The Post LBJ Era brought a lot of Houston folk to Fredericksburg. They, more than perhaps any others, changed Fredericksburg forever. By the mid-70s, tourism was beginning to be noticed as an industry. Nixon’s 55 mph speed limit went into effect late in ‘73. The alleged gas shortage that accompanied that caused Texans to explore their own backyards like never before. No longer did peach growers have to keep it secret if a late freeze had destroyed their crop, people came anyway! Believe it or not, up to this time if news of a peach crop loss was reported, no one came to town that summer.
Some of us who were interested in promoting tourism as an industry started the Kristkindlmarkt, The Wild Game Dinner for men, and the Damenfest for women. These efforts were rewarding not only for the money they raised for local preservation projects, but because we were beginning to attract people with money to spend. Then Oktoberfest and Night in Old Fredericksburg brought new events themed toward preserving our heritage as well, while ringing the shop registers for a lot of townsfolk—not to mention giving extra business to the police department. Fredericksburg was beginning to become a destination.
A favorite new shop in town at that time was a bookstore opened by Robert (Bob) Gates—the Main Book Shop. It became one of the most popular places to shop for some. Who would have thought that we liked to read so much? The shop also attracted some interesting Houston folks—one such couple was Edward and Carol Krause. Through Bob, I became friends with them, and they were soon stocking their car with lots of Fredericksburg peaches and lots of das Peach Haus jams and jellies—this was still a few years before we became Fischer & Wieser.
By the beginning of 1983, Carol and Ed had built a new home nestled among the hills near Enchanted Rock. They began holding French cooking classes in their kitchen which continued for the next six years. Carol loved the French Chef Jacque Pepin. I had already become a fan of Julia Child’s, the French Chef on television in the fall of ’63, so why wouldn’t I attend? For $20 one got to sit in their beautiful kitchen and watch how Carol created a simply delicious French meal in 3 or 4 hours. The comradery was great—there was Bob, Ron and Jane Woellhof, the Dudley Althauses, Gordan Sauer, and perhaps three or four other couples. Ed would tell us about at least 3 different French wines he had chosen for us to enjoy with Carol’s menu. By the end of the afternoon, we had consumed a delicious French meal, enjoyed the charm of their home while chatting with others, drank French wines, and had our notes and recipes to take home. They didn’t even ask us to help wash the dishes!
While I was inspired to try those recipes at home—I never did, save for one—a Brioche. A Brioche is made in the same basic way as bread but has the richer aspect of a pastry because of the extra addition of eggs, butter, liquid (whole milk, water, rich cream, and sometimes brandy) and occasionally sugar. These ingredients make all the difference in the world. It is often baked in a fluted pan, and if baking one for guests, it will make everyone think you’re a great baker!
Brioche was first described in France around 1404. It had supposedly been improved since antiquity by generations of bakers. When blessed by the church and chosen to be used in communion it gradually became of better quality, more and more costly, and less and less like bread. It had become a savory Brioche!
Using butter was apparently the secret to a successful Brioche. This is the “cake” to which Queen Marie-Antoinette allegedly referred when she was informed that the peasants had no bread. “Qu’ils mangent e la brioche!” i.e. “Let them eat cake!” Note: A Brioche is not a cake! It’s a bun and, to set the record straight, Marie-Antoinette never said that or anything like that. History is not always accurate nor what we are led to believe – nice try.
If you have a Brioche Pan, so much the better. Using a Brioche pan will mold the dough to form the alternating columns along its sides. Generally, a small ball of dough is place in the center that forms the top knot of the loaf. Its texture, when baked, is considered officially as a closed crumb, forming a tight consistency rather than an open crumb, such as sourdough bread that is loosely textured with holes and air pockets.
This recipe will take 5 to 7 hours to complete so enjoy a nice glass of wine between each step. The wait and effort are well-worth it.
1 pkg dry yeast or 6 oz. cake
¼ cup warm water
1¼ pound unsalted butter
¼ cup warm whole milk
3½ cups unbleached flour
½ tbsp salt
1½ tbsp sugar
4 large eggs – room temperature
Mix yeast and water in the bowl of a food processor.
Whirl mixture for 15 second.
Add flour, sugar, salt, and butter cut into small pieces.
Pulse for 10-15 seconds.
Add egg and milk mixture.
Blend for another 30 seconds
In a buttered, covered bowl let mixture rise in a warm place.
When double in volume (2 to 3 hours), punch down, cover and allow to rise again (1½ to 2 hours).
After doubling in volume, a second time place the dough in a buttered, decorative mold.
Allow to rise until it reaches the top of the mold (25 minutes to 1 hour)
Bake at 425ºF for 15 minutes.
Then reduce heat to 375ºF.
Bake for another 25 to 30 minutes.
Remove and cool on a rack at room temperature.