As you can see, I’ve been on a big baking and pastry kick lately. My experience with savory cooking has started to take a back seat to my baking passion these last few months. It is where I got my start, after all. I was a 6-year-old who preferred to bake brownies and cookies than play with toys or run around with the other kids. I was drawn to the beauty, science, and sugar of baking and pastries long before I fell in love with the hot line. And even though I do enjoy my life as a savory chef, part of me wonders where I (and/or my career) would be if I had gone the sweet route instead diving into the world of salt, fire, and skillets. Thankfully no one is forever stuck in the path they initially chose. Thus, I’ve begun to pay more attention to the sweeter side of life lately. Will this new (old) love of sweets and breads become something greater than just some late-night stints in my kitchen after work? Who knows… But until then, there’s brioche swirl bread.
I absolutely LOVE babka. Enriched sweet dough and delectable chocolate wrapped up in a wonderfully entrancing package — what’s not to love? While the original recipe is about as good as it gets, the creative juices have been flowing lately, which has led me to create this tasty new version. And since I’m feeling bogged down by our dreary, early spring weather, I wanted to create a summery twist (see what I did there?) on this swirly classic.
Blueberry Basil Brioche Bread
- 345 g bread flour
- 9 g salt
- 50 g sugar
- 10 small basil leaves
- 4 g yeast
- 78 g whole milk, at room temperature
- 135 g eggs (about 3), at room temperature
- 2 g vanilla extract
- 170 g unsalted butter, soft and cut in small chunks
- zest from 1 lemon
- 100 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 7 g blueberry powder*
- 30 g sugar
- 1/2 lemon, juiced
*Blueberry powder is available online or in specialty baking/cooking stores. If you don’t have access or the time to hunt this ingredient down, just head to your local grocery store and purchase dehydrated blueberries. Pulse those dried babies in your food processor and voila, blueberry powder! A little goes a long way, so don’t let the cost of the berries deter you. I still have a good amount in my pantry even after I used the 7 grams needed for this recipe.
A quick note that, yes, this recipe works with weight instead of cups and teaspoons. If you’re as big of a fan of baking as I am, you’ll do well to purchase a kitchen scale. It’s the one and only way to properly (and accurately) bake. For example, one cup of flour that I measure will not yield exactly the same quantity of one cup of flour that you measure. Baking is a science. Even the slightest variance in measurement means the difference between a beautiful loaf of bread and something only the dog would eat. The only way to ensure the perfect bake is to use a scale. So I do apologize to those who don’t have a scale yet, but trust me, if you run out and buy one now, your breads (and your family) will thank you.
To make the basil brioche dough, start by making the basil sugar. In a food processor, blend the sugar and basil leaves until the basil is finely chopped. Combine the flour, salt, basil sugar, and yeast in a medium bowl.
In a stand mixer, stir to combine the milk, vanilla extract, and eggs. Pour the dry ingredients on top and mix on low speed until just incorporated. Turn the mixer to medium and mix until the gluten develops and the dough comes together (about 5 minutes).
Continuing on medium speed, add one-third of the butter. Once that butter has been incorporated, add another third of the butter. Wait until it has been completely mixed in, then add the remaining butter. Take the dough out of the bowl and place on a floured surface. Cover with plastic wrap and rest for 1 hour. Don’t worry if the dough seems loose – it’s rich, buttery brioche bread. A light and slightly wet dough means you’ll end up with fluffy bread.
After an hour of resting, transfer the dough to a sheet pan lined with greased parchment paper (to prevent sticking). Wrap the sheet pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour or up to 12 hours. The longer you can refrigerate the dough the better the end product will taste. But if you’re like me and cant wait that long, one hour is totally acceptable.
For the blueberry filling, whisk all the ingredients in a bowl until combined.
Roll out the brioche dough to a rectangle 14 inches by 18 inches, keeping the edges as straight as possible. Spread the blueberry filling on the dough, making sure to cover it completely. Tightly roll up the brioche from the long side of the rectangle. Cut the dough lengthwise almost to the top, leaving 2 inches of uncut dough at the top. Twist the two lengths of dough so the cut side is facing up. Gently press the end together. Carefully transfer the braided loaf into a greased 9×5.5 inch loaf pan with the ends tucked under.
Cover with plastic wrap and let it proof for 1½ to 2 hours until doubled in size. Do not put it in too warm of a spot or the butter will melt out.
Preheat the oven to 325ºF.
Brush the loaf with egg wash. Bake the loaf for 16 minutes, then lower the temperature to 300ºF and bake for 30 to 35 minutes more, until the loaf is golden brown.
Remove from the oven and let it cool in the pan until it is cool enough to handle. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.