Look at that. That brioche is sitting there like a cherubic little baby in its blanket. It’s the most precious sight in the whole world, I tell ya. In my cookbook, I mention(in great detail, I might add) how much I thoroughly enjoyed my first taste of a French brioche on a visit to Paris. Sitting in a classic Parisian café with my au lait, I nibbled at my petit brioche in a vain attempt to make it last longer than it could. Times like those helped me deal with the multiple deployments and crummy Army assignments. I mean couldn’t you, if that was the trade-off? The military has afforded my Soldier, me, and the Wonder Twinks many travel opportunities like our trip to the City of Love.
What is Brioche?
Brioche is, plain and simple, egg and butter bread. In the bakeshop it’s considered an enriched bread because of the addition of eggs and higher amounts of fat. While brioche isn’t the sweetest bread around, it is sweeter than your typical sandwich bread. It’s also one of the richest breads you can make and, even better, it can be used to elevate so many other recipes. I have used brioche as the foundation for my stuffed french toast, this nutella and almond brioche, and even as a sandwich bread. It’s just a blessing to my soul, is what brioche is.
How does one make a brioche? Start with the sponge.
I go into detail on the different stages of breadmaking here. For now, I’m going to assume you’re familiar with the steps. First things first, as far as the brioche is concerned, you’ll need to add honey to a pot of warmed milk.
The warmed milk, along with the sugars in the honey, give the active dry yeast something to nosh on. The yeast is the next ingredient in the developing stage of the brioche, it’s also the most important ingredient. It is what causes our bread to rise and have that amazing flavor bread is known for. Add the yeast to the milk-honey mixture, and allow it to bloom for five minutes. The blooming process looks like a foaming in the pot. If the mixture doesn’t bubble and puff up, the yeast is dead and needs to be discarded. Start over with a fresh pack of yeast.
Once the yeast has bloomed for five minutes, whisk the yeast mixture into the first quantity of flour that you have in a large mixing bowl to finish the sponge. The sponge should resemble a thick batter.
Cover the mixing bowl with plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel.
Allow the sponge to rise until it has doubled in bulk, usually about thirty minutes. Make sure you keep the bowl out of a drafty area. Warm and slightly humid is great. If I’m not already baking something, I put my sponge into a cold oven that had the oven light turned on.
Develop the brioche.
Transfer your sponge to the bowl of a five quart stand mixer. You want a bowl that’s at least five quarts because you need to allow room for rising. This cuts down on excess dishes- because I love you.
I used to add my eggs one at a time, but I realized (after accidentally adding them all at once) that it didn’t make any difference in the final dough. Now, I chunk in the eggs, sugar, and salt in all at once and begin mixing with the paddle attachment.
Slowly, add the remaining bread flour to the egg-sponge mixture. After the first two cups, the batter will become too stiff to mix with the paddle attachment. Switch to the mixer’s dough hook attachment and mix on the second speed until the dough comes together.
Incorporate the butter.
Like I said before, this is an enriched dough. Please don’t try to substitute margarine, or some other God-forsaken butter substitute. YOLO, my friend. Life is short. Start incorporating the unsalted butter into the dough two tablespoons at a time. You’ll see the butter become absorbed into the dough and that’s when it’s time to add the next two tablespoons. Oh! Save the wrappers from your sticks of butter. I’ll show you why in a minute.
Your dough should be soft, pliable, and smooth once all of the butter has been incorporated.
Remove the dough from the bowl and, using those butter wrappers that I told you to save a little while ago, grease the inside of the bowl with the butter wrappers. Discard the wrappers now that we’ve sucked the life out of them. Return the dough to the bowl and turn it to cover the surface of the dough with a protective layer of fat.
Cover the bowl with plastic film, or a kitchen towel, and allow the brioche to rise, on the counter, for an hour, or until it’s doubled in bulk.
Punch the dough down to dispel the gases that have developed during the rising.
Pan, Proof, Slash, and Bake.
Turn the dough out of the bowl, onto your floured countertop. Use a bench scraper, or knife, to divide the dough in half. This recipe makes two one-and-a-half to two pound loaves. I won’t tell you to divide the recipe to make only one loaf because, after tasting it, you’ll be pissed off that you’ve only got one loaf of brioche. Make two. Freeze one for later. You’re welcome in advance.
