Les Mis, brioche and a glimpse at my fanaticism!

Queens Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue - Les Miser...
Queens Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue – Les Miserables (Photo credit: ell brown)

Last week I mentioned I was going to share another excitement drawn from my viewing of the Tony Awards. I enjoy all forms of theater, really, but nothing more than musical theater. I’ve joked for years that if we get to come back and do this life again I would like to be a Broadway performer. I am willing to be in the chorus.

I watch the Tony’s with glee taking note of the musical performances that catch my ear and then I wait. If the production is successful it will make its way to Los Angeles. Sometimes quickly. This was the case in 1987 when Les Miserablesthe musical adaptation of the Victor Hugo novel, won the Tony for best musical of the year.

First of all, perhaps because I had a real flair for the dramatic (I didn’t even need a stage) in high school, I devoured Hugo’s 1862 novel. It was required reading in my English class, and I read the book with true fervor. I have a funny memory of trying very hard to read it in French. Four years of high school French…I do NOT speak the language! But I so badly wanted to absorb the story of love, redemption, good versus evil, revolution…it’s a powerful masterpiece.

Cover of "Les Miserables (Enriched Classi...

In 1988 I didn’t have any knowledge of what was appearing on Broadway short of what I learned by watching the annual Tony Awards. I no longer remember precisely which segments of the musical were showcased that night, but I do recall that I came dangerously close to self-combustion! Later in the same year Les Mis came to Los Angeles, and an obsession was born. I no longer know how many times I’ve seen it, but I believe I’ve only missed one Los Angeles company in 24 years.

This year I didn’t watch the Tony’s live. But later watching them taped I was buzzing through the commercials and something familiar caught my eye. The joys of a recording…I zipped backwards and caught my first peek at a trailer for Oscar-winning director Tom Hooper’s adaptation of Les Mis. Courtesy of all-knowing Facebook–I had previously “liked” the play–I was informed that a movie was in the making. But I did NOT know that Hugh Jackman was to play ex-convict Jean Valjean. Very nice! I am eagerly awaiting. I can already predict I will not be disappointed. Nothing compares to live theater, perhaps self-combustion is off the table, but I don’t think I can hear “Can You Hear the People Sing” without goose-flesh, and I will always cry with the students singing “Drink with Me to Days Gone By.” Oh let’s face it–I cry through the whole thing!

So here’s a segue.. Cake. French cake! Brioche. We all know the phrase “Let them eat cake,” attributed to Marie Antoinette. Historians disagree on this attribution, but someone in power, upon learning that the people were suffering due to widespread bread shortages, quipped, “Qu’ils mangent de la brioche.”  I love to bake, and would do more of it if I could develop better self-control! But I have company coming and so I have an excellent excuse, so I am making brioche. The rich bread-like cake, which I like to serve for breakfast, is baked in a specific brioche pan and makes a very pretty presentation.

Traditional recipes are easy to pull together and one of the advantages is that the dough, once doubled at room temperature, can be punched down and allowed to rise again in the refrigerator. But do I have an added treat for you!

Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day

Are you familiar with this book? Oh, but you must get acquainted! I enjoy making bread the good old-fashioned way, but sometimes there just isn’t time. The time-saving secret? Keep the dough refrigerated. Not just the brioche mixture, but dough for all manner of artisan breads. The dough is mixed, no kneading necessary, left to sit for about two hours and then shaped and baked. The remaining dough refrigerated for use over the next couple of weeks. The book outlines all the easy details, recommending a baking stone to support a good crust, and provides numerous recipes for a variety of flours and densities.

I may not be as excited about this as I was with Les Mis, but I do love bread–and I can’t resist mentioning that Jean Valjean went to prison for stealing a loaf of bread. But I digress…

Here’s the dough recipe for four 1-pound loaves. The recipe is easily doubled or halved.

1 1/2 cups lukewarm water

1 1/2 tablespoons granulated yeast

1 1/2 tablespoons salt

8 eggs, lightly beaten

1/2 cup honey

1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, melted, plus butter for greasing the pan

7 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

Egg wash (1 egg beaten with 1 TB water)

1. Mix the yeast, salt, eggs, honey, and melted butter with the water in a 5-quart bowl, or a lidded (not airtight) food container

2. Mix in the flour without kneading, using a spoon ( I do use my Kitchen Aid with dough hook, but it isn’t necessary)

3. Cover, not airtight, and allow to rest at room temperature until dough rises and collapses (or flattens on top) approximately 2 hours.

