There are some things that the French just do differently. Breakfast in a French hotel is quite different to anything in the UK – and for most of us it is best to avoid the French version of a cooked breakfast – usually some disgusting scrambled egg and thin bacon kept warm for too long – and tea is never as good as at home.
So generally we enter into the sprit and go for the ham or salami and cheese – but seldom the “cake” or “brioche” which just does not seem like a breakfast item!
The Brioche is a yeast cake – a light but rich bread made from flour, yeast, milk, butter and eggs – and is what myth suggests Marie Antoinette was referring to when she said of starving peasants something along the lines of “well, if they’ve run out of bread, let them eat cake!”
It can be quite confusing – as it appears in a number of different guises – from an almost tradtional tin loaf shape, to the more ornate fluted brioche with a cap made in a special mould called “brioche à Tete”.
It is especially popular in France at breakfast time (as if fresh baguette, croissants, pain au chocolat, pain au raisins etc were not enough). In Nanterre (92 Hauts-de-Seine, Ile de France) 6-8 brioche buns are arranged in zigzag pattern, whilst the Brioche Parisienne has more balls of brioche arranged in circle.
One advantage of the brioche in France is that it does not go dry and stale as quickly as the traditional baguette.
In Provence they make a highly decorated and flavoured Brioche des Rois (of the kings) for Epiphany (early January) embellished with orange water, rum essence, lemon, apricot jam and glacé fruits.
You can find a recipe for Brioche in Elizabeth David’s English Bread and Yeast Cookery (Cookery Library)
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