Thursday, September 30, 2010


I’ve been surprised by the number of shoppers unfamiliar with brioche at farmers’ markets. I admit brioche certainly wasn’t a staple in my household growing up nor is it sold in many bakeries in the US. I was introduced to the buttery bread whilst working at a bakery during high school summers.

This was long before I was as interested in food as I am today, and it was simply a summer job to earn some pocket money and keep me occupied. I saw most of the treats in the shop as 'off limits' since I was more interested in things like running and staying skinny.

Brioche wasn’t sold daily at the bakery and customers always seemed excited on the days it appeared in the display case. The owner baked small, individual loaves instead of the typical large ones, and many customers mistook them for muffins. On one particularly slow day when there did happen to be brioche, there were a few small loaves left at the end of the day. Needless to say, the owner sent me home with these loaves.

My Mom was ecstatic to see the small breads tumbling around in the bottom of my bag when I arrived home. She immediately lifted one out and dove right in, crumbs tumbling down all around her. I shrugged at her and went off to do other things. However, later at dinner there were slices of the bread on the table, and curiosity was killing me. What was this brioche all about?!?

YUM, is all I have to say. Once you brioche you won’t go back!

Brioche is a bread commonly seen in France. It’s unique for two reasons- it’s ingredients and its shape.

Brioche is similar to most breads in that it contains the basic ingredients necessary in bread making – flour, salt, yeast and water. What brioche also has is one stick of butter and three eggs per loaf, neither of which are found in your typical loaf of white or whole wheat bread. This creates a very dense yet silky dough.

Despite the added calories and decadence, brioche isn’t as heavy as you may think. Brioche dough rises in the refrigerator for roughly 12 hours after preperation then rises for another three to four hours before baking. This results in an airy and light loaf.

Another alluring quality of brioche is its shape. Brioche is typically baked in a mold similar to a muffin or cupcake paper – round bottom with flared, fluted sides. It’s typically made as one large loaf. At first it can look like an atomic muffin or something, but it really is magnificent.

Baking brioche is really very simple when you weigh the amount of work against the end-product. I’ve tried various brioche recipes, and the best by far is in The Barefoot Contessa in Paris by Ina Garten. (Actually, everything in her book is amazing, so I’d definitely recommend this book as well as all her cookbooks.)

My only addition to Garten’s recipe is cover the loaves with aluminum foil after 20 min to prevent the top from burning. Also, if you bake the brioche in the traditional fluted pan, add about 10 extra minutes to ensure the loaf bakes all the way through.

Happy Brioching!!!

Saturday, September 25, 2010


Fall is certainly in the air in Stowe, Vt. The leaves are starting to explode in bright shades of yellow, orange and fiery red, and on cold enough nights streams of smoke snake from chimneys into the crisp air. After such a hot and humid summer, I'm welcoming the Fall with cozy sweaters and a head full of baking ideas for pumpkin and cinnamon. Yum!

The arrival of fall was also a shocking reminder that I have neglected to update anyone on Le Petit Lapin all summer. Now that markets are winding down, I'm slotting off some time for this blog.

This summer I sold at the Barre, Waterbury and Stowe Mountain Resort Farmers' Markets. Barre and Waterbury are the 'grocer' type of market meaning they attract locals looking for fresh vegetables to cook up for dinner. The market at the mountain is a 'grazer' market in that it attracts tourists interested in snagging local jam, maple syrup or crafts to bring back home.

All three markets turned out well for me. I developed a small local following at the Barre and Waterbury markets. It was fun talking with the same customers each week and introducing new products to keep interest high. Financially speaking, the market at the mountain was far more successful due to the larger amount of customers, especially children, as well as the nature of the market. I sold many bags of cookies intended for car rides home or mid-hike snacks. Needless to say, I enjoyed all three markets and thank my repeated customers for their loyal support.

In addition to selling at markets, I am currently selling cakes and fruit tarts to a coffee shop in town. From this outlet, I attracted the attention of a local chef when he sampled my lemon curd cake in the coffee shop. I am just starting to supply his restaurant with cakes and hope to expand my partnership with him in the future. I have another local business owner interested in buying my fruit tarts to serve at her tea garden next summer. Lastly, I have some happy non-local customers to whom I am shipping my granola. (Unfortunately I was unable to find a safe way to ship my fruit tarts as also requested).

So, what's the plan for the fall and winter?

I'm currently looking into more shops and restaurants to supply my cakes and fruit tarts with, as well as retail stores to sell my granola. I've applied to winter farmers' markets in both Waterbury and Burlington. I'm also putting together dessert catering menus for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Hopefully things will continue to go well as I expand Le Petit Lapin.

So, there's your update on Le Petit Lapin. I should now have more time to post pics and recipes, so watch this space for some ideas on fall baking! Next few entries....personal orange-pecan pies, brioche, chocolate truffles and french macaroons !!!


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