4. The dough can be used as soon as it’s chilled after the initial rise. Refrigerate in a lidded (not airtight) container and use over the next 5 days. Beyond 5 days, freeze the dough in 1-pound portions for up to 4 weeks.

On baking day:

5. Dust the surface of the refrigerated dough with flour and cut off a 1-pound (grapefruit sized) piece. Dust the piece with more flour and quickly shape it into a ball by stretching the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all four sides, rotating the ball a quarter-turn as you go.

6. Elongate into an oval and place in the prepared pan. Allow to rest for 1 hour and 20 minutes.

7. Twenty minutes before baking time, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. If you’re not using a stone in the oven, 5 minutes is adequate.

8. Using a pastry brush, brush the top crust with egg wash.

9. Place the bread near the center of the oven and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until a medium golden brown. The bread is high in fat so won’t form a hard crust.

Enjoy the buttery goodness! One nice thing about baking in a pretty brioche pan is that you’re less inclined to cut into it early!  It spoils the presentation!

Hot from the oven…Buttery goodness!

This recipe is wonderful. This BOOK is amazing! I will share the companion book, Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day, another time. Get the basics down first, and definitely give the brioche a try.

Hope you enjoyed my French Connection…I am now hungry for brioche, and will perhaps need to bring out my DVD of the 10th Anniversary  of Les Miserables: Dream Cast in Concert at London’s Royal Albert Hall (2008). Filmed originally in 1995, this release is a must for any fan (fanatic). I can’t help myself!

Breathing lighter just thinking about it all…Debra

45 thoughts on “Les Mis, brioche and a glimpse at my fanaticism!

  1. Debra, I miss living in New York as I used to visit the theatre every now and then. The bread looks so yummy and I am at the moment losing a few pounds so this reaaally looked good to me. 🙂

    1. I’ve never seen a play on Broadway, Marie, but hope to someday! And keep the brioche recipe in mind for a special occasion sometime. it isn’t an “every day” bread/cake for most of us…a small piece maybe, but I have trouble with small pieces! 🙂 Debra

  2. What a great post Debra. I too would love to come back as a Broadway performer but I would want the lead role! I have seen a promotional clip of the upcoming movie and it looks incredible. The cast is amazing, lots of Aussies in it! It’s such a great musical and like you say, there is nothing better than music theatre, but, by the look of what I’ve seen, the movie will come a close second xx

    1. Oh you just make me chuckle! Yes, Charlie, you were meant to have the lead! I believe that! I am good in supporting roles! This works out so we don’t have to compete, right? 🙂 I don’t know much about the rest of the cast, but I sure do like Hugh Jackman, and think he’s going to be a strong lead! We’ll have to compare notes on our impressions of the movie after it is released! That would be fun. Debra

  3. Bravo! Bravo! Bravo! (I couldn’t resist) … Very interesting how you bridged Broadway and bread. We too enjoy theater, but believe or not (and shame on me), I haven’t seen Les Mis. Ok … I’ll put it on my to-do list.

    1. Thank you, Frank! I hope someday you do see Les Mis, as I’m confident you’d really appreciate it. The music is just fantastic. I have a personal problem for you! I recall when you were showing up in my Spam folder…well, it’s happening to me. I can’t figure out what has happened, but probably close to 50% of the comments I’m leaving aren’t getting there! In cases where I know the blogger, I’ve contacted via email…is there a better way? And would you be so kind as to mention me to Suzanne (awindowinthewoods). I don’t know how to contact her, but my remarks to her are not landing! 🙂 Any suggestions on how to stop this would be great, but I guess the first thing would be to contact WP. I might put up an SOS post some time today! I’d apreciate it, Frank! D

      1. I found you in mine, but lately you have been fine. I did the email thing (time consuming and frustrating) … make sure you include it in a post or two! … I will mention it to Suzanne! Good luck …. 😦

