September 28, 2012 § Leave a comment
The latest in our Breakfasts of the World Project series.
Brunei is a tiny country with a population of some 400,000 shoehorned into a territory of just 2,228 square miles on the island of Borneo. Part of Borneo belongs to Malaysia and the rest (apart from Brunei of course) belongs to Indonesia. The Sultanate of Brunei was powerful regional presence whose influence was at its height between the 15th and 17th centuries. As its influence subsequently declined its territory became gradually smaller. The economic decline was reversed following the discovery of oil in Brunei in 1929. As a result, tiny Brunei became a highly developed and wealthy country whose citizens have an appetite for Western luxury goods.
Today’s breakfast idea was taken from the cosmopolitan menu of the Fleur de Lys Bakeshop in Brunei’s capital city, Bandar Seri Bagawan. The Fleur de Lys Bakeshop is a French style pâtisserie whose macarons and croissants could rival anything you’d find in Paris. My selections was “French toast kaya – brioche French toast served with our very own ‘home-made’ coconut-egg kaya”. This looked rather more appealing than the various chicken sausage and beef bacon rasher combos on offer, pork being ruled out by local Islamic dietary rules.
OK so I know how to make brioche French toast but what on earth is coconut-egg kaya? Kaya, it turns out, is a sweet, creamy coconut preserve flavoured with pandan leaves, made in a similar way to our own lemon curd (but obviously without the lemons!). Ex pat South East Asians yearn for the stuff and either get it shipped out to them or make their own.
I searched around for an approachable, logical kaya recipe and fell for the lovely pictures in Malaysian-born cook and food writer Billy Law’s blog “A Table for Two”. It turns out that Billy was a finalist in the Australian extra-tough version of Masterchef winning the hearts of viewers if not ultimately the judges.
Billy’s instructions were sufficient and easy to follow. First stop is your local Asian grocer for pandan leaves and good quality 100% coconut milk. I’m lucky enough to have Kim’s Thai foodstore in Manchester’s Chinatown (see contact details below) almost on my doorstep. Walking down the steps into the tardis-like basement, you’re transported to the scents and sights of Bangkok’s Khao San Road. It was straightforward enough to pick up the specialist ingredients I needed here – a good quality 100% coconut milk and pandan leaves:
Having gone to the trouble of sourcing authentic ingredients for my kaya, I now needed a decent brioche loaf to turn into indulgent French toast. Having looked at the dry and sad little excuses for brioche offerings available at local supermarkets I decided I’d better bake my own.
I turned to Dorie Greenspan’s “Baking – from my home to yours” for inspiration, as, based on my experience with her Kugelhopf recipe, Ms Greenspan knows how to handle enriched yeasted doughs. The only quibble I have about this bible-type baking compendium is that having meticulously sourced and researched her recipes from professional European bakers in many cases, she doesn’t give accurate gram weights but turns everything into American cup sizes. I have to reverse engineer her recipes and convert everything back to grams!
Following the recipe and with the aid of my Kenwood mixer, after a day and a half (!) I produced a stretchy, silken ball of golden dough:
The golden colour is attributable not only to the eggs in the dough but also to the full 340g butter required to make the recipe. Let me repeat that – 340g butter, a pack and a half, which looks like this:
I shaped the loaves two different ways, the first like a triple bun loaf as the recipe specifies, and the second as a standard loaf shape (after the time-consuming effort of making the dough you are rewarded by one brioche loaf for now and one to stash in the freezer as a treat for later). These are loaves before proving:
They are quite slow to achieve a rise in the tin as the dough has spent the night chilling in the refrigerator before being shaped the next morning. This is what mine looked like after nearly 2 hours – not really doubled in size but I couldn’t wait for my breakfast any longer:
I always use steam in my oven when baking any kind of yeasted dough as I think it prevents a dry skin forming on the dough too soon which would impede its rise. Thus I added steam to my oven when baking the brioche and was very happy with the rise and end result. I have read elsewhere (specifically Tom Herbert’s comment in a baking article in October 2012’s Delicious magazine) that baking a brioche with steam will produce a thick hard crust but I have not found this to be the case so suggest steaming ahead!
Here are the loaves straight out of the oven:
That first slice, still warm, was definitely worth waiting for:
Interestingly, the loaf shaped as three buns had a more satisfactory structure and better rise than the standard loaf shape so I’d recommend this shaping method in future.
It goes without saying that the brioche made wonderful French toast, sprinkled with a little grated nutmeg and golden caster sugar before being topped with a generous dollop of the home-made kaya. Brunei is now up there in our “top ten” of world breakfasts.
