I wake up to a nippy morning and for some incomprehensible reason my first thought is of warm rich bread (a very bad thing for my hips). Not just any bread - warm, soft, not too sweet, fluffy bread filled with some sort of filling with meat and ....peas, carrots, cumin, dried cranberries, dried apricots, raisins and cinnamon and a hint of something sweet.
You may have come across this age old adage that one either has the propensity to be a cook or to be a baker. Well, I am a cook who dares to bake!
As I settle down with my morning cuppa, I started flipping through the pages of my vintage Random
House books on Cookery and Etiquette. Now, inspiration can dawn from a myriad of places - sometimes it finds you as you blindly stare out of your car or walk around the garden or a whisper of something someone said and then..... it jumps out at me from the pages of an antiquated leather bound book ambling on about banquets in 15th, 16th and 17th century England.
I chanced upon a paragraph on mince pies!
English recipes from the 15th, 16th and 17th century describe a mixture of meat and fruit used as pie fillings. These recipes included brandy, ciders and wines. The use of spices like cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg and mace was common in late medieval and renaissance meat dishes.
And as I continue to read on, the thought of spiced meat and dry fruits nestled in light and airy bread warms my soul.
Decision made - we are going to make ourselves a 21st century version of English mince pies! Except that we are going to braid some challah, brioche bread with a filling of ground beef, onions, spices and roasted sweet potatoes.
From my shabby collection of recipes, I pull out my tattered, oil stained, brioche bread recipe that has been adapted from one of Richard Grausman's recipes. He is one of my favorite food people in the food world.
You will need close to 3-4 hours to prepare this recipe. The dough has to rise and then chill in refrigerator before baking
1 lb Ground beef or lamb (I used beef because that's what I had on hand), sweet potato, onion, olive oil, butter, turmeric, cumin powder, red cayenne pepper, 1" cinnamon, ground cinnamon, nutmeg, brown sugar, dried apricots, raisins and low sugar apricot preserves.
Prepare the ingredients -
The Filling -
Onion -Finely chop the onion.
Apricots - Finely chop dried apricots into 1/4" cubes.
Raisins - In a bowl of warm water, soak the raisins so they plump up.
Sweet Potato - Peel
and wash sweet potato. Cut with a very sharp knife into 1/2" cubes.
Place in a baking tray or dish. Add 1 1/2 tbs olive oil and mix with
In the preheated oven, bake for 30-35 minutes till cooked. Test by piercing a piece of potato with a knife. The potatoes should be just soft and not crisp and brown on the edges.
Heat olive oil in a sauce pan on medium high heat. Once hot, add the butter and immediately add the onions and whole cinnamon. Saute till onions are soft. Add the ground meat and brown. Do not add any spices yet. Once the meat is brown, drain the fat in a sieve and discard. Return to heat.
Add the sweet potatoes, turmeric powder, red cayenne powder, salt, black pepper, cinnamon powder, ground nutmeg, brown sugar, raisins and chopped apricots.
Continue sauteing for another 5-10 minutes or till all the ingredients are well incorporated.
Add 1 tbs low sugar apricot preserves and stir well.
Taste and adjust seasonings. Set aside to cool completely.
Cooks Note - If you going to bake the stuffed brioche for dinner, I would prepare the filling earlier in the day and then by late afternoon, start working on the dough.
To begin this task, we must first recruit a large mixing bowl or container or paraat , large enough to mix and knead the brioche dough.
Assemble the ingredients - warm water, dry active yeast, sugar, honey,
salt, eggs and copious amounts of melted butter ( 1 1/2 sticks or 6
cup warm water (110 deg F) into a bowl, add sugar and dissolve.
Empty the contents of 1 packet dry and active yeast into it. Stir.
Proof the yeast & if it is active it will look something like this
in about 10
minutes. If it doesn't, it means it is dead and a trip
to the grocers is warranted.
Pool the flour into the utensil. Add the yeast water, salt, eggs, honey and melted butter.
With washed and clean hands, work and knead the dough.
(Wow! Look how nice these photos turned out! What a treat to have hubby around to take these - otherwise its just me prancing around with a spatula in one greasy hand and my little digital in the other...smiles)
No doubt about it - brioche dough is a soft gooey dough and I had to fight the urge to empty another cup of flour into this goopy mess (not to mention ignore the palpitations)
Be rest assured, this goop is what we want. The more flour you add to this soft dough, tougher the bread you will end up with.
with a moist cheesecloth (or a cotton cloth) and set aside to rise in a warm place for 2
hours.The dough should now look swollen like the image on the right.
