Life updates were guaranteed in the title and I just don’t sling out promises I can’t keep, so let’s begin, shall we?
But first, can we just start off with a super fat brioche bun photo bomb? It would put my mind at ease and really smooth over the fact that it is indeed 2018 and completely acceptable—nay, encouraged— for all of us to pour our hearts out to perfect strangers on the internet.
Phew. Now we can get into the nitty gritty, yes? Yes.
In years past, right after a new year dawned, I would find myself standing in front of the mirror brushing my teeth thinking, “[insert year] already? How the f@#! did that happen?”
This time around, there has been so much happening that when 2018 finally did cascade, I just sort of absorbed it and exclaimed, “of course.” With everything that’s been whirling, whizzing, and whooshing around…it felt like the obvious next episode.
On my father: My brother and I had a surreal experience finally spreading my father’s ashes last month. We drove up through winding icy roads into the Marble Mountains on a crisp winter day and found the most beautiful cluster of rocks overlooking what felt like ten million redwood trees smothered in a floury snow quilt. We held the wooden box of ashes, tossed around favorite memories and deep thoughts, sipped a couple brews, shed some much needed cathartic tears, and opened it up as the wind began to pick up and together, let our Dad go. Into the earth, he went— and we felt a sense of warmth, peace, and closure. Dad always said, “kings live on hills” so that’s where we put him.
On getting married: Last weekend my girlfriend and I decided it would be fun to go to a bridal fair in the city…honestly we were just there for the cocktails and appetizers, which totally crashed and burned because we got one measly mimosa drink ticket and a 2-ounce portion cup of mashed potatoes. It was sort of an eye opening experience; I realized how very unorthodox our wedding is and it made me all the more grateful that Burrito Lover and I just decided to say “to hell with it- let’s do what we want to do” instead of running around trying to please all that will attend. Most of the biggest to-do’s on our list have been crossed off and now we’re having a different kind of fun ironing out the details. All my life, I have heard women speak of wedding planning with sunken eyes and an enervated tone, but throughout this entire process I have kept very close to my heart what the purpose of all of this is. Even if it poured rain and the food never showed up and the speakers exploded and nothing really went the way I dreamed it all up in my head, I still get to marry my best friend. And I think that’s pretty cool.
On my growing family: I can say without equivocation that this Christmas was one of the best in my life. Sure I worked and we had to see both sides of the family on two different occasions, but my I am elated that my little fam is continuing to grow. My brother’s son, Colin, is the cutest, squishiest, smiley little baby and just a joy to be around. Lexi, my sister’s daughter, is just shy of 2 and already indulges in spicy Indian food with the rest of us— she is definitely my niece. Gone are the Christmases where the whole house, though full of 10 adults, felt eerily quiet. Now there’s bouncing babies crawling around, knocking things over, babbling to themselves, playing with Pinot…and it’s just the most fantastically fun place to be over the holidays. Not only that, big changes are happening on my fiance’s side of the family. His brother proposed to his girlfriend the day before New Years Eve and we are beyond thrilled. There is so incredibly much to celebrate this year.
On life in Oakland: Burrito Lover and I are still wildly happy with our decision to move from Los Angeles to the Bay Area. Despite a grueling commute, Burrito Lover is thrilled with his new job and his enthusiasm is infectious. We’re working harder than ever and reveling in the time we have together at the end of a long day snuggling with our favorite fur baby on earth, who is doing fabulously, by the way. Grandma sewed her a tutu for Christmas and I have to brag— she looks dazzling. I started Spin class recently and have become absolutely enthralled with cycling all over again. It’s a personal goal of mine to get better (okay, much better) at Spin and rent a road bike to complete my first Century Ride.
After all is said and done, I always measure myself by how my Dad might view my current place in life. Even though he’s not around to examine it (and it’s his own fault for not being so…but I’ll save that for another story) there is nothing that makes me feel more connected and whole than asking myself before I close my eyes to sleep, “would Pops be proud?” and tossing all minuscule missteps from the day aside knowing the answer is inextricably, yes.