Recipe for coconut egg kaya
Adapted from Australian chef and food writer Billy Law’s blog “A Table for Two”.
Makes enough to fill one small preserving jar with a bit left over.
2 egg yolks
150g golden caster sugar
250ml canned or packet coconut milk – check the small print to make sure it’s 100% coconut
3–4 pandan leaves, knotted (optional)
Set up a double boiler by placing a suitably sized mixing bowl over a large pan containing simmering water.
Having made sure the bowl will sit comfortably over the pan, take it off the heat and add the whole eggs, yolks and sugar to it and, using a balloon whisk, mix until the sugar has dissolved. Slowly pour the coconut milk into mixture while whisking until well combined. If using, drop the knotted pandan leaves into the mixture.
Swap the balloon whisk for a rubber spatula. Place the mixing bowl on top of the pan containing simmering hot water and start stirring the mixture constantly, scraping down the sides and base of the bowl. Baste the pandan leaves by using the spatula to pour the hot coconut custard over them.
The mixture will start to get thicker. This is likely to take between 20 minutes and half an hour. At this stage, remove the knotted pandan leaves, scraping and squeezing the kaya off them before discarding. Test for doneness by drawing a line right through the mixture in the bowl one swift move using the spatula. If a channel remains for a second or two before the mixture flows back, then it is ready. Remember that it will thicken further as it cools.
Spoon the mixture into a a sterilised jar, allow to cool then refrigerate. It will keep for up to a month in the fridge.
Recipe for Brioche
Adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s “Baking – from my home to yours”
Makes 2 loaves
7g fast action dried yeast
300g strong plain flour
225g ordinary plain flour
80g water mixed with 80g whole milk, either at room temperature or slightly warmed
3 large eggs, lightly beaten with a fork
45g golden caster sugar
340g unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 small egg, beaten
1 tablespoon water
In the bowl of a Kenwood or similar mixer fitted with a dough hook, stir together the flours, fast action dried yeast and salt. Pour in the milk and water mixture then turn the mixer on to a low speed and mix for one to two minutes until the flour is moistened and you have a fairly dry shaggy mixture.
Scrape down the sides of the bowl using a plastic dough scraper or rubber spatula. Turn the mixer back on to a low speed and add the egg mixture little by little, then the sugar. Increase the speed to medium and beat for about 3 minutes by which time the dough should have formed into a ball.
Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the butter in big chunks, beating until almost incorporated before adding the next. You will end up with a very soft cake-batter-like dough. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat until the mixture comes away from the sides of the bowl, about 10 minutes.
Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a plastic dough scraper then cover the bowl with cling film and leave to prove at room temperature until the dough has nearly doubled in size, around 40 to 60 minutes depending on the ambient temperature.
Deflate the dough by picking it up and slapping it back into the bowl. Cover the bowl again with cling film and put it in the fridge. Check the dough every 30 minutes and slap it back until it stops rising. You may need to do this 4 or 5 times. Once it’s stopped rising, make sure the bowl is sealed with cling film and leave it overnight in the refrigerator.
The next morning, grease and flour two loaf tins. Loaf tins are notoriously difficult to size so I’ll tell you the measurements of the ones I used here which were both 22cm (Length) by 11cm (Width) by 6cm (Depth). Divide the brioche dough in half, and divide each half into four equal pieces (best done using an accurate set of scales). Roll each of these small pieces into a log shape (the length of which is equal to the width of your tin)and press four of the logs side by side in the base of each loaf tin. Cover the tins with an upturned plastic storage box or big mixing bowl and leave the loaves to prove until nearly doubled in size and filling the tins. This may take up to three hours as the dough is fridge cold and takes a while to get going again.
When the dough is reaching the end of its proving time, make sure your oven shelf is in a central position and preheat the oven to 190 degrees C (fan).
Make the glaze by beating the egg with the water. Brush the surface of the loaves carefully with the glaze trying not to let it run down the sides of the tin where it will prevent the loaves from rising.
Bake the loaves until well risen and a deep golden brown. I like to add steam at the beginning of the baking time (by quickly throwing a mug of cold water into a shallow preheated roasting tin placed at the bottom of the hot oven) to stop a crust from forming and allow the loaves to rise to their maximum potential.
Remove the loaves from the oven when done and allow to cool in their tins for about 15 minutes before turning them out to complete cooling on a rack. The crumb structure is quite fragile at this stage so be careful when you do this. Don’t attempt to slice until the loaves have cooled thoroughly, for at least an hour.
Kim’s Thai Food Store
46 George Street
Manchester M1 4HF
0161 228 6263