Lately I’ve been so behind with writing. I’ve found myself writing a winter recipe at the beginning of spring and now a spring recipe while we’re already in summer months.
I think I never appreciated or noticed the change of seasons as much as I did this year. Both cooking and photographing made me more aware and sensitive this change. Each season brings its own joys and splendour, all those seasonal produce, new flowers and herbs and a new light, always a new light.
This year spring has been rather magical. Or rather, it is always magical, only this year I engraved this magic deep inside me. I’ve notice, more than ever, how there is an order and a constant change from one week to the other, from month to month. The way we’re slowly growing into the season. I often think about how perfectly our ancestors described the wheel of life and connected it to the ever-changing seasons.
I’ve been going to the countryside often this spring, observing the change on the meadows and in the gardens. How first there were snowdrops, shyly lowering their small heads from the cold soil. As the grass went greener, the air was bursting with the fresh fragrance of flowers and the earth. I would open the window in the morning while the birds were singing vigorously, sipping coffee and smelling that crisp newborn air while my eyes bathed on the majestic cherry tree in blossom. Soon enough the petals were swirling in the air like snow in the winter, leaving a soft white and pink canopy on the ground.
As we were approaching May, the grass had gotten greener but dotted with tiny drops of gold everywhere: buttercups. I knew it was soon time for the lilac shrubs to bloom. I remember my grandmother having a small lilac in front of her window. She would cut a fresh branch every morning and leave it on the table in the salon, so delicate and perfumed.
And now here we are, already in July. I still can’t decide which of the two I love more: spring and that fresh beginning, when the air smells of earth and morning dew or rather the early summer we are at this moment, where the green still reins over the trees and meadows, before the earth dries under the burning summer sun.
Ever since spring came I had an image in my mind of a brioche with vanilla flavoured cream and spring berries. As soon as the first raspberries came, I made a crispy but tender brioche and filled it with an eggless vanilla cream. I topped the brioches with fresh raspberries before placing everything into the oven and had them warm with coffee. I will let this recipe be my homage to spring.
Brioche with vanilla cream and raspberries
For brioche dough (Adapted from The Half Baked Harvest)
450 g flour
50 mL warm water
150 mL warm milk
110 g soft butter (take it out from the fridge in advance to soften)
1 tbsp melted butter
2 tsp dry yeast
1/2 tsp salt
4 tbsp muscovado sugar
1 egg for brushing
For vanilla cream
240 mL milk
2 tbsp cornstarch
1 tbsp muscovado sugar
seeds of 1 vanilla bean
250 g of fresh raspberries
Prepare vanilla cream in advance. Let it cool in the fridge at least one hour before use.
Put milk, sugar and vanilla into a small non-stick saucepan. Take a a small amount of milk to dissolve the cornstarch in it and then add it to the rest of the milk mixture. Heat it on medium heat, whisking continuously until it thickens, making sure no lumps are forming. When the cream is thick enough pour it into a bowl and cover with a piece of food wrap to prevent the formation of a crust and leave in the refrigerator for one hour. The cream will thicken even more while cooling.
In a large bowl combine, water, milk, yeast and sugar. Leave it on a dry and warm place and covered with a napkin for 5 minutes until foamy. Once the yeast has proofed, add one tablespoon melted butter and one egg to the mixture. Combine everything using a spatula and then transfer on a clean non-sticky surface, well floured. Start kneading the dough with your hands. The dough might be sticky at first but keep kneading it without adding flour. When you obtain a smooth ball, return the dough to the bowl and cover with a kitchen towel or plastic wrap and leave it in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
Take out the dough from the fridge and roll it out on a clean surface to a rectangle of approximately half a centimetre thickness. Now spread the soft butter all over the dough leaving half a centimetre around the sides. Fold the rectangle in a way to obtain a three layer dough: flip one half to the middle of the rectangle and then flip the other half over the first one. Cover the dough with a plastic wrap and place in the freezer for 10 min. After 10 min roll out the dough again and repeat the folding. Place again to the freezer. Repeat this steps once again so that you have a total of three folding and a total of 30 minutes in the freezer.
Finally, roll the dough out to half a centimetre thickness. Use a round cookie cutter or a small glass of not more than 7 cm diameter to cut individual rounds of dough. Put each round to a baking pan lined with baking paper, cover everything with a paper wrap and leave to rise for another 30 minutes to 1 hour.
To assemble the brioches
When the individual brioche doughs have risen, brush them with an egg wash. Place a teaspoon or two in the middle f the brioche, leaving half a centimetre of each round clean. Place 3-4 raspberries on the top. Place in the preheated oven and bake for 40 minutes until golden at 180°C.
The brioches can be eaten warm from the oven although they are better when cooled. They can be stored in a cool place for several days. They also freeze very well.