These brioche buns are bursting with delectable, salty, chocolate perfection. They’re puffy and crispy on the outside and gooey and tender on the inside- I highly recommend them for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert. Did I mention snacks? I also highly recommend them for snacks. What about brunch, you ask? Why yes, I suggest them including them in your brunch spread, too. They go great with mimosas, but hell, what doesn’t?
Chocolate Swirl Brioche
Makes: 12 brioche buns
For the dough:
- 5 cups bread flour
- 2 teaspoons instant active dry yeast
- 1/2 cup warm milk (don’t go above 110 degrees F)
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 5 eggs, beaten
- 2 tablespoons vanilla
- 1 cup salted butter, softened
For the filling:
- 6 ounces high quality dark chocolate, chopped
- 1/3 cup + 2 tablespoons milk
- 3 tablespoons salted butter
- 2 egg whites, whisked
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons flour
- 6 tablespoons cocoa powder
- Flaky sea salt (I like Maldon)
- First, make the yeasted dough by combining 1/2 cup of the bread flour with the yeast and warm milk in a small bowl until it is just combined. Cover with a dish towel and let it sit, away from any draft or direct sunlight, for 30 to 45 minutes. I like to use my oven with the door closed and the light on…just for the love of Godiva don’t forget about it and crank the oven to 450 to bake off some pizza rolls.
- While the yeast is fermenting, mix together the remaining 4 1/2 cups of the bread flour, 1/2 cup brown sugar, and salt. Set aside.
- In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment (or a very strong human who desires a tough arm workout) beat together the first mixture of bread flour/yeast/warm milk together with the eggs and vanilla at medium speed. Turn down to low and add in the second mixture of bread flour/brown sugar/salt, adding in three additions, allowing flour to become totally absorbed in between each addition. Now shut off the mixer (or instruct aforementioned superhuman to put his/her guns away) and cover with a dish towel. Let sit for 15 minutes.
- Swap the paddle attachment for a dough hook (or get ready to knead) and turn mixer on to medium speed. Add butter, 1/4 cup at a time, allowing it to become completely absorbed in between each addition. Once this is done, turn this dough out onto a generously floured surface and knead for 5 minutes. Add more flour, if necessary, until a smooth supple texture forms. Once it’s ready, pat it into a fat block shape and wrap it in plastic wrap. Refrigerate dough overnight or for at least four hours.
- Next, make the filling by combining dark chocolate, milk, and butter in a double boiler over simmering water on low heat. Stir frequently, until chocolate totally melts and mixture is cohesive. Remove from heat and stir in egg whites and sugar until combined. Add in flour and cocoa powder and again, stir until smooth and melty. Line a rectangle 9×6 baking dish with plastic wrap and empty chocolate mixture into the pan, spreading with a spatula to smooth it out. Refrigerate filling overnight or for at least four hours.
- When dough is done chillin’ roll it out on a floured surface into a rectangle about 20″ long and 10″ wide. Remove the top sheet of plastic wrap from the chocolate block and flip it over onto the center of the dough rectangle. There should be about 2″ of dough on either side width-wise and about 5″ on either side length-wise. Remove the other layer of plastic wrap so chocolate is totally exposed. Sprinkle generously with flaky sea salt. Fold the two longer ends of the dough over the chocolate so that they meet in the middle, overlapping by about 1″. Press down firmly around the edges of the dough, effectively sealing in the filling.
- Next, roll this dough into a rectangle about 20″ long and 14″ wide. Fold the two ends lengthwise so they meet in the middle, then press down firmly so they seal. Next, roll dough back out into another rectangle (this time, even skinnier!) to be about 26″ long and 12″ wide. Don’t sweat it if the chocolate starts to show through the dough– it’s totes normal.
- Now, roll the dough width-wise into a cylindrical log– cylinder should be ~26″ long when done. Using a very sharp knife (I also dip it in hot water in between cuts to minimize the mess), slice into 2″ pieces, exposing the beautiful spiral swirls of black and white within.
- Place each piece, spiral side up, on two greased muffin pans. Cover with plastic wrap and let it sit, away from any draft or direct sunlight for 30 minutes to 1 hour to “proof” aka rise. While these are proofing, preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- When the dough has risen, bake off the buns for 18-20 minutes, until they are just starting to turn golden brown on top. Give another quick dusting of flaky sea salt.