Traditional Brié bread originated in Spain but arrived in France in the 14th century and was especially popular with Normandy fishermen. To this day it’s a speciality of the region, and is distinguished by a striped, crispy blonde crust and tight texture.
How to make Normandy brié bread
Active time: 20 minutes
Poolish: 2 hours
Bulk fermentation: 30 minutes
Proofing: 1 hour
Chilling: 10–15 minutes
Cooking: 20–25 minutes
Bread peel (paddle for moving the bread onto a board)
⅔ cup (5.25 oz./150 g) water
0.07 oz. (2 g) fresh yeast
1 cup + 2 tbsp (5.25 oz./150 g) all-purpose flour (T55)
5 tsp (1 oz./25 g) water
0.1 oz. (3 g) fresh yeast
¾ cup + 2 tbsp (3.5 oz./100 g) all-purpose flour (T55)
1 tbsp (0.75 oz./20 g) butter, at room temperature
1 tsp (0.2 oz./5 g) salt
Prepare the poolish*: Heat the water to about 77°F (25°C). Place in a medium bowl, add the yeast, and stir or swish to dissolve. Stir in the flour until just combined. Cover and let sit at room temperature for about 2 hours, until bubbly on top.
Prepare the bread: Place the 5 tsp (1 oz./25 g) water in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook and crumble in the fresh yeast. Mix to dissolve the yeast, then add the poolish, flour, butter, and salt.
Knead for 3 minutes on speed 1, followed by 3–5 minutes on speed 2. Cover and let rest at room temperature for about 30 minutes (bulk fermentation*).
Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and shape it into a ball or a very short bâtard. Cover and let rise for 1 hour (proofing*).
Meanwhile, place a rack at the lowest oven position and place another rack directly above it. Place an empty heavy-duty baking sheet, oven-safe skillet, or drip pan on the lower rack, and a baking stone or heavy-duty baking sheet on the upper rack, and preheat the oven to 450°F (230°C/Gas Mark 8). Bring 1 cup (250 ml) of water to a simmer.
At the end of proofing, refrigerate the dough for 10–15 minutes to firm it up before baking.
When the dough passes the poke test*(SEE BELOW), remove it from the refrigerator and place it on the floured peel. Holding a lame at a slight angle, make three to five quick parallel slits, about ¼ in. (5 mm) deep, from one end of the dough to the other.
Slide the dough onto the baking stone or sheet. Carefully pour the hot water into the skillet to create steam and quickly close the oven door. Bake for 20–25 minutes, until deeply golden. Toward the end of the baking time, crack the oven door open for 5–10 minutes to lower the temperature and encourage the bread to develop a thick crust.
Remove the bread from the oven and place it on a rack to cool.
If the proofing time is too short, the dough won’t build up enough CO2 to rise correctly during baking. Conversely, if the proofing time is too long, the gluten network weakens and the bread may fall during baking. Even professional bakers use the poke test to evaluate the dough’s resistance and determine when it is ready for the oven. Gently press your finger about ½ in. (1 cm) into the dough. If the dough is ready to bake, it will spring back slowly but retain a small indentation where you poked it. If no indentation forms, the dough is not ready; leave it to proof a little longer. If the indentation doesn’t spring back at all, it’s too late—the dough is over-proofed.
Extract from Upper Crust: Homemade Bread the French Way, by renowned food writer Marie-Laure Fréchet. Published by Flammarion and available at Amazon, online and highstreet bookstores (where it can be ordered if it’s not in stock ISBN 9782081517073). Step by step techniques to turn you into a successful bread maker, 100 recipes include delicious desserts and savoury specialities which feature bread. Plus French bread history and fascinating facts…