I love cooking, have ever since I was a kid in our family’s Victorian style hotel in central Pennsylvania and later working with Julia Child at WGBH certainly didn’t dim my enthusiasm. I’ve applied science to cooking and learned quite a bit about simplifying complicated, hard to make dishes and about saving calories.

Here are two of my favorites, one is a simplified gourmet bun and the other is a very low calorie but great tasting chocolate sauce/pudding.

Christmas brioche - why settle for ordinary dinner rolls?

Brioche is a pastry masquerading as a dinner roll.

It's tasty, high fat, high calorie, and extremely decadent.

Put simply, brioche is just a kind of bread (technically a Viennoiserie - “from Vienna” so, like a croissant, this quintessential French Food is actually from Austria.) Instead of the usual flour, water, yeast, and pinch of salt dough which may have a bit of milk and sugar or a light egg wash, a brioche dough uses just a bit more butter and egg.

The ratio I like is about 2:1 flour to egg - 4 C of regular flour, a bit of salt (helps the yeast stablize the gluten), 4 T. of sugar or other sweetener such as honey (don't try to save a few calories by substituting artificial sweetener - the sugar is for the yeast to eat.) Some warm water and a half cup of milk is also used, although I use heavy cream - why skimp when this is so decadent anyway?

The real kicker comes with the oil and egg parts.

For 4 cups of flour (more or less) I use 7-10 whole eggs depending on the size and two-two and one half sticks of butter (half to three-quarters of a pound of butter).

That’s all standard brioche, at least high-end, really decadent brioche, but where I differ is in the prep.

I know the traditional way to make brioche and it involves a lot of steps with melted butter, adding flour, then eggs, then butter, then more flour, more eggs, and more butter, and finally, the rest of the flour, eggs, and butter, each step with a lot of mixing.

That takes about 20 minutes with optional “slapping” of the dough onto a pastry board to help smooth it out.

One step brioche

Being a bit lazy (and a bit arthritic) I tried an alternative. With everything at room temperature and without proofing the yeast (although I do scald the milk because that alters its chemistry.

My Christmas brioche is made in a KitchenAid mixer with the dough hook.

Instead of slowly alternating ingredients, I dump everything in the bowl and run the mixer for about five minutes smoothing it out by slowly increasing the speed. If the dough seems too wet I add a bit more flour; too dry, some warm water, but this will not be a stiff dough - you can only work it by hand because of all that butter.

Let it rise, punch it down when doubled - repeat, then put it in the refridgerator over night. Next day shape into loaves or rolls with top knots (not too perfect, it should look like you made it, not a bakery), brush with more egg, and bake for 15-20 minutes.

No one ever spotted any difference between brioche made in my all-in mixer method and the 20-30 minute traditional method.

Low-cal Christmas-special chocolate sauce

The "plastic" store bought chocolate sauce is for children (bad children). Mine is for adults and has almost no calories. Melt butter with very good cocoa powder, I use Cacao Barry’s Extra Brute pure cocoa (UK or US Amazon) - flavor is a galaxy away from Hershey's, and add condensed milk.

You can't find much sugar free gourmet food so I use sucralose all the time. For the chocolate sauce which doubles as an incredibly decadent pudding, I use liquid sucralose rather than the dry fake sugar Splenda with fillers.

Don’t boil it but heat it until everything comes together, this isn’t candy so no specific temperature is necessary.

Use it as sauce, with more milk for hot cocoa, with condensed milk and a couple eggs for ice cream, etc. To make it thicker or thinner, just blend with milk or cream, no need to heat again.