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Jul 15, 2006 11:11 PM

Caramelized Brioche a la Winterland, SF

After hearing of the imminent demise of Winterland, quite a few hounds went in last week for a last supper. Among the desserts, the Caramelized Brioche simply blew everyone away. Basically, it's a think slice of french toast/pain perdue with a caramelized sugar top like a creme brulee.

I'm sure quite a few of us who tried it this week would like to recreate it, so I'm starting the topic here. Anyone who has and ideas or suggestions, whether you're familiar with the version at Winterland or not, please share!

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  1. Ruth, here's a larger image so that the textures are clearer.

    What we marvelled at was the moist texture of the brioche bread, not sopping, but pretty wet even though it didn't seem particularly eggy. We thought the top was probably done with a torch like creme brulee.

    The ficelles served at the table are baked by Bay Breads. The brioche might start out as one of BB's brioche loaves.

    The lemon reduction sauce was garnished with fresh tarragon leaves and was infused with that savory flavor. And the ice cream is brown butter flavor.

    6 Replies
    1. re: Melanie Wong

      Exactly. It didn't seem at all eggy to me. Almost more like it had been soaked in lightly sweetened cream. Reduced cream, maybe? The brown butter ice cream was pretty spectacular in its own right. It was so rich and buttery I could practically feel my arteries clogging. The tartness of the lemon and the herbaceousness of the thyme were really necessary to balance the richness and sweetness.

      1. re: Ruth Lafler

        Thank you, those are thyme leaves in the blow-up and not tarragon (which is what the server told us). This chef is particularly talented at incorporating savory, herbal elements into sweet dishes.

        Cream is a good idea. Now that I think about it, this did remind me of the soaking of a tres leches cake. And, considering that Chef Vernon Morales is from Nicaragua, maybe he drew on that tradition.

      2. re: Melanie Wong

        Wow. Great picture. If I put that on my desktop I wouldn't get any work done!

        I'm curious. What are those black flecks in the lemon reduction?

        1. re: maviris

          Melanie or Ruth can confirm, but looks like vanilla bean to me.

          That dessert looks fantastic, BTW! A carb and cream lover's dream...I don't know if I'm ambitious enough to attempt this, but just in case I did the brioche and ice cream only, what other ice cream flavor might work? Vanilla? Caramel? Anyone happen to have a recipe for brown butter ice cream?

          1. re: Carb Lover

            Yes, the black flecks are the seeds from a vanilla bean.

            I have never seen a recipe for brown butter ice cream, but what would happen if you took a standard butter pecan ice cream recipe, skipped the nuts, and browned the butter before proceeding?

            1. re: Carb Lover

              The lemon is really important to keep the dessert from being too sweet. You don't have to make your own, though. A little thinned Meyer lemon marmalade would probably do the trick. I actually have some Meyer lemon thyme marmalade that I'd use.

        2. I was at Winterland last night for my second dinner in three days, largely due to a desire to get one more order of that fantastic brioche. I did not know the origin of the ficelles, but my dining partner and I pretty quickly recognized the brioche itself as coming from Pascal Rigo's Bay Breads.

          We tried to get the waitstaff to give us some clues on how the dish is prepared, and we were only partly successful. According to one server, the brioche is "soaked in custard before being baked." I interpret this to mean that the bread is soaked in a mixture of eggs, cream, sugar, and vanilla bean -- i.e., before that mixture has been heated to form an actual custard. After baking, the brioche is sprinkled with a generous heap of sugar, and a torch is presumably used to caramelize the surface. (Another server told us that the caramelization process is performed twice, to create an extra thick sugar crust.)

          Now, how long should the bread be soaked, and in how much of the custard mixture? How long should the brioche be baked? I need to pull out my standard recipes for bread pudding, tres leches, etc., and start experimenting...

          4 Replies
          1. re: San Francisco Gourmet

            Ah, excellent info about the double caramelization -- I wondered how they got it so thick and crunchy.

            1. re: San Francisco Gourmet

              use egg yolks only with the cream for the custard--softer and richer.

