A truly low-effort and completely buttery brioche with swirls of toasted black sesame, all lightly sweetened with honey.
Oh, England, what happened to the sun?
I enjoy this weather in its own way, though. It’s not too cold where I am. The rain is long, but soft and gentle. By the time I got round to baking this loaf, the rain had tapered off, leaving just the moody sky.
I’ll never really be one of those people who bake their daily bread, but I come a little closer to it with no-knead recipes: after a bit of lazy stirring, the dough lives quite peaceably in your fridge to be proved and baked when you please. Now, I thought only open-textured, chewy, rustic breads were suited to the no-knead format, so I was happy to find no-knead brioche.
Seeing as the dough itself required less work, I was willing to put my leftover energy into making a slightly fancier bread. So I made up some toasted black sesame paste–which, if you have a grinder, is easy, but still very do-able with a mortar and pestle–and braided it into the dough.
The braid looks complicated, with all its beautiful layers, but is actually the least fiddliest I’ve made–just roll, slice, and twist. That’s it!
On baking, the black sesame winds its way through the tender, buttery bread, adding a wonderful toasty flavour. This is a rich bread, not too sweet. Perfect for a snack. I’m sure stale slices would make a ridiculously wonderful bread-and-butter pudding.
BLACK SESAME & HONEY NO KNEAD BRIOCHE BRAID
Makes a small 7 inch loaf. Keeps for a few days in an airtight tin. Inspired by black sesame rolls + yuanyang coffee glaze & adapted from full recipe of braided red bean brioche, both by the fabulous Two Red Bowls.
Time: There’s a total of 4 hours proving time, with maybe 20 – 30 minutes total active time. You can hold the first stage of the dough for up to 5 days in the fridge so you can comfortably fit it into your schedule.
for the no-knead brioche
45 ml/3 tbsp milk (or water)
40g/3 tbsp unsalted butter, in pieces
1 tbsp runny honey
1 UK medium (US large) egg
120g/1 cup minus 1 tbsp plain flour
Scant 1/2 tsp active or instant dry yeast
1/4 tsp table salt
for the black sesame paste
5 tbsp/1/3 cup black sesame seeds
1 tbsp light or dark brown sugar
2 tbsp soft unsalted butter, diced
2 – 3 tbsp runny honey
Milk or extra beaten egg to glaze
At least 3 hours before you want to bake, make the no-knead brioche:
Gently heat the milk and butter together til warm but not hot and butter is in melty lumps, checking every 20 seconds or so. (I recommend a medium microwaveable bowl or wide jug to save washing up later, but it’s not crucial.) Set mixture aside for a few minutes to allow residual heat to melt butter and cool slightly to blood-warm; a dipped finger is the most accurate test.
In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the warm milk mixture with the egg and honey. In another medium bowl, whisk the flour, yeast, and salt.
Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients, stirring with a wooden spoon until everything is incorporated. It will be a sticky dough, but it should mostly cohere.
Loosely cover with a damp towel or clingfilm and prove at room temperature for about 2 hours, then cover tightly and chill until completely cold for easy handling (at least 1 hour). I usually leave it overnight. You can hold dough in the fridge for up to 5 days.
make the black sesame paste:
Even if your black sesame comes ready-roasted, toast in a medium/large pan over moderate heat to further enhance flavour, stirring constantly. After a good few minutes the seeds should be fragrant and brittle, easily crushed between thumb and forefinger.
Remove sesame seeds to processor or mortar. Add the 2 tbsp butter to the warm pan you just emptied and leave to melt in the residual heat while you grind the seeds.
Grind the warm sesame seeds in processor or mortar until the finely ground seeds begins to release oil and clump together. You’ll need to scrape the sides down a few times. For me, the whole thing takes less than 5 minutes by hand.
Scrape in the melted butter and brown sugar, blending to make a soft, spreadable paste, then stir in enough honey to make it just a bit sweeter than you want. Set aside.
to assemble & bake the braid:
When ready to finish the bread, lightly and thoroughly flour your work surface and roll out dough to about the size of an A4 piece of paper (21 x 29 cm or 8 x 11 inches).
Spread dough with black sesame paste, leaving narrow border. Starting with a long edge, roll the dough into a log. Carefully slice log in half lengthwise, so you can see the layers. With cut sides facing up, gently press one end together, then gently twist strands around each other. Seal the other end and you’re done.
Line a 17 x 7 cm (7 x 3) loaf pan or similar (8 inch is fine, too) with baking paper. Transfer braid to pan, gently arranging so everything fits, and cover with clingfilm or damp cloth, proving in a warm place for 1 1/2 – 2 hours until doubled in size. It’s alright if it doesn’t fill the tin.
When dough has risen, preheat oven to 180 degrees C/160 fan (350 degrees F). (I like to start this 15 – 20 minutes before the end of proving, so it’s all ready.)
Glaze braid top with milk and/or egg. Bake for 20 – 25 minutes til golden, well-risen, and a skewer comes out free of raw dough. Cool at least slightly before slicing; you’ll want to tear into it while still warm.