Mornings are a weak point for me. Have I said that before? I think I have an idea of their potential, and I long to learn how to utilize it. I have visions of a fitter, happier me (probably with pores that excrete confidence instead of sweat) who rises naturally before the sun and inhales the beauty of each day before it even begins. The truth is, I have to work for my good moods. I can’t remember the last time I woke up with one. I promise I’m not trying to be depressing, just real. A good mood is something I earn with yoga and sun exposure and completing tasks, and reminding myself I did all those things and now deserve a good mood. Sometimes it doesn’t come, but sometimes it does. All this to say… my mornings need help. I could dive into some of the deeper crevices of mental health right here, but I’ll just touch on self care.
I posted on Instagram earlier this week a photo of my smoothie bowl breakfast, and said something to the effect of “sometimes self care means making healthy choices instead of indulgent ones”. I’ve thought about that idea a lot since writing that caption. Does indulgence ever really count as self care? Or do we just use that as an excuse because, well, we love indulging? I think the obvious answer (at least to me) is that yes, of course indulgence can be an act of self care… once in a while. Our “once in a while”s change over time and subject, and I think they deserve a little more attention than we may be giving them. Having dessert “once in a while” has meant, in various points of my life, everything from once a month to once after every meal. As far as breakfast goes, boiled wheat (yes, the name and origin of this blog) was a daily thing in my childhood, and sugary dry cereals “once in a while” meant pretty much never. Now, boiled wheat has turned to oatmeal, and those sugary cereals are the Instagrammable smoothie bowls of our dreams. Those smoothie bowls are an indulgence of time, however, not taste. Oats and fruit are great 99% of the time, and they’re not going anywhere, but that last 1%? I don’t want it to be full of oatmeal or even pretty fruit; I want to reward myself for the 99 previous days of oatmeal and fruit. So to honor true, sugary indulgence, I bring you this Baileys-soaked french toast made with homemade brioche.
Brioche, if you’re familiar with it, is an indulgence in and of itself. It’s rich, full of fat and protein, and it should practically melt in your mouth. The buttery, soft, and oftentimes sweetened loaves have been used for french toast since, probably, the beginning of time. You really won’t want to go back to regular sandwich bread french toast after this, it’s that good. And the addition of Baileys? That’s 50% a need to be festive on St. Patty’s Day… and 50% because it’s Baileys and it’s SO good. If you’re going to indulge, it’s worth the extra mile to do it right.
I’m providing two brioche recipes here, because I want to give you guys the option between amazing bread and oh-my-gosh-is-this-even-real-life bread. While we all should take time to do nice things for ourselves, I recognize that taking two days to make one loaf just isn’t realistic for some people. But if you do have two days….. DO IT. I call my larger, more time-consuming loaf “The Behemoth” because that’s exactly what it is. A two-day, protein-rich, butter-rich, giant loaf that will probably make you giggle with anticipation when you see it poofing up in the oven (like, it’s huge). The standard brioche will not disappoint though, especially if you’re used to baking boring ol’ brown bread, or if you don’t do much baking at all. I also strongly suggest using a stand mixer or bread machine to do the kneading for you in both of these recipes. It’s technically possible to do it by hand… but your arms will be very, very sore the next day, and a machine will save you a whole lotta mess and time.
the behemoth (giant overnight brioche)
1 T yeast (scant)
1/2 c. warm water
4 c. bread flour*
1/3 c. sugar**
1/2 t. salt
4 T milk
1 c. room-temp butter***
1 egg + 1 t. water
Mix yeast, water and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer or bread machine. Let stand until foaming, about 10 minutes. Add flour, salt, eggs and milk and knead until a smooth dough forms, about 8 minutes.
Add soft butter, 2 tablespoons at a time, kneading 5-10 minutes in between each addition, or until fully incorporated. Continue until all butter is fully kneaded in and the dough is smooth, extremely soft and slightly wet or sticky to the touch (the amount of fat should keep it from actually sticking to your hand, but the dough should be quite wet and should not be able to hold its shape well). Let the dough rise until double, about 1 hour. Punch down.
