When you walk into Holly B’s, the beloved bakery on the beloved island of Lopez, it can be a little overwhelming. What to choose? I’ve said this before about that amazing place, but this is not a bakery of wonders. There are no perfectly shaped chocolate domes with pearled sugar placed just so, no clean cuts of multi-layered cakes, no puff pastry marvels with flawless custard and fruit cut in exactly the same size slices. What you will find is time-tested and time-honored treats. Rustic, homemade, generous, imperfect in the perfect way. Kind of like if you were a really good home baker and you just happened to open a bakery on a rural island (which is just what Holly B did).
Here is the catch. We often hit Holly B’s at lunch time and at lunch time, I want lunch. Yes, a cinnamon roll or an orange swirl or an almond butterhorn can make a very nice lunch. Especially when followed by a peanut butter brownie or a cappuccino bar. But the truth is that, being a savory person, I want something savory for lunch. Holly B’s sometimes has pizza (and if you ever go, and they have the Mexican pizza, buy two pieces and eat one for me) but more often than not, the savory options are only a few. There is almost always a ham and cheese croissant (no thanks) and there is always a savory brioche.
Having enjoyed her brioches for so many years, it is a little surprising that I haven’t made them yet. Up until recently, I was a little intimidated by brioche. Then I made some for Patricia Wells and I realized that it isn’t hard at all, there is just a lot of mixing, and you need to start the dough the night before you need it. This recipe is really very easy – not too much mixing, and super dreamy easy-to-work-with dough. There are many options in the book for fillings, most of them savory. All sounded good to me (Pesto and Parmesan, Cheddar and Salsa, among others) but I opted for Cheddar, Garlic, and Chive Brioches because I had all the ingredients on hand.
I made these beauties for our annual Easter egg hunt with friends that happens the Saturday of Easter weekend. I have made many things over the years for this celebration but this is my first time making something savory (I also made something sweet). I liked having the option and these were terrific.
One Year Ago: Apple Snacking Spice Cake, Snickerdoodles, Eggplant and Mushroom Pasticcio
Two Years Ago: Blueberry Sour Cream Torte, Fideos with Pasilla Chiles, Avocado, and Crema, Swiss Chard Tart with Goat Cheese, Currants, and Pine Nuts, Baked Rice with Chiles and Pinto Beans
Three Years Ago: Spicy Sweet Potatoes with Lime (have you made these?), Marinated Chickpea Salad with Radishes and Cucumber, Pasta with Broccoli Rabe and Chickpeas
With Love & Butter
¼ cup warm water
2¼ tsp. (1 packet) quick-rise yeast
1 egg plus 1 yolk for dough, plus 1 yolk for wash
2 tbsp. honey
¾ cup whole milk
6 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted, for dough, plus 2 tbsp. for brushing surface
¾ tsp. salt
3+ cups all-purpose flour
2 tbsp. pressed garlic
¼ cup minced chives
1 cup grated extra sharp Cheddar cheese
Put the water and the yeast in a mixer bowl and swish around with a spoon. Attach the dough hook. Add the 1 egg plus 1 yolk and the honey and mix briefly. Add the milk, 6 tablespoons melted butter, salt, and 3 cups flour and mix until smooth. (This will take about 5-10 minutes.) Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula and mix again. Toss a handful of flour on top of the dough and mix for a couple of seconds or until the dough balls up, but stop mixing before the flour disappears. The dough will be soft and sticky. Turn into a well-oiled bowl or tub with enough room for the dough to triple in size. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
The next morning, butter the rims and cups of 2 standard-sized 12-hole muffin cups. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and shape into a rough rectangle with your hands. Lightly flour the top of the dough, then flip and flour the bottom. Roll the dough into a rectangle about 8 by 16 inches and ½-inch thick. Regularly check the underside of the dough for sticking and scatter on a bit more flour. The dough should be free from the surface but not too floury.
Position the rectangle of dough on your work surface with the short sides at the top and bottom and the long sides left and right. Brush the entire surface with the remaining two tablespoons of melted butter. Scatter on the garlic, chives, and Cheddar cheese. Press the toppings lightly into the surface.
Fold the top 1/3 of the dough to the center of the bottom 2/3, as if you were folding a letter. Fold again to close the bundle. The dough will now be folded in thirds. Use the rolling pin to gently flatten the dough to about ¾-inch thick. Now use a pizza cutter or sharp knife to cut the dough into 10 event strips along the short dimension.
Take up a strand of dough, one end in each hand. Stretch the dough slightly and twist 3 or 4 times in opposite directions. (Or, you can place the strip on your work surface and use the palms of your hands to roll the ends in opposite directions.) Now gather both ends in one hand, maintaining the twist, and grasp the loop that’s hanging down with your other hand. Place the ends in one of the muffin cups and arrange the loop around the rim on top of the cup. (It will seem like there is a lot of empty space but the dough will fill it when it rises and bakes.) Repeat with the remaining strips of dough, filling every other cup to give the brioches plenty of room to expand.
Whisk the remaining egg yolk with 1 teaspoon of water and brush the tops of the brioches. Cover with plastic wrap and set to rise in a warm place until puffy and roughly doubled in size, 30 to 90 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 375ºF with the rack in the center position. Remove the plastic and bake the brioches 10 minutes, then rotate the pans and bake another 5 to 10 minutes longer, or until golden brown and not doughy in center. Cool.