As I revisit the basics through teaching, I have once again fallen in love with bread. I love how just a few ingredients and a little time can develop such a wide array of textures and flavors. I enjoy the simple, albeit sometimes tedious, process of bread-making. Of course, I can never leave well enough alone. I always have to experiment a little, even with the most tried-and-true recipes.
Recently, I heard about a recipe that replaced butter with avocados to create a rich yeasted bread. I found this substitution intriguing. A quick search through dietetic resources suggested that the fat content of a typical avocado is about 75%, while butter is traditionally in the 80% range. The next morning I made some biscuits in which I replaced half the total weight of dairy product with fresh avocado. The biscuits worked the same and definitely had a distinctive flavor, and color, of avocado.
Now the wheels were turning as I thumbed through the ingredients in my pantry. I came across a tub of praline paste, and realized that while I have made bread with chocolate, nut, and fruit fillings, I had never tried to replace the butter with any of these ingredients. I decided to try a simple brioche recipe, sweetening the sponge with honey and processing the bread in the traditional method. Instead of making a dough and working the butter into that, I cut all the fat into the dry ingredients prior to adding the liquid, as I would for a biscuit. Mixing produced a firm dough that was slightly more dense than a usual brioche. I was a little nervous at this point, but in the end I had a tender, not-too-sweet bread with a subtle praline taste.
4 ounces whole milk, warm
1 ounce yeast
2 ounces honey
4 ounces bread flour
Mix together completely and let ferment at least until bubbles appear throughout the sponge.
2 ounces sugar
4 whole eggs
1 egg yolk
8 ounces pastry flour
8 ounces bread flour
4 to 8 ounces nut paste or seed paste
Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl and mix together, then add the sponge, eggs, and nut paste. Mix with the paddle of a stand mixer until the dough is just combined. Then fit a dough hook and mix the dough until it forms a smooth ball and cleans the side of the bowl; about 4 minutes at medium low speed. Transfer dough to an oiled bowl, preferably the same oil as the nut, and allow to bulk ferment; about an hour. Punch down the dough and allow bulk ferment once more; about an hour. Remove the dough from the bowl and portion as desired. Shape or pan the bread and allow to proof until fully prepared for baking.
Bake at 365F until cooked through and golden-brown and delicious. Remove from oven and allow to cool briefly in pan, is using, then transfer to a cooling rack to allow the best steam escape rate. Store as you would any other bread.
I hereby challenge fellow cooks to recreate this bread using any nut paste you can find. Please comment and let me know which ones are amazing and which fall a bit short. I suspect the greatest results will come from using walnuts, pecans, and pine nuts, but don't hesitate to try seed pastes: black or white sesame seed, pumpkin seed, or even flax seeds would be interesting. Bonne chance!