Transfer dough into an oiled bowl and refrigerate overnight.
The next morning, while dough is cold, divide it into three pieces (or more, for a more intricate weave, I just did a braid). Roll out the pieces to about 10 inches, and form a braid. Place into oiled or buttered 9×5 in. loaf pan. Preheat oven to 375 F. Cover with cling wrap and let proof until dough has risen about 1 inch above the edge of the pan (depending on how cold the dough is, this can take 1-3 hours). Whisk 1 egg and teaspoon water together to make an egg wash and brush over the top of the risen loaf. Bake for 30-35 minutes. Check at 25 minutes, if the crust is over-browning, reduce heat to 350 and add 5-10 minutes to the total bake time. Crust should get quite dark, but not black. The internal temperature of the loaf will read 195 F when done. Let cool completely before slicing.
Recipe Notes: *Use bread flour, not all-purpose for this recipe. The amount of butter and eggs in this recipe makes the dough quite heavy, and it needs the extra protein of bread flour in order to hold up and achieve the desired texture.
** This amount of sugar is added specifically for french toast. If you are making an herbed loaf, or just prefer something less sweet, reduce sugar to 1/4 c.
*** You may use salted or unsalted butter in this recipe, but if you use unsalted, increase the added salt by a 1/2 t.
2 t. yeast
1/3 c. sugar*
1/2 c. warm milk
3 1/4 c. flour (2 cups bread flour, 1 1/4 cups regular, all-purpose)*
1/2 t. salt
1/2 c. soft butter
1 egg +1 t. water
Mix yeast, warm milk and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer or bread machine. Let stand until foaming, about 10 minutes. Add flour, salt, and eggs and knead until a smooth dough forms, about 8 minutes.
Add soft butter, 2 tablespoons at a time, kneading 5-10 minutes in between each addition, or until fully incorporated. Continue until all butter is fully kneaded in and the dough is smooth and shiny. It should be quite wet and soft. Let the dough rise until double, about 1 hour. Punch down.
Remove from mixer bowl and place on a floured surface. Working quickly to keep dough from sticking, divide dough into three pieces, roll them out and form a braid. Add to an oiled 9×5 loaf pan. Preheat oven to 375. Cover dough and let proof until the dough has risen to the edge of the pan (this should take about 30 minutes, more or less depending on the temperature of the room). Bake 30-35 minutes. Check at 25 minutes, if the crust is over-browning, reduce heat to 350 and add 5-10 minutes to the total bake time. Crust should get quite dark, but not black. The internal temperature of the loaf will read 195 F when done. Let cool completely before slicing.
Recipe Notes: *For a less sweet loaf, decrease sugar to 1/4 c., or 2 T for a savory loaf.
** you can use all, all-purpose flour in this recipe, but the texture will be slightly less chewy (more crumbly), and you will want to be very careful with the proofed dough as you put it in the oven, or it may collapse a bit.
Baileys French toast
4 very thick slices of brioche, homemade or store bought
6 oz. evaporated milk* (1/2 a 12oz can)
1-2 T Baileys Irish Cream (1 tablespoon will be just a hint of Baileys, 2 will be a distinct Baileys flavor)
butter for pan
Add eggs, milk, Baileys, and salt to a shallow dish wide enough for bread slices. Thoroughly whisk together until the mixture is a uniform, creamy yellow.
Heat a non-stick frying pan over medium-low heat and add butter. When butter is bubbling and starting to brown, dip a bread slice into the egg mixture, thoroughly coating on both sides, and place into the pan. Fry 2-3 minutes on each side or until browned and cooked through. Repeat with the rest of the bread slices. Serve with whipped cream and berries if desired.
Recipe Notes: *Regular (whole, preferably) milk may be used instead of evaporated milk, but I would suggest a mixture of milk and cream or milk and half-and-half, if possible to add that extra richness.