I'm P.C., and I have studied food and cooking around the world, mostly by eating, but also through serious study. Coursework at Le Cordon Bleu London and intensive courses in Morocco, Thailand and France have broadened my culinary skill and palate. But my kitchen of choice is at home, cooking like most people, experimenting with unique but practical ideas.

I live, mostly in my kitchen, in my hometown of Memphis, Tennessee.

Butternut Brioche

You are going to want a loaf of this around the house during the Thanksgiving holiday.  It is beautiful, autumnal and something of an achievement to show your friends and family.  It is great spread with butter.  Fig, Bourbon and Vanilla Bean Jam is a real treat.  It is gorgeous toasted, and makes amazing leftover turkey sandwiches.

Let me assure you, I am not an expert bread maker, but I can do this.  It is not difficult or time-consuming, but it does take a little effort and some time – if that makes sense.  After the initial mixing, it is relatively hands-off, but it takes some time for the rising and the chilling.  The bread is not some neon orange color, but has a lovely amber tinge.  The flavor is not overwhelming, just a nice subtle flavor of fall.

Butternut Brioche

1packet active dry yeast

1 teaspoon sugar

3 Tablespoons warm water (around 120 degrees, hot to the touch, but not burning your fingers)

1 cup pureed butternut squash*

2 teaspoons rubbed dried sage

2 teaspoons kosher salt

½ teaspoon nutmeg

3 ¾ cups all-purpose flour

4 eggs

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, cut into small pieces, at room temperature

Put the yeast and sugar in a small bowl or 1-cup measure.  Add the warm water and gently stir to mix.  Leave the yeast for 10 minutes until it is puffed up and foamy.

In the large bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butternut puree, sage, salt nutmeg and 1 cup of the flour on medium low until blended.  Scrape in the foamy yeast mixture in, scraping out as much as possible from the bowl into the mixer.  Beat until well blended.

Add the eggs one at a time, alternating with 2 cups of flour, beating on medium low after each addition.  Stop between eggs to scrape down the sides of the bowl.  When the eggs are all blended in, increase the speed to medium and drop in the butter cubes one at a time.  Continue beating until the butter is completely mixed in. Add the remaining flour with the mixer on low until combined.

Grease a large bowl. I prefer glass because you can see how much the dough has risen.  I use the wrapper the butter was in to grease the bowl, but cooking spray works.  Scrape the dough into the bowl and mound it evenly in the center.  At this point, it will be very soft and may seem more like batter than dough.  That is as it should be.  Grease a piece of plastic wrap and cover the bowl.  Leave to rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 2 hours.  I use my friend Holly’s trick to create a warm, moist dough-rising environment.  Place a 2-cup measure with ¾ cup water in the microwave and microwave on high for 2 minutes.  Place the dough bowl in the microwave with the hot water and steam, close the door and leave to rise.

When the dough has risen, spray a sturdy spatula with cooking spray and use it to gently stir down the dough, scraping the sides of the bowl and moving it all into the center.  Cover the bowl with a clean piece of greased plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, deflate the dough by pressing down on it.   Shape the dough into a loaf and place it in a standard size 9 by 5 inch loaf pan and spread it out to the corners.  Cover with plastic wrap and leave to rise until doubled again, about 40 minutes to 1 hour.  The microwave trick works again.

Preheat the oven to 375°.  When the bread has risen, bake it for 30 to 40 minutes until it is firm, puffed and golden and sounds hollow when tapped.  Gently run a thin knife around the edge of the bread and turn it out of the pan.  Make sure the bottom sounds hollow when knocked, then cool on a wire rack.

Makes one loaf

*For the butternut puree, there are several options.  From a whole butternut squash, cut the squash in half, scoop out the seeds and place on the rack of an oven and bake until soft, 20 – 30 minutes.  You can also place the halves on a microwave safe plate and microwave until soft, 5 – 8  mintues. Scoop out the flesh and place in a small food processor and blend until smooth.  Add a few tablespoons water if needed

For pre-cut squash pieces, place the pieces in a microwave safe bowl with a bit of water, cover with plastic wrap and microwave until soft, 5 – 8 minutes. Puree as above.

I also find canned butternut squash puree in my local stores, and I am completely fine with that.  Just scoop it out of the can.

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