France Culinary Vacation: the History of Brioche
Food is memorable not only for its deliciousness, but also the memories we create while sharing a meal with family and friends. “At our cooking school le Calabash we love toasted Brioche with our pressed foie gras terrine and fig marmalade, and have also developed our own sweet curry brioche crust, which we bake cod in, a favorite with our clients.
The addition of a little of our locally grown saffron adds a wonderful depth to a savory brioche, and we enjoy this with a dish of curried mussels, an idea we took away with us from Cornwall in theUK, where saffron buns are a regional speciality.
We serve freshly baked brioche at breakfast during our cooking vacations, and without exception, the croissants will go unnoticed with each and every slice of Brioche being devoured. We have even had a lady take a half loaf of our brioche, wrap it up and take it back to the USA with her, for breakfast!
We love the saucisson Lyonnais, which we buy when in Lyon and bake in the center of a brioche loaf. When cooled down, we will enjoy it up in the orchard with a glass of Nicholas Paget’s Azay Rosé, sliced with a little of Sidney’s nanny’s vegetable pickle.
Whenever we have a little Brioche left, we make a classic: pain perdu for our children as a dessert, with caramelized nuts, apple and a ball of our homemade vanilla ice cream, drenched in butter caramel sauce.
We both love baking this French classic that has its first recorded mention in 1611 where it was described as ‘a Rowle’ with the first origin being Norman. Some will claim that it originated 200 years prior to this in Greece as a traditional Easter Bread known as the ‘tsoureki’ or as the Jewish challah Passover bread. Some say that the name comes from St. Brieuc in Brittany whose inhabitants are called Briochins.
In France it developed as a sort of bread improved since antiquity by generations of bakers, then by pastry-makers. The French can lay claim to the fact that they built upon and improved a culinary item; as they have with the croissant that has its origins in Austria.
Marie-Antoinette, wife of Louis XVI is said to have announced, with regard to the peasants who had no bread, “Qu’ils mangent de la brioche,” commonly inaccurately translated as “Let them eat cake.” For the wealthy “from the time of Louis XIV onwards . . . Butter, in widespread use at least in the northern half of France, was the secret of making brioches.”
Brioche is considered a Viennoiserie. It is made in the same basic way as bread, but has the richer aspect of a pastry because of the extra addition of eggs, butter, liquid milk and occasionally a bit of sugar.
Brioche à tête or parisienne is perhaps the most classically recognized form: it is formed and baked in a fluted round, flared tin; a large ball of dough is placed on the bottom and topped with a smaller ball of dough to form the he tête. Brioche Nanterre is a loaf of brioche made in a standard loaf pan. Instead of shaping two pieces of dough and baking them together, two rows of small pieces of dough are placed in the pan.
This year due to the demand of past visitors, we have decided to add the brioche to our “French Chateau Culinary Adventure” cooking vacation as it is a wonderful skill for visitors of France to take away with them as it will bring them and their loved ones many happy meal times in the future and fond memories of France.”
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For more information about the dishes you’ll create during cooking classes with Le Calabash, please visit our website.By Liz SanFilippo Hall