This festive bread comes from author Salma Hage’s wonderful new book, Middle Eastern Sweets: Desserts, Pastries, Creams & Treats (Phaidon, 2021), a collection of delights from the Middle East, from traditional recipes to inspired modern takes on baklava, halva and sweets made with tahini. About this brioche Salma says, “The filling is gently spiced, which highlights the rich sweetness of the pistachios—in my opinion, the most regal nut available. This brioche usually lasts about 10 minutes in my house, but the sooner you eat it the better, as it will turn stale after a couple of days.”
Makes 6 servings
- 2½ cups (350 grams) strong white bread flour
- 2 ¼ teaspoons (7 grams) fast-acting dried yeast
- ⅓ cup (80 grams) lukewarm whole milk
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- Generous ⅓ cup (75 grams) superfine (caster) granulated sugar
- 2 large (100 grams) eggs
- 1 large (18 grams) egg yolk
- 12 tablespoons (175 grams) unsalted butter, melted, plus extra
- ¼ cup (60 grams) apricot jam
- 3 tablespoons (25 grams) raw shelled pistachios, roughly chopped
- 1½ cups (200 grams) raw shelled pistachios
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Scant ½ cup (95 grams) superfine (caster) granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla paste
- Pinch of fine sea salt
Start the brioche:
- Sift the flour into a large stand mixer bowl and fit it with the dough hook attachment. Add the yeast, milk, salt, sugar, eggs and yolk, and mix on low for 2 minutes. While the mixer is running, pour in the melted butter in 4 batches, stopping the motor to scrape down the sides to make sure the butter is incorporated. When all the butter has been added, turn the speed up to medium and mix until the dough is glossy and elastic.
- Scrape the dough into a lightly greased bowl and cover with a dish towel. Leave to rise in a warm spot for 60–90 minutes.
- Using the spatula, lift the dough up and over itself to knock it back in its bowl, then cover the bowl with plastic wrap (cling film) and place in the fridge to chill for at least 7 hours, or overnight.
Make the Pistachio Paste:
- Blitz the pistachios and cinnamon in a food processor until they resemble fine breadcrumbs, then add the sugar, vanilla, and salt and blitz again on a high speed, scraping down the sides a few times until the mixture becomes a paste. Cover and set aside.
Assemble and bake the brioche:
- Divide the chilled dough into two evenly sized balls (it may be easiest to weigh the dough and then divide it until each ball forms half the original weight if you’re unsure). Shape each ball into a rectangle, roughly 8 × 12 inches (20 × 30 cm). Use a spatula to spread all the pistachio paste evenly over one of the rectangles, leaving roughly ½ inch (1 cm) clear around the edge. Place the other rectangle of dough on top of the pistachio layer, then roll tightly from one shorter end to the other, forming a Swiss roll shape.
- If the dough has warmed up and become soft and pliable, place it on a baking sheet in the fridge to chill for 30 minutes before the next step. Otherwise, use a sharp knife to cut ¾-inch (2-cm) slices from the roll, then arrange them snugly, cut side up, in a greased 8 x 4-inch (2-lb/900-g) loaf pan. Cover with plastic wrap (cling film) and leave in a warm place to prove for 2 hours.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C/gas mark 4. When the dough has puffed up and doubled in size, bake for 25 minutes, until deep golden all over.
- Meanwhile, warm the jam in a small saucepan. As soon as the brioche comes out of the oven, brush it all over with the jam and sprinkle over the chopped pistachios. Allow the brioche to cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then loosen with a spatula. Cool on a wire rack, then slice and serve.
Reprinted with permission from Middle Eastern Sweets by Salma Hage, Phaidon, 2021.