Microwave Brioche : Gas Expansion and Starch Gelatinization : The basic idea behind bread

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First of all, if you haven’t, please follow me on Instagram! 🙂 Brioche in the microwave… well… the soft tender interior that is. I came across this clever idea while browsing the book VOLT ink.: Recipes, Stories, Brothers at a Barnes and Nobles on 3rd street promenade in Santa Monica. Pretty awesome book full of interesting ideas and new and modernists approaches to cooking as well as traditional. I haven’t bought it but it is definitely on my list. Although I got the idea from the Voltaggio Bros’. I’ve also seen similar recipes by Ferran Adrià, who used to run one of the most innovative kitchens in the world at El Bulli restaurant. He might have been the first one to try this, but I can’t find much information about it. I would love to know.

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El Bulli has been recently turned into sort of a food idea development center… Ferran now owns and runs the recently founded restaurant  Tickets Bar in spain. Back to the microwave brioche… the “gimmick” in itself is simple but only after understanding how it works. A light batter is placed inside a cream whipper which is then charged with nitroux oxide cartridges and leavened this way. The cream whipper will scatter thousands of tiny little bubbles of NO into the batter. There are 2 important principles at work here:

1. gasses expand when heat is applied

2. flour starches gel at little under 212F (water boiling point at sea level)

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These are the principles behind traditional bread too, only yeast does the work of creating the tiny bubbles that will eventually cause the bread to rise. Yeast does other wonderful things too, it ferments and imparts a very special flavor must of us love. Our modernist bread recipe isn’t yeasted, so the flavor isn’t as complex but it still works and with some creativity, this bread can be flavored in so many interesting ways. I believe that this bread could be made with yeast too in which case the cream whipper wouldn’t be necessary. I want to try this soon (and in a way I had when I made the Baozi buns).  Anyways, when the whipped batter is heated, the water in it heats up, causing the tiny bubbles to expand and on top of that, some water evaporates and the steam helps the expansion even further. In the end it looks like a very yummy sponge. There won’t be any browning or crust of course. Caramelization and Maillard reactions* can only occur well above the water boiling point temperature which is what is reached inside the microwave (fats in a microwave will heat up to much higher temperatures than 212F, please do not try to heat up a cup of oil in the microwave, it is dangerous. It will get extremely hot.)

* The Maillard reaction actually happens at room temperature but it is greatly sped up by applying heat.

One important thing to keep in mind, the sponge will deflate a bit while still in the microwave oven. This is something that wouldn’t happen to bread in a real oven (it does happen but at such small scale is not really that noticeable) because the starches have been given enough time to set. Once our bread deflates a bit it’s a good sign that microwaving time is enough and the brioche is ready.  Gasses and water vapor have left the bread. Further microwaving would dry out the bread and turn it into a solid dry stale piece of brioche. 

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Gear:

Blender
Isi Cream whipper
2 NO cartridges
a few paper cups
small spatula or butter knife microwave

Ingredients:

200g AP flour
2 eggs
50g unsalted butter
4g kosher salt
50g sugar
150g milk

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Prep a paper cup (I had multiple ones ready just in case, and there is enough batter for a few tries). You can butter the inside of it or oil it so the bread doesn’t stick. It has been suggested that you puncture holes on the dixie cup, but after some testing, I don’t see much of a difference in the textures. Perhaps the sponginess of the brioche cooked in the punctured cup was better, but I have to run more tests.

Blend all the ingredients together and strain (if it isn’t too thick otherwise just don’t)  into the cream whipper canister.  Then load it with 2 cartridges of nitrous oxide. shake really well. We want 2 cartridges because the batter is thick and it isn’t easy to whip gas into it. One cartridge wouldn’t have enough pressure to achieve that.

Fill cup half way with mixture, I recommend working one cup at a time because like crepes, the first one is always thrown away. But in this case you want to test different times until your brioche is just right. Every microwave is different so you will have to test and fine tune! how fun!

I microwaved the cup for about 1 minute and a few extra seconds but yours could take more or less time. Immediately take out of the microwave and flip upside down, if you oiled or buttered the cup, the bread will slide right off. Be gentle when handling it and also be careful, it is a hot hot hot delicate sponge. If you didn’t oil the cup, you will need a spatula to help you extract the bread from the cup, it will be slightly stuck in it. And that is it! Hope you found this useful or at least interesting! As always, your input is highly valuable!  Until the next one!

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