Toasted Brioche with Lemon Cream and Raspberries

I love “last bite,” the very last page in Food & Wine each month, and often look there first, wondering what I’ll find.  Most of the time, it’s something I can’t wait to try myself, and have with great results.  Other times, I’m fascinated, and just keep the page open, wondering if I should give it a try, and whether the work will be worth it, waiting until I’m brave enough, or just forget about it.

Last month, a “Blackberries with Lemon Cream & Toasted Brioche” was featured, and not being one to jump in my car to purchase a brioche even though there’s a French Bakery right down the street that I’ve never set foot in, I decided that if I was going to find out what this particular “last bite” was really like, I’d have to make my own brioche.

Funny how I just happened to have some of my very own brioche…

If you plan this dessert carefully, most of it is ready to go ahead of time.

The plan was to make the brioche, share it with the menfolk who were hovering in the vicinity, whiffing the heavenly scent of baked bread (drooling for a hand out), then, hide it.  Surprisingly, they never realized what had happened, because when it comes to food around here, if it’s out of site, most of the time, it’s out of mind.

So the next morning after trying a couple of small pieces of the now day old brioche toasted with butter and a very nice apricot jam (oh, heavenly), I set about making a similar version of the lemon cream and berries.  I had intended to make the recipe exactly as written, but could find no blackberries, so raspberries would have to suffice.  Plus, the recipe was intended to serve eight, and there would only be four of us planning to lick our plates, knowing that this would be pretty damn good.

You might be thinking this is a waste of a beautiful brioche and that you might just use that Sara Lee pound cake you picked up at the grocery store, and I’d say you’d be seriously wrong.  In fact even a beautiful homemade pound cake might be tempting, but it wouldn’t be the same.  Close, though.

The toasted brioche isn’t sweet like pound cake, nor is it nearly as rich.  It has a crisp exterior with an inside that is still soft and pleasant.  It doesn’t get soggy after you put the dessert together, either, as long as you serve it soon.  The perfect bite contains a nice crunch from the brioche and a sweet tartness from the lemon cream that hints of rosemary you’d wonder about if you didn’t know it was there.  No, it’s not as tart as lemon curd, and more creamy.  And although I love blackberries, the raspberries are  sweet, and juicy.  I’m thinking that it would be lovely with blueberries…and with a second layer of brioche of course.

Toasted Brioche with Lemon Cream and Raspberries
Serves 4

Syrup Ingredients

1/4 c. water
3/4 c. sugar
1-inch sprig fresh rosemary
1/2 vanilla bean (empty of seeds, scraped for a different recipe and then saved)

  1. Heat the water and sugar in a small pan until it simmers and the sugar dissolves.
  2. Add the sprig of rosemary and the vanilla pod and let sit for at least an hour.  The longer, the better.

Lemon Cream Ingredients

2 lg. eggs
1/8 c. lemon zest, finely grated
6 T. lemon juice, freshly squeezed
5 T. unsalted butter

  1. In the top of a double boiler, or a heatproof bowl (you’ll be setting it over simmering water later…) rub the lemon zest into 1/2 c. of the sugar.
  2. Then add the eggs and lemon juice, mixing well.  Set the mixture over a pan of simmering water, making sure that it doesn’t touch the surface of the water and stir constantly until the mixture thickens, at least 5 minutes.
  3. Strain the mixture to make sure it’s very smooth and let it cool slightly.
  4. In the bowl of a food processor with the motor running, add the butter one tablespoon at a time, waiting until each is melted until the next is added.  Let the motor continue running until the mixture expands and is fluffy, about 3 minutes.
  5. Pour mixture into a clean bowl, and press plastic wrap directly onto the surface to keep moisture from collecting.
  6. Chill at least 2 hours.

For the Dessert

4 slices day old brioche

1/2 c. sweetened, whipped cream (prepared and refrigerated until ready to use)

1 c. fresh raspberries

  1. Approximately 30 minutes before serving, remove the rosemary & vanilla from the syrup, and simmer it over low heat just until thickened, and let cool again.
  2. Preheat the broiler and place the piece of brioche on a baking pan.
  3. Toast the brioche close to the heating element about 1 minute on each side, or until lightly browned.  Keep an eye on it.
  4. Add the raspberries to the syrup and very gently stir them to coat.  Be prepared to serve at this point, as the syrup thickens quite a bit as it cools.
  5. On your serving plates, spoon a good sized dollop of lemon cream, top with a piece of toasted brioche, add a dollop of whipped cream, then a spoon full of raspberries in syrup.
  6. Don’t forget to put a sprig of rosemary on top just to make people wonder about what that flavor in the syrup might be.

Not bad.  Not bad at all.  That syrup is quite lovely…