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Blueberry Dreams: Blueberry Brioche, New Zealand, and a Family That Farms

A few years ago, I was lucky enough to get an assignment writing about the vibrant food scene in the beautiful, sub-tropical region of Matakana in New Zealand. Located just north of Auckland, this area combines groovy beach towns with markets, farms, and vineyards, making it a food lover’s paradise.
I’m not joking when I tell you I seriously thought about relocating my family to this s heavenly spot: The land is untouched and spectacular and the eating is divine.
Children and their parents head to the beach after work and school to go surfing on beaches like this…
See what I mean?
While I was there, I was lucky enough to spend time with one family who were truly inspiring. Have you ever thought of chucking your office job, packing up the fam, ditching the ‘burbs, and moving to the country to start a farm, or raise goats, or master the art of artisanal bread baking? Well that’s exactly what the Auton family did, but they started an organic blueberry farm.
Shanon and Robert left their city life (with their triplets in tow), bought a run-down orchard, and started Omaha Organic Blueberries. Not only do they grow a dozen varieties, but they also freeze them for shipping all around New Zealand and to other parts of the world that lack their own blueberries (from the UK to the United Arab Emirates).
I first experienced their delicious berries at the local farmer’s market, where they sold blueberry ice cream, sorbet (see photo above), and juice, all made on their farm.
And on a visit to their home, I was lucky enough to eat one of Shanon’s blueberry brioche.
Here’s the recipe for a little piece of New Zealand.

Blueberry Brioche (from Shannon Auton, originally printed in Saveur Magazine)
Makes 1 Dozen
1 7 gram package of dry yeast
2 tbsp. of granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups lightly packed light brown sugar
1 cup warm milk
10 tbsp butter, completely softened
3 tbsp golden syrup (you can find in specialty food stores or order from Kalustyans.com or read this discussion about substitutes)
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
6 cups of flour
1 tsp of salt
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
Confectioner’s sugar

1. Dissolve sugar and granulated sugar in 1/4 cup warm water in a large bowl; set aside to let sit until frothy, about 10 minutes. Add half of the brown sugar, milk, butter, syrup, eggs and yolks to yeast mixture; stir well with fork. Add flour and salt; mix with your hands into a rough ball. Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface; knead until smooth, 3-4 minutes. Grease a large bowl with 1 tbsp. of the oil; nestle dough inside. Cover bowl with plastic wrap; set aside to let rise in a warm spot until dough doubles in size, about 1 hour.

2. Preheat oven to 350. Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface and knead gently for 30 seconds. Roll into a 10″ x 16″ rectangle. Sprinkle remaining brown sugar and blueberries over the top and roll up very tightly lengthwise, tucking in any escaped filling. Grease two 6-muffin tins and remaining oil (don’t use a 12 muffin tin or the brioche won’t have room to expand). Cut dough crosswise into 1 equal rolls. Place rolls, flat side up, in tins, gently squeezing them to fit. Set aside, covered with plastic wrap, to let rise for 15 minutes.

3. Uncover and bake brioche until cooked through and light golden, about 35 minutes. Unmold onto a rack to let cool; dust with confectioner’s sugar.

Enjoy!

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