              1. re: toodie jane

                I would think using yolks only would make a custard that was much more eggy (and yellower) than this was. I like the creme anglaise idea, though.

                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                  Continuing on the creme anglaise theme, sometimes melted vanilla ice cream is used as a substitute. And, I've seen french toast recipes that soak the bread in melted vanilla ice cream.

            2. The custard might be cooked. In San Juan Capistrano, there is a place that serves delicious pain perdu. I couldn't figure out how they made it (not eggy at all) until I bought the cookbook: the bread is soaked in creme anglaise.

              1 Reply
              1. re: emily

                Really? See, I would have thought that brioche submerged in creme anglaise wouldn't really absorb that much of the custard, and especially not enough to release quite a bit of liquid upon being cut with a fork (as the Caramelized Brioche at Winterland often did). That's why I presumed that the kitchen was soaking it in a pre-cooked custard mixture, but I may very well be wrong. I guess this is yet another variant to add to my list of experiments!

              2. greatly simplified for home:

                creme anglaise for brioche

                500g milk
                500g cream
                150g sugar
                3 ea egg yolks
                2 ea vanilla beans

                proceed as per creme anglaise. pot hot over sliced, decrusted brioche and soak several hours or overnight. the bread should be mostly submerged in the cream.

                cook the soaked bread in a hot oven until the outside begins to brown. flip and dust with sugar before torching just to melt sugar. apply a second dusting of sugar and caramelize.

                meyer lemon marmalade

                4 ea meyer lemons whole
                2 ea vanilla beans
                250g sugar

                blanch the lemons by placing them whole in a pot with an excess of cold water. bring to a boil, then drain. repeat the process two or three times.

                chop the fruit coarsly without peeling it. place in a wide pot with the sugar and just enough cold water to cover. cover with parchment and simmer until the fruit is tender. this is best done very slowly over several hours.

                drain the lemons and puree thoroughly in a blender with scraped vanilla seeds, adding simple syrup to reach a semi-liquid consistancy. strain.


                brown butter ice cream

                1000g milk
                300g cream
                200g sugar
                75g corn syrup
                60g non-fat dry milk powder
                5 egg yolks
                240g sweet butter
                lemon juice

                brown the butter carefully. keep warm and liquid.

                toast half the milk powder in a heavy pan, stirring. do not over-brown or it will turn bitter.

                warm milk and cream. dissolve corn syrup and half sugar. dissolve milk powders. stir constantly to avoid scorching solids. make a creme anglaise with the warm milk, eggs, and remaining sugar.

                remove from heat and emulsify brown butter with blender season with salt and lemon juice.

                strain, chill, and mature in fridge overnight before spinning.

                thanks for coming to the restaurant.

                8 Replies
                1. re: csalgado

                  and, Thank You, for posting the recipes!

                  1. re: csalgado

                    Wow, I didn't think you guys actually come to this board.
                    Thanks SO much for the recipe!!

                    1. re: csalgado

                      "We're not worthy" (bow).

                      Thank you so much for posting the recipe!

                      (Will the simplified for home version be noticeably different than the ethereal version you all enjoyed at the restaurant--please report back!)

                      1. re: csalgado

                        You are a Grand Master. May your tribe increase and enjoy good food and great health.

                        1. re: csalgado

                          Thanks so much for posting these recipes, especially the ice cream. I've been interested in the addition of corn syrup and milk powder to ice cream since last summer, and this recipe gives me incentive to revisit that.

                          For you or those whom have tasted this, was the texture of the ice cream chewier than most?

                          1. re: Carb Lover

                            I wouldn't say chewier, but definitely extraordinarily dense. That might be from the amount of butter in it too. As you can see from the photo, it hardly melts, more like softens.

                          2. re: csalgado

                            Thank you so much! Coming to the restaurant was -- obviously -- our pleasure. Do let us know what you'll be doing next.

                            1. re: csalgado

                              thank you indeed.
                              I am kicking myself for not trying when I visited during my last week.