Coconut Pumpkin Brioche – and Triple Coconut Sticky Buns
Backstory: Two years ago at around this time, I used the picture above as the coda to a long list of good things to make out of leftover mashed winter squash (an item that many of us will soon have in copious amounts).
What I did not do was post the relevant recipe – even after I was very politely asked. Why? Because the recipe didn’t exist.
That’s the great thing about bread. Unlike cake, you can just make it up as you go along, starting with pureed squash, for instance, faking your way toward brioche and then playing around with the dough.
The result was certainly good enough to revisit, but what with this and what with that I never did, so I never took the notes that add up to a recipe. Until now.
Coconut Pumpkin Brioche
is actually somewhere between true brioche and very light, very eggy, very buttery bread, because you have to add extra flour to compensate for the moisture in the pumpkin.
You also have to want plenty of coconut pumpkin brioche products, because I decided – in the interest of standardization and because I hate dabs of leftover ingredients – that this recipe should use one whole can of caned pumpkin and that makes a lot of dough.
It also helps to like coconut milk, because standardization turns out to be not my thing again today and there will be a lot left over. On the good side, there’s always Thai curry and you can use up quite a bit if you make the sticky buns or something else that is improved by icing.*
For @ 4 ¾ lb. of dough, enough to make 2 dozen brioches and a large coconut ring, or 3 large coconut rings, or 33 brioches, or a dozen brioches and 16 sticky buns and a small coconut currant ring, or come to think of it I bet this dough would be extremely cool for kulebiaka**…
Note: the dough is easy to make – assuming you have a stand mixer – but it does require an overnight rest; be sure to plan accordingly.
1/3 c. warm coconut milk
2 ¼ tsp. yeast (one standard 1/4 oz packet)
1 ¾ c. solid-pack pumpkin (one 15 oz can) or winter squash puree
3 tbl. sugar
1 c. bread flour
2 tsp. salt
6 extra large eggs
6 ½ c. bread flour, plus more as needed
10 oz. very soft butter
Shaping and baking
Lots of butter for the pans
Shredded unsweetened coconut
Beaten egg for glaze
1. Make the sponge. Put the coconut milk in the bowl of a standing mixer, whisk in the yeast and let it soften for 5 minutes or so. Whisk in the pumpkin, sugar and flour and cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap. Allow to rise until very light and spongy, anywhere from 1½ to 3 hours, depending on the warmth of the room.
2. Fit the mixer with the paddle. At low speed, beat the salt into the sponge, then beat in an egg. When the mixture is smooth, beat in 1 1/2c. of the flour. Add another egg, then a cup of flour, then an egg, etc., until all eggs and flour are in there.
3. Keep beating at low speed, scraping the bowl from time to time and pushing the dough down as it climbs the paddle. It will slowly come together and start leaving the sides of the bowl and then you will have a lump of soft, sticky dough.
4. Beat in the butter, a few tablespoons at a time. Keep beating after all is added. The dough will again begin to pull away from the bowl, but this time it won’t form a tidy lump. There will be some stretchy wings.
5. Test the dough by flouring your fingers and pulling off a walnut sized piece. Put it in the freezer until it’s very cold (not frozen), then try rolling it into a ball with lightly floured palms. If it gets sticky but keeps its shape, the dough is ready. If the heat of your hands turns it into paste, beat in 1/3 c. more flour and test again. If necessary, keep adding and testing, 1/3 cup at a time. The more flour you add, the easier the dough will be to handle, but try to avoid getting carried away. More than a scant cup of additional flour and you’ll definitely have egg bread instead of brioche. Not the worst thing in the world, but still…
6. When the dough is ready, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it rise double, 2 hours or so, depending on room temperature. Absolute double isn’t essential; if in doubt it’s better to err on the side of not quite enough.
7. Punch down the dough. Transfer to a large, thick plastic bag and thump so the dough’s in the bottom. Close the bag tightly at the top, leaving plenty of room for expansion. Refrigerate overnight (anywhere from 8 -12 hours or even a little more if more convenient). Punch down when ready to shape.
Shaping: Work with small amounts of dough at a time; it’s easy to handle when it’s cold.
Brioches (a 1/2 c. mold takes about 2 ¼ oz of dough):
1. Lavishly butter the molds and dust them with coconut, turning and shaking to ensure complete coverage.
2. Work with no more than 6 – 8 pieces of dough at a time, so they don’t warm up too much. Just roll them into balls or go the extra mile with the little topknot. (If you don’t already have a favorite shaping method, try this one. Being written for kids, it’s both short and clear). The ball part should fill the mold a little more than halfway.
