Mead-Leavened Brioche From Our Farm-Made Honey: Bitter-Sweet and Funky Too
We have a robust bee program at The Culinary Vegetable Institute which results in a tremendous amount of honey from our hardworking, winged co-workers. We not only bottle our honey just as it is, we also transform it into creamed honey and most recently, ferment it into mead.
After the mead's primary fermentation period, we decided to add hops to it which produced a sweet and sour beverage with a distinctly bitter roundness.
Once we poured off the mead we were left with a muddy lees at the bottom of the jug. We try not to waste anything at the CVI and because of this ethos, we brainstormed what to do with the lees that tasted savory with a pronounced note of tangy bread that reminded us of a sourdough starter. Since it also contained yeast, it seemed to make the most sense to use it as a bread leavener.
Because brioche and honey have a natural affinity for one another, it made the most sense to head in that direction. After two days, our starter was going crazy. It had a funky aroma that smelled like a combination of Fruit Loops and lemon verbena. There was nothing shy or subtle about this brioche starter!
After creating our brioche dough, we transferred it to a pan to rise and then popped it in a low oven for about thirteen hours. What emerged was a brioche unlike any we've ever smelled or tasted before. It's all at once bitter and sweet with an aroma that begins with a note of honey and ends with a tease of beer.
The flavor has a hoppy finish and after slicing it while it was still hot from the oven, there seemed no better way to eat it than to slather it with a generous slick of our creamed honey. It was farm-made through and through and our gratitude went out to our industrious bees as we are slice after slice of it until there was nothing left but a plate of crumbs.
Mead-Leavened Brioche Recipe
66% 900g 2 lbs hopped mead starter
1.5% 20g .7 oz salt
.25% 3.5g 1tsp yeast
2% 28g 1 oz sugar
16.5% 226g 8 oz bread flour + 3 oz for later.
3. 5% 50g 1 ea whole egg
1.5% 20g 1 ea egg yolk
8.75% 115g 4 oz unsalted butter
Place starter in Mixer bowl with paddle attachment. Mix all dry ingredients together. Gradually work dry ingredients into the starter with the paddle on low. The dough will be tight and pretty dry.
Add the egg and yolk, slowly mix until fully incorporated. Turn the mixer speed up to medium and mount in small pieces of butter until fully incorporated. Beat all ingredients until the dough reaches 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
Switch to a dough hook, scrape the edges of the bowl clean with a bowl scraper, and on low speed, add the final three ounces of flour. Knead on medium until the dough pulls clean from the top half of the bowl walls.
Transfer to a well oiled bowl and wrap. Store the dough at around 75-80 degrees until doubled in size. (6 ish hours) Fold dough from end to end on four sides to produce a rectangular loaf and transfer to a buttered and floured loaf pan for final proof.
Wrap and allow dough to rise to almost double its original volume. Brush with sweetened egg wash, (equal weight sugar, egg, water). Stencil with bread flour.
Bake at 475ºF High convection for about 10 minutes and drop oven temperature to 375ºF until interior reaches 200ºF. Allow to cool on a rack to under 100ºF before slicing. Toast with butter and honey. Enjoy!