Form the halves into stubby rolls that are the length of your loaf pan. I like to line my light-greased bread pan with parchment paper to get a cleaner crust on the bread, but you don’t have to. Brush the dough with egg wash to prevent the surface from drying out. Place the pans into a draft-free area and allow the dough to rise until the top of the dough is about an inch below the top of the pan. This could take anywhere from thirty minutes to an hour.
Use a pastry brush to brush another thin glaze of egg wash onto the tops of the brioche loaves.
For a decorative crust, use a lame, or a clean razor blade, to make cuts into the surface of the dough. Bake the dough for thirty to thirty-five minutes, or until the top is a beautiful golden brown and the loaf sounds hollow when tapped. Remove the pan from the oven and allow it to cool down for ten minutes. Turn the baked loaf out onto to a cooling rack and let it cool completely before slicing.
This bread really does make me smile. I hope it does the same for you. Make time to try out this recipe- if you love it, share it with your world and pin it so you don’t lose it!
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- 1/4 cup honey
- 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
- 1 cup whole milk warmed to 110°F
- 1 cup bread flour
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 2 tsp kosher salt
- 8 large eggs
- 5 3/4 cups bread flour
- 2 sticks unsalted butter, sliced at room temp
- 1 large egg, beaten
- 1 tablespoon water
Make the Sponge
- Add the honey and yeast to the warmed milk. Allow the yeast to bloom for five minutes, or until foamy.
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk the yeast mixture into the first quantity of bread flour. The finished sponge should resemble a thick batter.
- Cover the mixing bowl with plastic wrap, or a clean kitchen towel, and allow the sponge to rise until it has doubled in bulk in a warm, draft-free area of your kitchen. This should take about 30 minutes.
Develop the Brioche
- Transfer the sponge to the bowl of a five quart stand mixer.
- With the mixer on low speed, and using the paddle attachment, mix in the eggs, sugar, and salt all at once.
- Once the mixture looks like a smooth, thick batter, slowly add the remaining bread flour to the egg-sponge mixture.
- After the first two cups, the batter will become too stiff to mix with the paddle attachment, so you need to switch to the mixer's dough hook attachment and mix on the second speed until the dough comes together.
Incorporate the Butter
- Begin adding the butter to the dough 2 tablespoons at a time. Add the next 2 tablespoons only when the previous addition has been fully incorporated.
- Save the wrappers from your sticks of butter.
- Once all of the butter has been incorporated into the dough, the dough should be soft, pliable, and smooth.
- Remove the dough from the bowl and, using the saved butter wrappers, grease the inside of the bowl. Discard the wrappers.
- Return the dough to the bowl and turn it to cover the surface of the dough with a protective layer of fat.
- Cover the bowl and allow the brioche to rise for an hour, or until it's doubled in bulk.
- Once the dough has finished rising, punch the dough down to dispel the gases that have developed during the rising.
Pan, Proof, Slash, and Bake
- Preheat your oven to 375°F. Lightly grease two loaf pans with baking spray. Combine the beaten egg and water in a small bowl and set aside.
- Turn the dough out of the bowl, onto a floured countertop.
- Use a bench scraper, or knife, to divide the dough in half.
- Form the halves into logs that are the length of your loaf pan and place them into the greased pans.
- Use a pastry brush to brush the dough with the egg wash to prevent the surface from drying out.
- Place the pans into a draft-free area and allow the dough to rise until the top of the dough is about an inch below the top of the pan. This should take anywhere from 30 minutes to 1 hour.
- Brush another thin coat of egg wash onto the tops of the brioche loaves.
- If you want a decorative crust, use a lame, or a clean razor blade, to make cuts into the surface of the dough.
- Bake the dough for 30-35 minutes, or until the top is a beautiful golden brown and the loaf sounds hollow when tapped.
- Remove the pan from the oven and allow it to cool down for 10 minutes.
- Turn the baked loaves out onto to a cooling rack and allow them to cool completely before slicing, or wrapping to freeze.