1. Tube pans work better than bundt pans, but bundt pans are perfectly ok. Allow enough dough to fill the pan a bit more than halfway, about 1 ½ lbs. for a 6 cup mold. If you’re not sure, do a crude experimental fill before preparing the pan.
2. Butter and coconut dust as the brioche pans (above).
3. Roll the dough into a rectangle, then roll it up tightly into an even snake and fit it into the pan, pinching and pressing to make the ends meet securely. You can go directly to rolling a snake, but doing the flatten and roll routine helps keep the thickness even.
Rising and baking:
1. Lightly cover the shaped breads with plastic wrap and allow to rise double, about an hour. Heat the oven to 400 when they’re roughly three-fourths of the way there.
2. Gently but thoroughly paint the tops with beaten egg, then sprinkle lavishly with shredded coconut. Put them in the oven and turn the heat down to 375. Bake until well risen and brown and pulling from the sides of the pan: 195 degrees on an instant read thermometer. The brioches take abut 18 minutes, the rings anywhere from 25 to 40 minutes, depending on size. Have foil handy to cover the tops if they seem to be browning too quickly.
Triple Coconut Pumpkin Sticky Buns
Coconut flakes on the bottom, shredded coconut inside, coconut icing on top
For 8 buns:
1 lb. coconut pumpkin brioche dough(above)
2/3 cup raisins
3 tbl. soft butter
1/3c. plus 2 tbl. brown sugar
1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
1 tsp. cinnamon (optional)
3 tbl. unsweetened shredded coconut
coconut glaze (below)
1. On a lightly floured board, knead the raisins into the dough. Set it aside covered to relax.
2. Coat an 8 inch cake pan with the butter, being especially generous on the bottom. Sprinkle on 2 tbl. of the brown sugar, then sprinkle on the coconut flakes, pressing them in slightly.
3. Roll the dough into a rough rectangle about 1/8 inch thick. Use your palm to brush with the cinnamon, if using, then sprinkle on the remaining brown sugar and the shredded coconut and spread them as evenly as possible.
4. Roll up the rectangle from a long side, pressing and tucking tightly as you go. Press in the ends to get the roll as even as possible, then cut it into 8 pieces and arrange them in the pan, 6 around the outside, 2 in the middle. Loosely cover with plastic wrap and let rise double, about an hour. Heat the oven to 400 when they’re about three-fourths of the way there.
5. Bake the buns for 5 minutes, then turn the heat down to 375 and bake until well risen and brown and pulling from the sides of the pan: 195 degrees on an instant read thermometer. This may take as long as 25 minutes total and the top may need protection to prevent over-browning; be sure to have foil handy.
6. Turn out onto a plate, then put another plate on top and reverse. Allow to cool before drizzling on the glaze. Two layers of glaze are not a bad thing. Let the first one dry before applying the second.
For a generous cup, enough for 16 sticky buns:
½ c. coconut milk
1 tbl. rum
@ 2.5 c. lump-free confectioners sugar
Mix the coconut milk and rum, then stir in sugar until the mixture is a little thicker than honey and a spoonful dropped on the sticky buns stays in place more than it runs .
Coconut Pumpkin Currant Ring
Prepare a 6 c. tube or bundt pan as for the coconut rings. Knead ½ c. currants into ¾ lb. of dough. Divide dough in half, then roll out and roll up each half as though for the sticky buns, sprinkling each rolled out rectangle with 2 tablespoons each of brown sugar and roughly chopped coconut flakes. Twist the two rolls around each other, put the rope into the pan and join the ends, pressing and pinching to seal. Omit the egg wash, but otherwise bake the same way as the coconut ring, starting the doneness checks at about 20 minutes. Cool on a wire rack and glaze the same way as the buns.
* Sticky buns do have the merit of freezing well and thawing quickly, very handy when people drop by unexpectedly and it’s too early for wine, but maybe you’d rather bake one-bowl Old Faithful, The Little Black Dress of Chocolate Cakes and play around with that. .
**Kulebiaka is a sort of Russian Wellington: Sturgeon or salmon filet spread with mushroom duxelles, chopped hard boiled egg and similar Russian embellishments, then baked in a casing of brioche dough. Kulebiaka is often fancifully decorated with loops and swirls of extra dough, so it’s pretty as well as delicious, and it was a popular party dish – at least in some circles – back in the late 1960’s…
(American circles, I mean. As far as I know it’s never gone out of style in Russia)