Why I'm Thankful This Year: Pain aux Raisins and a Brioche Bonus

This Thanksgiving, we hosted some friends and family for brunch at our house. Although I wanted to keep the meal light, I couldn't resist the opportunity to make Joanne Chang's brioche recipe again.

I made the brioche dough the night before and let it proof in the refrigerator overnight. Then I got up early on Thanksgiving to make pain aux raisins. If you have the dough ready, it's quick to assemble -- just roll out the dough, spread on pastry cream (which I had also made the night before; it's the same pastry cream used in Chang's brioche au chocolat), sprinkle on golden raisins, and then roll up the dough, slice it, arrange the rolls on a pan, and let them proof for a couple of hours before baking. While the baked rolls are still warm, you brush on a glaze made from powdered sugar, water, and vanilla.
These rolls are divine, it's no wonder that Chang has cited this recipe as a particular favorite for both baking and eating. The pastry cream, brioche, raisins, and glaze all become a unified whole, with the the perfect touch of sweetness. I am somewhat in awe of the fact that I could actually make these myself.

Because the pain aux raisins only requires a half batch of brioche dough, I decided to bake the other half into a plain loaf of brioche. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to have it ready in time for breakfast, because the loaves need to proof for four to five hours before you brush them with egg wash and bake (the long required proofing time means that I will never have a freshly baked brioche loaf for breakfast!). I shaped my loaf (pressed the dough into a 9-inch square, folded it into thirds, and turned it seam-side down), put it into the pan, and let it proof for five hours. I think I didn't get the proofing quite right, because during baking one side of the loaf rose explosively, springing with enough force to tear the smooth surface of the dough and create a shaggy texture. The other side rose normally; the result was a markedly lopsided loaf.
Nonetheless, the crumb of the loaf was perfect, and this bread is the bomb. It's wonderfully rich, tender, and is delicious as toast with jam or Biscoff spread. We went out to 1789 Restaurant for Thanksgiving dinner, and I passed on dessert because I was craving toasted brioche with jam. When we got home and I started slicing the loaf to make my toast, my husband Tom came up with an idea that was pure genius: he suggested using the brioche to make cinnamon toast, and topping it with some Jeni's Splendid pumpkin-five spice ice cream (my cousin had thoughtfully brought a pint over to our brunch that morning).

To make the cinnamon toast, I sauteed a couple of slices of brioche in butter on both sides until nicely browned, and sprinkled on Penzey's cinnamon sugar (I happen to have a jar of it on hand, but normally I mix my own cinnamon sugar). The brioche cinnamon toast + pumpkin-five spice ice cream combination is mind-blowingly good. Tom described it is one of the top three desserts of his entire life.
The crisp outer texture of the cinnamon toast around the soft brioche interior, the sweet warmth of the cinnamon sugar, and the creamy decadence of the pumpkin ice cream combined into a supremely delicious and satisfying way to conclude our Thanksgiving dinner. Absolute perfection.

Recipes: "Basic Brioche," "Pastry Cream," and "Pain aux Raisins" from Flour: Spectacular Recipes from Boston's Flour Bakery + Cafe by Joanne Chang. The basic brioche recipe is available here at foodnetwork.com.

Previous Post: "Brioche Does Double Duty: Sticky Buns and Brioche au Chocolat," November 27, 2012.


Sally said…
Thanks for the inspiration! I've had her book for a while, and have been meaning to try the brioche recipe. Her chocolate brioche (from the bakery) is the best I've had outside Paris. Delicious!
Louise said…
I need to try this brioche recipe real soon. I never shy away from yeast recipes, but it's nice to know that this one is really easy to work with.

This is off topic, but I found this Zoe Francois recipe and video a few days ago and thought you might like to try it too. http://www.cookingchanneltv.com/recipes/striped-christmas-sugar-cookies-recipe/index.html
Anonymous said…
You forgot to mention being served with a wee dram of scotch....that was an important part of the idea -- at least for those of us that had it with scotch!