I’m quite sure there are French pastry chefs shrieking in horror and crossing themselves with a baguette as I type this recipe up but, well, let them shriek. The union of salty peanut butter with freshly made, fruity jam in a buttery soft, tearable brioche loaf is quite simply perfect. The beauty of brioche is that magnificent flaky but oh so soft and moist a texture that you can rip apart with your hands quite easily.
As it stands, plain brioche is a simple pleasure to be enjoyed with freshly made coffee and mid-morning sunlight of a weekend, the papers on the table next to a pot of jam or lemon curd perhaps. It’s not groundbreaking to fill and plait brioche dough but even though my PB&J version is certainly anything but traditional, I defy you not to love it once you’ve had your first sweet and salty, nutty and buttery mouthful.
PB&J or peanut butter and jelly (aka jam) is not something which has ever gained huge popularity in the UK. It’s hard to remember a time when I thought this was the oddest, least appetising combination of foods I could imagine but I did. To be honest, even peanut butter was on the “yacky” list when I was a tot. It was something hippies bought from josh stick scented health food shops to be highly suspicious of, not something kids slathered onto white plastic bread with a healthy helping of “grape jelly” to make sandwiches with for school.
Once I did summon up the courage to try peanut butter, I was instantly convinced how wrong I’d been to be so skeptical of it. Creamy, salty, savoury and sweet. I mean, how can that be anything but delightful? Not all PNB is made equally though and a lot have a frightening amount of added sugars and preservatives so I favour whole brands which are just blended nuts. Feeling experimental a while back, I spread some onto brioche dough along with some homemade strawberry jam I had left over, the taste sensation that went off in my mouth on sampling some of my PB&J Brioche Loaf fresh from the oven, I knew any thoughts of how unforgivable it was to bastardise a French classic just melted away. Raspberry jam is a delightful pairing as it is good and sharp against the sweet nuts and dough.
If you are looking to branch out from making bread to trying sweet yeasted doughs, brioche is a great starting point. My method was taught to me at a local independent bakery and it is nice and easy. I know others but the yeasted dough in the stand mixer and let it beat in the soft butter, but I much prefer the way I was taught to chop the butter in instead and also, to use a “no knead” technique of just pulling and stretching the dough a few times before allowing to prove in the fridge overnight.
It’s surprisingly quick to come together and because of the high yeast percentage and amount of sugar in the dough, brioche proves super fast so if you prep this loaf up on a Friday night, you can be shaping and baking as soon as your first coffee hits the spot on Saturday morning and by the time you are ready for a second, this Peanut Butter & Jam Brioche Loaf will be hot from the oven and begging you to rip into it.
I recommend lining your loaf pan with greaseproof paper and when the brioche is cooked, don’t through it away. If you aren’t going to eat all the brioche in one weekend, then rip the paper into squares as big as a cross-section of the brioche then slice it as soon as it’s cold, stack with the sheets of greaseproof in between each slice, place in a food bag and freeze for another day. It lasts very well in the freezer and you can easily remove a slice at a time thanks to the paper stopping it freeze into one solid lump, rather than have to eat the whole thing in one sitting (tempting though it will be!…). It thaws at room temp in no time at all – a 10-second zap on high in the microwave gives it a freshly baked feel but it’s still wonderful eaten cold.
- 225 g strong bread flour
- 25 g caster sugar
- 9 g dried yeast instant yeast
- ¼ tsp sea salt
- 50 g whole milk yes, I weigh this too
- 100 g egg* see Note below recipe
- 90 g soft butter
- 4 tbsp peanut butter smooth or crunchy, rounded
- 4 tbsp jam raspberry or strawberry are my personal favourites
- 2 tbsp chopped roasted and salted peanuts
- 1 tbsp pearl sugar to sprinkle with optional
- A 1-2 lb loaf tin
- Greaseproof paper
- Sharp edged metal/plastic bench/dough scraper
Mix the dried ingredients together in a bowl then pour in the milk and egg. Mix with your hand until there are no dry pieces left in a bowl. The official term is “shaggy mess” and don’t be scared of it!
Cover with cling film and leave for 10 minutes.
Now it’s time for your first “ten second knead”. All you do is oil your hands very lightly each time and steadying one side of the rough ball of dough in front of you with one hand, use the other to pull the side out and then bring back to the middle of the dough. Repeat about 10 times until you have worked your way around the dough so all unworked bits have been worked. Cover with cling film again. It will be very rough and knobbly at first - this is correct. I have videos for the technique on my French Bread posts to help.
Leave covered for ten minutes.
Repeat the ten second knead twice more, with 10 minute rests in between. The dough will be becoming very much more elastic and smoother by this point.
Now comes the fun bit – pop your dough on the worktop or a cutting board if your bench scraper has a sharp edge. Put the butter on top and then go to town chopping it into the dough. Turn it over as necessary and keep on going until the butter seems to be evenly distributed but not fully blended into the dough.
Leave to rest covered for 10 minutes then do a ten second knead one final time, this time do a few extra pulls if need be to get a nice smooth well blended dough.
Refrigerate for a minimum of 60 minutes (or overnight if you prefer) then remove from the fridge and shape into a smooth ball on a lightly floured surface before flattening out and then rolling into a large rectangle 5mm thick (the thickness is more important that the rectangle but it usually ends up around 8x12 inches i.e. the size of a standard UK tray bake tin).
Slice the dough into three long strips and spread each with the peanut butter first, leaving about 1cm around the edges exposed. You may need to beat the PNB to loosen it first. Next, spread over the jam and finally sprinkle with the chopped nuts.
Line your loaf tin with a large piece of greaseproof paper which stands taller than the tin - especially if you use a smaller 1lb tin. This amount of dough in a 1lb tin will be very tall and grand. In the photos in this blog post, I have used my 2lb tin and I think I prefer it's more modest and "contained" appearance!
Fold the strip over widthways as per the photos and pinch the edges to seal so you have long "ropes" of brioche dough filled with PB&J. Pinch the edges together and plait the dough together, pinches the edges once again when you finish.
Tuck the ends underneath and lift into your prepared loaf tin. Cover loosely with cling film and leave somewhere warm to prove until the dough has reached the top of the loaf tin and has more than doubled in size. (Note - sometimes I pop my tin in a large plastic cake caddy with a cup of recently boiled water and leave the dough to prove in there without covering with cling film. The moisture helps brioche prove and the heat makes it a faster process. A clean toy box/stackabox would work nicely to give the dough the headroom it needs. The room temp will change the proving time significantly so expect this to happen fast on a summer's day or take up to 90 minutes in the midst of winter.)
Preheat your oven to 200°C (I always use an oven thermometer on the same shelf I am baking on) and when ready, glaze your loaf with the reserved egg wash and sprinkle with pearl sugar if using. Don't use the nuts here as they will burn before the brioche is baked. Bake the brioche for 25-30 minutes by which time the loaf will have risen again, and have a lacquered brown appearance. It will sound hollow when tapped on top but it is very delicate whilst hot so leave for at least 15 minutes before removing from the tin by the paper to cool further on a rack.
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