At this point transfer into a container with a lid, not air tight, and transfer to the refrigerator. Once the dough has chilled ( 1 hr minimum, 2-3 hours is great, overnight is awesome!) it is ready for use.
Separate the dough into 2 balls, 1 lb each. Set aside one for future use in the refrigerator (I am going to use mine to bake warm buns for sandwiches - see upcoming post - but you can also use them for grilled fruit tarts or to bake a brioche braid like we are today.
Place the chilled dough ball and liberally sprinkle flour all over the dough ball. Spray a baking stone or baking sheet with non-stick baking spray. Using fingers and the rolling pin, roll and stretch out the dough to cover the entire surface of the baking sheet or stone.
Spoon all the now cool filling down the center 1/3 width. Use up all the filling even though you it may seem like it may be too much. Leave 2-3 inches at the top and bottom unfilled.
Make 1" cuts on both sides of the filling. Leave 2" from the top and bottom.
The dough is soft but it is also stretchable and strong. Start at the bottom, folding over the filling and braid one strip over the other, overlapping so you end up with an intertwining braid (this sounds a lot harder than it actually is. Once you get going, it is a piece of cake..ur..brioche)
Tuck in the other end so both ends the of the filling is completely covered.
Separate an egg white and beat with 1 tbs cold water. With a pastry brush apply all over the surface of the brioche. Place in a preheated oven for 30 minutes.
As you all know by now, I have a no frills camera - none of that soft focus air brushed doodah & in my humble opinion, even by real world estimation this looks pretty darn good - don't you think?
Wait till you cut into it...
I really hope you make this. It is a lot of fun and it will be so worth your while!
21st CENTURY MINCE PIE
1lb ground beef or ground lamb
1 large sweet potato
1 large onion
2 1/2 tbs olive oil
1 tbs butter
1 tsp cumin powder
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp red cayenne powder
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1" cinnamon bark
1/4" tsp ground nutmeg
1 1/2 tbs brown sugar
1/4 cup raisins
1/2 cups dried apricots
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 tbs low sugar apricot preserves
4 cups all purpose flour
3/4 warm water (110 deg F)
1 packet dry active yeast
1 tbs white sugar
2 tbs honey
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 sticks or 6 oz butter, melted
For the wash:
1 egg white
1 tbs cold water
Sweet potato - Peel and chop into 1/2" cubes. Toss with 1 1/2 tbs olive oil. In an oven preheated at 400 deg F, bake the chopped potatoes for 35-40 minutes, till soft but not brown.
Raisins and apricots - In a bowl of warm water, soak the raisins so they plump up. Chop the apricots into 1/4" cubes
Onion - Peel and finely chop. Set aside.
Yeast - In the warm water, add the white sugar and dissolve. Pour the contents of the dry active yeast and stir. Set aside for 10 minutes, till frothy.
Dough - In a large mixing bowl or container with a lid, gather the flour. Add the warm yeast water, honey, salt, eggs and melted butter. With washed and clean hands work and knead the dough well (the brioche dough is a soft gooey dough)
with a moist cheesecloth and set aside to rise in a warm place for 2
hours.The dough should now look swollen.
Transfer to the refrigerator. Once the dough has chilled (approx 1 hr) it is ready for use. Separate the dough into 2 balls. Return one to the refrigerator for later use.
Cooking method -
Preheat oven to 400 deg F
Place the chilled dough ball and liberally sprinkle flour all over the dough ball.
Spray a baking stone or baking sheet with non-stick baking spray. Using fingers and the rolling pin, roll and stretch out the dough to cover the entire surface of the baking sheet or stone.
Spoon all the filling down the center 1/3 width. Use up all the filling. Leave 2-3 inches at the top and bottom unfilled.
Make 1" cuts on both sides of the filling. Leave 2" from the top and bottom.
Start at the bottom, folding the dough strip over the filling and braid one strip over the other, overlapping so you end up with an intertwining braid. Tuck in the other end so both ends the of the filling is completely covered.
Beat the egg white with the cold water. With a pastry brush apply all over the surface of the brioche.
Bake in a preheated oven for 30 minutes.
Cut into slices and serve warm.