        1. Thanks, Frank. This has been my first real glitch, so I’ll chock it up to a new learning curve. Suzanne is an example of a few new blogs I’ve followed. She isn’t following me, and wouldn’t even know I’ve been reading hers apparently! I got caught up about a week ago with the two of you and your ninja squirrels. 🙂 And I bought her new book and had congratulated her on it’s release…all that high praise and it languishes in her Spam. Oh my! I will be on it now. It took me a bit to figure out a strategy! I’ll be the town crier of clean out the Spam folders! Debra

  4. That brioche looks amazing! I’m off yeast (hopefully it’s only temporary) and haven’t had any cravings for yeast products for the last few months, but your post and photos made me drool! Time for a tall glass of ice water to quell that craving…. 😉

    1. Oh, and you weren’t expecting a recipe from me either, I’m sure! I caught you by surprise. Now I’m impressed that you chose water to quell your craving–you are a lot more disciplined than I am. I would probably need something at least with a little caffeine! Good for you! Stick with what’s working for you! 🙂 Debra

  5. I’m with you!! I’d love to sing some of these arias on stage!! I loved Les Mis, it created quite a stir when it came to our city. And you’ve also shown me a new cookbook I just need to try, what could be better than a recipe you can whip up that quickly? Your brioche are gorgeous!! xo Smidge

    1. You’re kind to compliment the look of the brioche, Smidge! I have a lot of appreciation for blogs such as yours with the gorgeous photography. I don’t know how you do so well with lighting and presentation. I don’t have the experience, but I was determined to share the brioche with you anyway! You would have a great time with the cookbook. I’m someone who needs to stay close to the recipes, but I think with your creativity you’d really get in there and have a great time reinventing the recipes! I’d love to see what you come up with! 🙂 Debra

  6. Aimee

    You almost had a granddaughter named Cosette, LOL. It was on the list or maybe I should say on MY list. It’s not supposed to open until December so maybe we can see it together for my birthday. God knows Anthony won’t be as excited as we are 🙂 Love you mom and thank you for my love for Broadway as well.

    1. I gave you a French name, so Cosette would have fit in nicely. I can’t quite see Anthony going for that, though, so I’m not surprised it didn’t make the cut! I don’t think dad will be all that thrilled either, so you and I can have a date! I can’t wait until the girls are ready for some of these musical moments. Not that I want them to grow up any faster than they already are! oxo

  7. ChgoJohn

    Les MIs was, and is, a great musical. I’ve seen it twice, so I’m hardly the fan that you are. Still, I’m looking forward to the movie. I only hope it’s worth the hype. So many times in the past I’ve gone to a screen adaptation, hoping for West Side Story but left shaking my head. We’re due for a good musical!
    Your brioche looks like a brioche should! Maybe it’s time I looked into getting a brioche pan. Your recipe is too good for me to pass up. I’m going to pin it so I do not lose track of it. Thanks! 🙂

    1. I am hopeful the movie won’t be a disappointment, too, John. I think giving Hugh Jackman such a key role may help! The brioche is really so good. And there just couldn’t be an easier method for making it. The dough freezes well, too, so it’s always handy! Thanks for your help this morning. We’ll see what happens on the Spam alert! 🙂 Debra

  8. I thought I recognised the theatre! No wonder it was taken in London. I remember going to see it in the 90s with firends 🙂 They moved theatres and everytime I go past the old one I think of Les Mis….
    and brioche – that is truly wicked! and the tin you baked it in must be gorgeous too. Hope you have a super week Debra

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed the brioche recipe, Claire. THe brioche pan really does make it nice, and I also have a set of little ones for individually sized cakelets! I’m not one who does such a great job in presentation…so I need help from the equipment! LOL! I’m glad you had the Les Mis experience. The play originated in London, as you know, and it is now the second longest running show on Broadway. Second only to the Fantastics, if I remember correctly. I really wil enjoy the movie! Happy mid-week! Debra

  9. Cristin Spriggs

    Everything in this post makes me happy!! We are anticipating the movie version of Les Mis and I am planning on taking the girls. We have the 10th anniversary DVD as well and reading it withh the girls is on my summer to do list.
    I have this cookbook and I LOVE the brioche recipe. Oh the buttery goodness!! your pics are great of your creation. enjoy and savor it today!

