Monday, February 11, 2013

Strawberry Brioche Sweet Rolls

This recipe is my Valentine to my two sweet sons.  It's hard to write about my boys without sounding too cliche, but I will say this:  I never imagined that I could love anyone as completely and unconditionally as I do them.

They are both so different from each other that already, at 3 and 8 years old, my relationship with each is unique.  My oldest is the quiet, polite, introspective one.  He is bright, thoughtful and speaks in ways that are well beyond his 8 years.  He is so much like me that I understand him on a deeper level than anyone else on the Earth.  He doesn't understand how important that is yet, but as he grows up, I have a feeling we will have many conversations without even speaking to each other.  I'm not not sure if he'll come to appreciate it or not, but I hope that he will.  His little brother, on the other hand, is cut of an entirely different cloth alltogether.  He is outspoken, tough, controlling and stubborn, in other words exactly like his father.  But I have found that he is also capable of such immense love and loyalty that are borne from the same passion which he devotes to battling for his way.And his laugh is the best one I have ever heard.
We get to spend so much time together as a threesome while my husband is off working in faraway places that I often think it's incredibly unfair to him.  I get to know my boys, nurture them, laugh with them and spend all of the important moments with them and he has to miss quite a bit of it.  I can only hope that as they get older they will understand why he was away and how much he loves them and misses them.  And in the meantime, I fill both roles of mother and father and love my boys as much as possible for both of us. 
Strawberry Brioche Sweet Rolls
Makes 9 rolls.  Brioche recipe from The Pie and Pastry Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum.
For the printable recipe, click here.

This is certainly not an everyday recipe.  It is the sort of thing we have around my house on a special day or for a treat.  It's a bit involved and requires at least a day to make, but is worth every ounce of patience you put into it.  I suggest making the dough the day before you want to serve the rolls, unless you want them for dessert.  The brioche is from an impeccable source and is the sort of soft and fragrantly buttery pastry I'd expect from a Parisian patisserie.  The strawberries are found in two places- the jam that is baked in between the layers of brioche and in the cream cheese frosting.  It's indulgent, to be sure, but it's not for everyday and as Julia Child said, “Everything in moderation... including moderation.”. 

2 1/2 tbs warm water
3 tbs sugar
1 1/2 tsp (1 packet) instant yeast
1 1/2 to 2 cups unbleached all purpose or bread flour
3 large eggs, room temperature
8 tbs butter, very soft

2/3 cup home made* or best quality strawberry jam

4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
8 tbs butter, room temperature
2 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp strawberry jam

*one of my strawberry jam recipes is below, though I used orange instead of lime for these rolls

Give your yeast a kick start by combining the yeast, water and 1/2 tsp of the sugar in a small bowl.  This is called proofing.  Set the bowl aside for 10-15 minutes, until it is full of bubbles.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together 1/3 cup of the flour and 1 of the eggs.  Add the yeast mixture and whisk until smooth.  Sprinkle the remaining flour (to equal 1 1/2 cups total, including the prevously added 1/3 cup) over the top of the mixture, but do not mix it in.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set it in a warm, draft free spot for 1 1/2 to 2 hours.  You will see cracks emerge in the flour and the spongy yeast mixture expanding underneath.

When you are ready to complete making the dough, whisk together the remaining sugar and eggs in a small bowl.  Add this to your sponge mixture and beat with the paddle attachment of a stand mixer on medium speed (you could do this by hand, but you'd need some strong biceps!).  Beat for about 5 minutes or until the dough is smooth, shiny and begins to clean the sides of the bowl.  You may need to add more flour to accomplish this, but do so in increments of 1 tbs at a time.  I actually found that I needed a bit more than the upper range of 2 cups to get a nice smooth dough.  Increase the speed to medium high and incorporate the butter 1 tbs at a time.  The dough will be very soft and elastic.

Turn the dough out into a buttered bowl and cover with plastic wrap.  Let it rise until doubled in volume, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.  When the first rise is complete, turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface.  Gently press it into a rectangle and then fold the dough into thirds like a letter.  Press it out again into a rectangle and repeat the fold.  Wrap the dough tightly in plastic wrap and then place in a zip top bag.  Refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to overnight. 

Remove the dough from the refrigerator and roll it on a lightly floured surface into a rectangle roughly 12 by 14 inches.  Spread the 2/3 cup jam over the dough, leaving a 1/2 inch border around the edges free of jam.  Roll the dough into a log from the long side.  Cut the log into three pieces and each of those into thirds.  Place the rolls into a buttered 8x8 inch baking dish.  You can leave the rolls out for their final rise at this point or refrigerate them overnight.  In either case, cover with plastic wrap.  Whenever you choose to let them rise, set them in a warm spot until roughly doubled in bulk, 30-45 minutes if already warm or up to 1 hour if straight from the fridge.

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees while the rolls rise.  When the rolls have risen, bake them in your preheated oven for 15-20 minutes.  The edges will become golden.

While the sweet rolls bake, make the frosting.  In the bowl of a stand mixer or with a hand mixer, beat together the cream cheese and butter on medium speed until smooth.  Add the powdered sugar and beat until light and fluffy.  Add the vanilla and jam and beat just until incorporated.  Spread over the warm sweet rolls and serve.

The rolls will keep, wrapped airtight, up to 2 days at room temperature.

*Strawberry Lime Jam
1 quart of strawberries (about 4 cups chopped)
1 cup sugar
zest and juice from 2 limes

Put the chopped strawberries and sugar in a large bowl.  Cover and let macerate in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours or up to 12.

Place the strawberries and all the accumulated juices into a medium sauce pot.  Add the lime zest and juice.  Over medium heat, bring the mixture to a boil then lower the heat so that the mixture is at a constant simmer.  Cook the berries until an instant read thermometer placed in the mixture reaches 220 degrees.  This will take about 20-25 minutes.   Pour into a pint jar, cover and let cool.  Refrigerate the jam for up to three weeks.

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