Perfect Holiday Breakfast - Craquelin

Perfect Holiday Breakfast - Craquelin Recipe

Until a few months ago, I had never heard of craquelin. Then I received a loaf through the Zingerman's Culinary Adventure Society food club and was hooked. I ate the craquelin greedily and was bound and determined to make my own. Craquelin is basically the Belgian play on brioche, adding lumps of sugar and flavorings (citrus zest being my favorite, but baking spices and liquors can also be used) to the rich, buttery, eggy dough base. Craquelin can be made into loafs or as individual treats in muffic tins or popover pans. Since my first craquelin had been a loaf, swirled with sugary, orange-zesty goodness, that's what I was bound and determined to recreate.

So I began my research. I hadn't made brioche yet at this point, so I figured it would be good to start there. Once I had successfully made brioche loaves, I figured it was time to turn to the craquelin. The first thing I needed to track down was Belgian Pearl Sugar. These lumps are substantial and crystalline enough that they don't dissolve, they just add crunchy delicious sweet studs in your loaf.

A quick search on amazon and I was all set. Two days later, I was making craquelin.

Boozy Epicure's Craquelin Loaf
This is basically a play/modification of my brioche recipe. Just a few additions and you've got magic.

3/4 cup nib or pearl sugar, plus extra
zest of 1 large orange
2 tblsps fresh orange juice
2 3/4 cups AP flour
1/4 cup dry milk
1 1/2 tsp salt
5 tblsps sugar
3 eggs
1 egg separated (the yolk for the dough, the white for eggwash)
1/4 cup warm water
1 tblsp yeast
10 tblsps butter (room temperature), cut into pieces

The day before, add your orange zest and juice to the pearl sugar, mix it well, then pop in your freezer overnight. You won't need this mixture until the final rise, so just remember to pull it out of the freezer and give it time to thaw before you fold/roll it in.

Place all of the ingredients (except for the reserved egg white and reserved sugar/citrus mixture) in the bowl of your stand mixer. Using the dough hook, mix the ingredients together until they form a uniform, shiny dough. This will take time, mine needed a full 20 minutes to transform from a shaggy mess into a smooth and supple dough. Remove the dough from the mixer, shape it into a ball, and place in a lightly oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let it rise at room temperature for an hour.

After the first rise, you want to deflate the dough.  Pick it up, do a very gentle flatten, then reshape into a ball, return to the bowl and place in your fridge. It needs to wait there for at least a few hours, but even better overnight.

When you are ready to continue, pull your sugar/zest mixture out of the freezer and grab your now hard lump of brioche dough out of the fridge. It will feel dense. Roll the dough into a rectangle the same length as your loaf pan. Spread the suagar/zest mixture over the top, leaving a clean edge, then roll your dough jelly roll style to make a lovely orangey swirl in your loaf. Place in your loaf pan and give it time, about 2 hours, for its second rise.

After the second rise, its time to stud the top with a little extra peal sugar and brush the loaf with the egg wash (just mix the egg white with a little water or milk, and brush it on.) To bake, preheat your oven to 350 F, and bake until the internal temp reaches 190 F, about 45 minutes. If it starts browning too quickly, cover with foil (mine needed foil after about 20 minutes.) Trust me when I say the smell is the stuff of dreams.

When the craquelin is done, pull it out and set it (pan and all) onto a rack. Let it cool for a few minutes before you pop the bread out of the pan and let it finish cooling. You may need to run a knife around the edges of the pan, I had some sugary juice adhering my loaf. I think the craquelin tastes its absolute best just barely warm from the oven. It definitely freezes well but the flavor and texture is the best the day it's baked. Enjoy.

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