    1. You’re the one who got me motivated to actually use the cookbook, Cristin! I’d forgotten that. I bought it a good year before I used it because it sounded too good to be true. It is amazing, isn’t it! And i know you love Les Mis, too. I can’t wait for the movie. We should have a Les Mis party! LOL! oxo D

  10. I am on a diet right now, and I am afraid I am licking my computer screen in a very unattractive manner……….

    Les Mis was the first Broadway show I ever saw. It is really special. I love the story and the music. I have the original cast soundtrack, too. When it comes to the movie, though, I don’t know that I’ll be able to see it. There’s something so amazing about seeing it live with that spinning stage.

    1. Oh, I have seen the play so many times, Andra, I’ll be fine with the movie. I saw Hairspray live, too, but enjoyed the movie for what it was. Same with Chicago. I think it would be fun to dip into it expecting a completely different version. In some ways, the play is a very abridged version of the book, so I will at least appreciate the effort. 🙂 And the brioche recipe is such a good one to bring out when you have company. I never make it for us…I literally cannot leave it alone! I do better ignoring a chocolate cake because I see it as dessert…I somehow rationalize eating this butter-rich bread and pretend it’s not calorie-loaded! I’m very good at rationalizing! Debra

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  12. Beautiful bread- and we are getting that book! Thanks. We love to bake but are always looking for improvements…time is a key ingredient, so the more we have, the better…

    1. You will just love the book! I’m not as creative in the kitchen as some, so I stick closely to the recipes. I have no doubt that you’ll find creative ways to amplify each recipe. The ease is almost funny! My “food” photography could use some help, but I was so eager to share I didn’t worry about it this time. I just wish I could have shared the aroma! 🙂 Debra

    1. They really are so good. My “food” photography isn’t that great, but I was eager to share. It’s a good base for more creative cooks like yourself. I’ll share about the companion book soon! 🙂 Debra

  13. Dear Debra, your posting today left me breathless…and hungry for bread, specifically brioche, which I have never tasted. Why breathless? Because I got so caught up in your enthusiasm for the baking book, brioche, and Les Mis that I forget to breathe!

    I’ve seen the touring company’s presentation twice–once with a young friend whose eyes were filled with tears throughout. And once with a couple who’d been my friends since 1967. Both times I felt so stirred by the music that I wanted to find a barricade, get behind it, and fight for whatever cause needed rebels that year! Peace.

    1. I think Les Miserables is just made for someone like you, Dee, with your soul so tuned to active participation and solidarity in support of others. I’m sure we could come up with some wonderful metaphors for those barricades. It is a stirring play, and I find it so moving, too. I’m really glad you have had the chance to see it, and twice is even better! Debra

  14. Congratulations on a skillful piece of writing that started with Broadway went onto Les Miz and ended with my favorite of all favorites * brioche * which you make sound as simple to make as a hard boiled egg. Really? It’s that easy? Why didn’t anyone tell me before?

    My spouse has had a hankering for home baked breads especially now that he has so much spare time since I’ve taken up blogging [!] and I was thinking of buying him a bread maker for his birthday next month. What do you use? After reading this post I will definitely get the book.

    1. Thank you for your kind remarks, Rosie, and I will say that “yes indeed” the brioche is that easy! I don’t use my bread machine at all anymore. The book is so helpful to work easily in making artisan breads, and now I’m moving on to other more complex creations because the entire process now seems easier! Give the book a try! You made me laugh outloud at your comment abuot yuor husband having more time on his hands now that so much of your time is taken up with blogging. It’s so true! I jsut got a kick out of it! Let me know if you get the book…I’ll give you some pointers! 🙂 D

      1. Hi Debra,
        I’m going to take your advice and skip the bread machine and buy the book. Thank you. We aren’t bakers in this house so it’s good to know someone who bakes such a professional looking brioche 🙂

        As one blogger to another I’m sure I could make you laugh. My husband missed me a lot while I was in Spain and now that I’m back each post is taking me hours to write, and I’ve still got hundreds of photos to sort through, plus the never ending race of trying to catch up with the other blogs, so he’s missing me even more.

        1. Hi Rosie! The book will help get you started, but a bread stone really helps. I think it’s worth the investment! Other than that, all things are optional. The brioche would be pretty in a brioche pan. I got mine from William Sonoma and it isn’t cheap, but I make brioches for gifts all the time! It pays for itself. And you don’t need the baking stone for the brioche, but for the breads. You’ll have fun!

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