When he graduated from Chicago’s French Pastry School in 2000, Andrés Lara hit the road. Eight years later, after a stint at the legendary El Bulli in Roses, Spain, and various hallowed kitchens from China to Denmark to Palm Beach, the Skokie native has returned home to take over the pastries at The Park Hyatt’s NoMI. "Right now everything I do has herbs and flowers and a nature-inspired theme to it," says Lara, 26. "It’s really hard for me to do a chocolate dessert."

Andrés Lara’s Brioche Bostock with Chocolate Berry Jam
"It’s a weekend event," says Andrés Lara.
Yield: Four mini loaf pans (three to four slices per pan)

Chocolate Berry Jam
Start two days ahead.
Prep time: 10 minutes

1 brimming cup seasonal berries
7/8 cup (or 1 cup scant) granulated sugar
½ teaspoon lemon juice 
2¼ ounces dark bitter chocolate (64% to 70% cocoa solids, such as Godiva or Valrhona), rough chopped

1. Boil the berries, sugar, and lemon for about 5 minutes. Mix in the chocolate until it melts.
2. Transfer to a bowl and let rest overnight covered in the refrigerator.
3. Next day, return to a saucepan and bring back to a boil for 5 minutes. Cool overnight in the refrigerator.

Almond Cream
Prep time: 5 minutes

¾ cup soft butter
¾ cup ground almonds
¾ cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 egg
1 tablespoon dark rum

1. In a food processor, cream together the butter, ground almonds, powdered sugar, and cornstarch.
2. Slowly add the egg, then the rum, making sure to scrape well the sides of bowl.
3. Reserve in the fridge.

Earl Grey Tea Syrup
Start one day ahead.
Prep time: 5 minutes

9 ounces (1 cup + 2 tablespoons) water
1 cup + 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 tablespoons ground almonds
2¼ teaspoons loose Earl Grey tea leaves

Bring all to a simmer and whisk continuously until the sugar dissolves and the ingredients are blended together. Transfer to a bowl and cool overnight. Strain out the tea leaves the next day.

Brioche Dough
Start one day ahead.
Prep time: 15 minutes
Proof time: 1½ hours
Bake time: 20 minutes

1/3 cup cold whole milk
½ tablespoon dry yeast
3/8 cup cake flour
½ tablespoon salt
½ cup granulated sugar
2¼ cups bread flour
7 eggs
1 1/3 cups butter, softened to room temperature
1 5-ounce package of sliced almonds

1. Mix the milk with the dry yeast in a stand-mixer bowl fitted with a dough hook and sprinkle with the cake flour. Allow to ferment for 10 minutes. (The surface should look cracked.)
2. Add all ingredients except for the butter. Mix on low speed for 4 minutes.
3. Slowly add the butter and mix on medium speed for an additional 3 to 5 minutes.
4. Cover with a damp towel or plastic wrap and let the dough rest overnight in the refrigerator.
5. The next day: Divide the dough into 4 lightly greased mini loaf pans (a quick spray with Pam will do). Cover each pan with a damp towel, set aside in a warm place on the kitchen counter and allow the dough to rise for 1 to 1½ hours.
5. Bake 350° F for about 20 minutes.

Final preparation
1. Cut brioche into approximately one-inch thick slices.
2. Quickly soak both sides of each slice in the lukewarm tea syrup.
3. Smear a thin layer of almond cream on each slice.
4. Sprinkle sliced almonds on top.
5. Bake at 350° F till golden brown.
6. Allow to cool just a bit and serve with berry jam.

 Enjoy with your morning coffee!

Film: Uji Films