On the edge of science: Garlic and parsley brioche

January 6th, 2011 | Posted by greg in Daily life...

Sharp, clean and excellent!… and yet, some sort of a scientific explanation made clearer.

We had to come up with some sort of “designer” brioche for our 3 Michelin stars French restaurant Caprice. The goal was to have a brioche with garlic and parsley that would be fit enough to be served with the amuse-bouche. We all know the classic baguette brushed with actual garlic butter and toasted – a fantastic side to your pumpkin, curry and scallop soup. But we had to think further… and even further than using fried garlic powder.

Without further due, I imagined the long and sharp clock needle shape in my head. Something we could easily achieve with mousse or chocolate, yet, to achieve this with such a moody dough was a challenge. After a few trial and error we finally found our way to make them sharp enough to look like the dreamed clock needles! It was about giving folds (one or two single fold) to the dough and working it cold… almost frozen. But as we’ve found out, this was not the main concern.

Why sometimes our bread using onion, garlic or shallots had a somewhat collapsed, sandy crumb and a brownish color; ending up with an unpleasant taste and experience.

Every day, we prepare a fresh dough and bake these cute little brioche twice a day to ensure freshness. And every day, the garlic and the parsley needs to be chopped freshly. Indeed, before investigating the scientific reasons behind our problem, we’d noticed that day-old chopped bulbs would generally result in failed bread.

Taking fresh garlic into a bread dough needs to be well thought. I always believed it didn’t matter and occasionally our bakers would actually bake a batch of onion burger bun with a beige color crumb, and none of us ever really bothered to find out what happened.

Yet, if we dig a little further, it becomes clearer. The Journal of Food Science tells us that:  “The dough-weakening effects were similar to effects of a,b-unsaturated carbonyl compounds rather than sulfide-disulfide interchange reactions. The responsible compound was not pyruvic acid or alliinase but appeared to form as a result of alliinase reactions.

I am not much of a food scientist and I had to look-up half of the words used in that text! And I came to the conclusion that 1) the addition of garlic or onion at too high percentage will affect the dough strength and 2) give an unpleasant crumb due to the deterrent liquid released by the onions or the garlic when they are being cut (alliinase) (… the thing that makes you cry :) )

Washing them before usage won’t help much… tests have been done with onion powder and pure essence and it still weakens the dough. We tried fried and powdered: it works, but the flavor is far from the one you obtain with fresh bulbs!

As a recommendation for the garlic brioche, I would suggest blanching the chopped garlic in the milk used in the recipe, just blanch a little is ok. As well as to control the amount of it mixed in the dough. It seems to do the trick and we’re getting consistency in everyday baking.

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