heaping cup almond flour
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
- zest of 1 medium orange
- 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature soft
- 1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
For the strawberries and topping:
- 1 lb. strawberries, tops removed and quartered
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/2 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 egg, for egg wash
- pearl sugar, for sprinkling
- In a stand mixer bowl, whisk together the bread flour, yeast, sugar and salt. Attach the dough hook and add in warm milk and eggs.
- Mix on low speed until combined and dough forms, about 3-4 minutes. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides and bottom of the mixing bowl.
- On low speed, gradually add in the butter in medium-sized pieces. Allow each addition to mix in completely before adding in more. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl regularly to help the mixing along.
- Add all the butter to the dough within 2-3 minutes of mixing. Once all the butter is added, mix the dough for a final 5 minutes. Dough will be shaggy, sticky and uniform.
- Using a bowl scraper or spatula, transfer the dough to a clean bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Set on counter top to ferment, at room temperature, for 1 hour. Transfer fermented dough to the refrigerator to chill overnight, at least 12 hours.
- Make the almond cream. In the bowl of a stand mixer, with the paddle attachment, mix the butter for a few seconds until creamy. Add the powdered sugar and mix until light and fluffy, on medium speed, about 2 minutes.
- Add in the rest of the ingredients and mix until combined. Mix in the extract and egg until cream is light and fluffy.
- Transfer almond-orange cream to an airtight container and store in the refrigerator. When ready to use, vigorously stir the chilled cream to loosen it up and soften until spreadable.
- Make the strawberries: in a small bowl, mix together all the ingredients for the strawberries until evenly coated and combined. Set aside until needed.
- Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper. After the overnight rest, pull the brioche dough out of the refrigerator. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to 1/4-inch thickness.
- Using a 3 1/4-inch round biscuit or cookie cutter, cut out individual rounds of dough. Gently press together remaining brioche dough scraps into a uniform dough, roll back out and cut out more rounds. Repeat the process until there are 10 rounds.
- Evenly arrange the brioche dough rounds onto the lined baking sheets, placing about two-inches apart. Lightly cover baking sheets with plastic wrap. Allow dough to proof, at room temperature, for 1 hour and 30 minutes. .
- Preheat the oven to 375°F, 20-30 minutes before the brioche is finished proofing.
- To assemble the pastries: using a pastry brush, apply the egg wash by gently brushing the entire surface of each brioche round with the lightly beaten egg. Dollop a generous spoonful of almond-orange cream onto the center of each brioche round.
- Leave a 1/2-inch border exposed on each round. Add a generous spoonful of strawberries to rest on top of the cream. Pile the strawberries high as they will spread out while baking. Sprinkle the pearl sugar around the edges of each brioche round.
- Bake strawberries & cream brioche pastries for 25 – 28 minutes, until deeply golden. Remove from oven and set on cooling rack. Pastries are best enjoyed the day they are made, but may be stored in an airtight container for up to two days.