Especially when you’re learning to make brioche with the immensely talented patissiere Annie Pambaguian of Sweet Little Something.
Learning to make brioche is on my bucket list and I’m thrilled to spend the morning with Annie. Using one of her recipes written out in her native French, Annie walks me through the steps. She laughs when she reads that the eggs are described as “frais et gouteux,” but then she concurs with the directions: “We will do fresh and tasty… because in brioche, the eggs really do matter. You want the butter to taste really good and the eggs to taste really good.”
In Annie’s kitchen, it’s not about exact baking times. It’s about using all your senses and paying attention. I bake often and I bake a lot, but I don’t fully understand food chemistry and I don’t always know what to look for in terms of texture.
Annie has finely tuned instincts and relies even upon sound. She walks away from the standing mixer because she can hear when the dough is ready: It will slap against the sides of the mixing bowl.
She sends me home with a bucket (literally) of brioche dough. Precious cargo… I’m almost tempted to fasten a seatbelt around it.
I baby-sit the brioche through the afternoon. I’m careful to not depend too much on time. As the brioche rises in the refrigerator, I look at the height. As I gently mold it into pans, I press one finger down to check for springiness. Hours later, I slide the pans into the oven and watch for the golden brown color to develop. And then I fret and fret and fret as the buttery inside doesn’t cook: maybe I filled the molds too full? I run and pull Julia Child off the bookshelf – she recommends wrapping tinfoil over the brioche loosely, so I give it a try. Finally, it’s cooked through.
It tastes like everything I expect brioche to be. But I can’t take credit.
I know I have a lot of practice ahead of me.