I never used to be interested in anything red bean, growing up. Which is funny, given that it was one of the first Asian desserts I’ve made on this blog. Maybe like the Eastern equivalent of vanilla ice cream, it struck me as boring, and (knowing me and my tendency towards decadence) I always liked to opt for the sweeter, creamier yellow custard steamed buns, or the lotus paste mooncakes, leaving their red bean sisters to my parents. But recently good old red beans have experienced a little resurgence for me — as richer foods tend to overwhelm me more easily these days, red bean paste and sweets have truly grown on me as a comforting, home-like sweet that is flavorful but not cloying.
Which was why I decided a few weeks ago to stick it in a very new love of mine — glorious, glorious brioche. (Did I just say that rich foods tend to overwhelm me? Did I? Hmm.) Brioche has been on my to-make list for months, but I’ve been scared off by the idea of hand-kneading it, with its illogical 40% fat content, a stick of butter masquerading as a dough. And then the genius godsends that are Sarah Kieffer and Artisan Bread in 5 came into my life, and … the rest is history. The result is a slow-rise, no-knead (!) brioche that is just as decadent and delicious as its traditionally hand-kneaded counterpart — still fluffy, soft, and sweet, but with only half the butter and little to none of the fuss. I’m obsessed.
So I have to apologize in advance for the posts to come, because after this I got a little carried away. I made this brioche, and then I kept on going and made a savory one, and then naturally after that came stuffed French toast … someday I’ll stop baking brioche. Promise.
Until then, have this red bean brioche, to start. I took my cues from Sarah and this cacao nib braided chocolate bread, then Melissa’s niftily braided riff on it. And pretty much did nothing else that was my own, other than swapping out the chocolate filling for this red bean paste. I’m still daydreaming about trying that original chocolate filling, though, or black sesame (!!), or Nutella. I told you I have a brioche problem.
- for the brioche dough:
- 3 tbsp lukewarm milk (or water)
- scant 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten, plus 1 more for egg wash
- 1 tbsp honey
- 3 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
- 1 cup minus 1 tbsp unbleached all-purpose flour
- for the filling:
- 1/3 cup red bean paste (using this recipe)
- Warm the milk to just lukewarm (comfortable to the touch but not hot). Stir in the yeast and let sit for a few minutes -- usually 5 minutes is all mine takes. Foam should form on top, which is how you know you’re good to go and the yeast is ready and kickin’.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the milk and yeast mixture, egg, honey, and melted butter.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour and salt. Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients, using a spoon to stir, until all of the flour is incorporated.
- Cover with a damp towel or plastic wrap, and allow to sit at room temperature for about two hours, then chill in refrigerator overnight or up to 5 days.
- When ready to bake, roll the dough out on a floured surface (the dough will be sticky, so make sure to flour first) to about an 8x11 inch rectangle, or about the size of a piece of paper.
- Spread red bean paste evenly across the dough, then roll it up, cinnamon roll style. I braided my bread the same way Melissa has here -- first, cut the roll once widthways in the middle, to yield two long pieces. Cut the two long pieces lengthways to end up with four long strands, each with one open side. Turn the strands so that the open sides are facing upwards. Braid two together by pinching the ends, then lifting one strand over the other until you reach the end. Pinch the end, then bring the two ends together to form a circle, then repeat with the other two strands. Line a 8x4 loaf pan with parchment paper, then gently lift the two circles of dough into the pan. (Alternatively, you can just cut lengthways once to yield two strands only, and simply do one long braid, like Sarah has here.)
- Cover again with a damp towel and let rise in a warm place for 1.5 to 2 hours, or until doubled. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Whisk together an egg and a splash of water or milk. Brush the egg wash over the loaf, then bake for about 30-40 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. If the loaf begins to brown too quickly, cover with foil for the remainder of baking.
Just a quick note on yeast -- I always use active dry because that's what I have access to at the grocery store. Active dry yeast requires proofing in warm liquid before mixing with the dry ingredients (as above). If you have instant yeast instead, that's fine. Just swap out the active dry for slightly less instant (so, here, when it's already a scant 1/2 tsp, use maybe 1/3 tsp), and instead of proofing it, just sift it in with the flour in Step 3 and skip Step 1 altogether. The same will apply for any other of my yeast recipes.