Break all of the bread rules and throw leftover Halloween candy on top of a luxuriously butter-laden brioche that’s been shaped like focaccia, then bake it until the chocolate, caramel, and nougat melt into puddles throughout the dough.
For the starter
50 grams mature levain
75 grams sugar, divided
100 grams water, divided
200 grams bread flour, divided
For the dough
250 grams King Arthur Flour bread flour
200 grams King Arthur Flour all-purpose flour
50 grams oat flour
250 grams stiff sweet starter
290 grams whole milk
2 eggs (about 100 grams)
50 grams sugar
14 grams salt
230 grams unsalted butter (2 sticks), at room temperature, plus extra for prepping the pan
310 assorted miniature chocolate candy bars (about 35 individually wrapped bars)
Melted butter, for brushing the dough
Flaky kosher salt or finishing salt of your choice, for sprinkling
Sweet stiff starter
For sugar-enriched doughs like this, we like to use a stiff sweet starter in place of a more typical liquid starter. Sugar is thirsty and tends to pull water away from yeast, slowing fermentation; however, if you build a starter with sugar in it and feed it a couple of times before baking with it, it primes the yeast to handle that environment better and improves fermentation. The combination of low hydration and sugar in this starter results in a brioche that’s incredibly soft, fluffy, well-balanced, and an absolute joy to eat.
At only 10% of the total flour weight, the oat flour in this formula is just enough to lend its characteristic nutty flavor and softness, but because it’s such a small amount, it’s easy to replace with another flour, such as whole wheat, all-purpose, spelt, or einkorn.
Build your starter
The morning before you plan to build your dough, mix the mature levain in a medium bowl with 25 grams of sugar, 50 grams of water, and 100 grams of bread flour. If you’re used to stirring a liquid levain with a fork or spoon, you’ll likely want to do this a bit differently and mix with your hands. Squish and squeeze the ingredients together until you have a cohesive ball of starter, then cover and set aside to ripen through the day. In the evening, add the remaining 50 grams of sugar, 100 grams of water, and 200 grams of flour to the starter, mixing by hand again, and leave to ripen overnight. By morning, it will be ready to use. You’ll want to use this once it is ready, as the sugar in it will make it smell (and, we assume, taste) like rubbing alcohol if it over-ripens.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, mix the flours, sweet stiff starter, milk, eggs, and sugar until no dry flour or lumps remain. Cover the bowl with a tea towel and let rest for 30 minutes.
Turn the mixer on medium low (setting 3 or 4 on a Kitchen Aid Pro), add the salt, and mix for 3 minutes. Cut each stick of butter into a few chunks and add to the mixer, one chunk at a time, waiting for the butter to be mostly absorbed into the dough before adding the next piece.
Once all of the butter is mixed into the dough, continue to mix for several minutes until the dough balls up around the hook but is still sticking to the bowl at the bottom. You should be able to pull a bit of a windowpane, but not a strong one. When you tear a hole in the windowpane, the edges shouldn’t be terribly ragged, but not perfectly smooth, either.
Remove the mixer bowl from the mixer, cover with a towel or plastic wrap, and leave to rise for 3 or 4 hours. If you’d like to be able to view fermentation from the bottom, you can remove the dough from the mixing bowl and let it bulk in a clear glass bowl instead. Once the dough is fairly well-proofed, move the bowl to the fridge to retard overnight.
The next morning, remove the dough from the refrigerator and let warm up at room temperature, just enough to take the chill off and make the dough workable. Prep your Challenger Bread Pan by smearing the baking surface with softened butter, then dump the dough into the pan. Let the dough continue to warm up until you can stretch it out just a bit, then leave to proof for 3 hours, covered with the lid to the pan.
Prep the candy bars
Chop the candy bars into assorted sizes. We like chopping most of them into small pieces and leaving a few of them whole for visual appeal on the finished bread. Set aside until the dough is finished proofing.
Top and Bake
Preheat the oven to 350°F / 175° C and place a baking sheet on the rack below where you’ll be baking (to catch any errant dripping chocolate, caramel, and nougat that might burn on your oven floor).
If the dough hasn’t spread to cover most of the pan, gently stretch it out so it reaches almost to the edges. Using a silicone pastry brush, brush the dough with melted butter, then sprinkle the candy evenly over the dough. Use your fingers to dimple the dough as you would focaccia, pushing pieces of the candy into the dough as you go, being sure that the larger pieces are pushed in and not balanced precariously on top, and sprinkle a couple pinches of flaky kosher salt or finishing salt on top. Bake for 30 minutes, then remove from the oven to cool for an hour before slicing.
Nicole Muvundamina is a freelance baking instructor and recipe developer specializing in sourdough and freshly milled whole grain baking. Armed with a tabletop stone mill and a pantry overflowing with grains, she is on a mission to introduce people to the fantastic flavors and characteristics that come along with fresh, whole flour. To see what grain-based tomfoolery she is getting herself into each day, follow her on instagram at @nmuvu.
This loaf keeps well on the countertop, uncovered, for 24 hours. If you have leftovers beyond that time frame, store them in an airtight container or zip-top bag at room temperature or in the freezer.
Keywords: Halloween, Brioche, Focaccia, Chocolate, Halloween Candy