Every person on the planet should experience eating a loaf of Brioche Bread in France. Or, at the very least, a slice of brioche. Those of us from the U.S. who fancy ourselves breadmakers can never touch the level of finesse that the French has regarding this bread. It is my most humble opinion that brioche is the queen of all bread. It has the fluffiest of interiors, and the buttery richness of the final product is something that changes your life when you take your first bite. Who am I kidding? It still feels like something special when I bite into it.
I count myself fortunate to have been able to travel around France and experience it where it was born. No matter how great I think I am when baking European bread, I still have so much to learn, but this recipe? This is one of my masterpieces. Now you need to get it under your belt.
I originally published this post in 2018. I’ve updated the images and copy to make it more concise.
What is Brioche?
Brioche is, plain and simple, a bread from France that’s made with a generous amount of eggs and butter.
Brioche starts with an enriched dough, named so because of its high amount of butter and eggs. Though it has a higher amount of eggs and butter, the texture of the baked bread is light and fluffy. It is sweeter than your typical sandwich bread because of the added sugar and honey, but it isn’t sweet roll sweet. Instead, its sweetness is more mild, like my Pan Sobao. As a result of all these fantastic qualities, it can be enjoyed by itself, slathered in butter (yes, more butter) or jam, or used in many other recipes. I have used brioche as the foundation for my stuffed french toast, wrapped around Nutella and almond, and even as sandwich bread.
It’s just a blessing to my soul, is what brioche is. It shall bless your soul as well.
What ingredients go into Brioche?
Brioche doesn’t have complicated ingredients, but it is a recipe of love, which means it requires your time. That said, you probably already have everything you need in the kitchen to make a couple of loaves.
Brioche starts with a sponge, which is what helps the dough rise. That sponge also gives it its tender, fluffy crumb. The sponge is made with just a small portion of the bread flour, honey, milk, and active dry yeast.
The remaining ingredients are more bread flour, eggs, sugar, salt, and butter.
Mix the dough in your stand mixer or by hand. Unfortunately, brioche dough is too stiff for an electric hand mixer. It also requires you to use one hand to add the butter. Both combined make it difficult to use a hand mixer, so don’t waste your time trying it.
Why do I need to use a sponge for my Brioche?
A pre-ferment sponge, or simply “sponge,” is what gives this bread its flavor. The sponge also gives the yeast in the dough more time to do its thing.
Most bread recipes are mixed in rapid succession with a proofing time (after the mixing) that allows the yeast in the dough to rise. Here, we’re feeding the yeast the things it loves to eat- sugar in the form of honey and lactose, as well as a warm liquid (milk)- then leaving it alone. Because we’re not combining it with large amounts of flour or salt (which kills it), we’re maximizing its potential before adding it to the rest of the ingredients. The alcohol produced by the yeast as it develops and ferments gives the brioche a malty, more nuanced flavor after baking.
So, in short, you need to use a sponge because you like bread that is light, fluffy, and tastes good.
How do I begin the sponge?
To make the sponge for the brioche, combine the first portion of bread flour, the warmed milk, honey, and active dry yeast together in a mixing bowl. Choose a medium-size mixing bowl because the sponge will rise as the yeast ferments. Once the mixture resembles a thick batter, cover it with a clean kitchen towel and set it in a warm, draft-free place in the kitchen. I always put mine in the microwave.
Activating (or blooming) the yeast means we’re waking it up. It looks exactly how it sounds; the yeast begins to bubble and spread out when the warm liquid hits it. This is how we check to see that our yeast is actually alive. If you don’t see any movement in the bowl after 5 minutes, your yeast is dead (my condolences), and you need to dump the mixture and grab some new, fresher yeast and start over.
When activating the yeast, your milk can’t be too hot nor too cold. Like us, the yeast is destroyed when it is subjected to extremely hot liquids. Hot liquids can even kill it. On the flip side, if the liquid is too cold, there’s nothing to wake the yeast up with. It may begin to bloom, but it will take much longer than if you were to use warm milk. The milk should be around 110°F (43°C). If it’s too hot when you pull it from the microwave or stove, just give it time to cool off a bit.
Do I have to use active dry yeast in my Brioche?
This recipe calls for active dry yeast, which is what I always use to make my bread. Active dry yeast means that the yeast- a living organism- has gone through a drying process to remove the moisture from it. If you grew up with a baking grandma or mother, you might be familiar with compressed yeast. These little cakes of yeast are what is used in most bakeshops, but they’re not practical for the home baker, in my opinion. They are usually kept frozen because they have a short shelf life of only 2 weeks in the fridge. As a result, I recommend using active dry whenever you bake, especially for this recipe.
Instant (or Fast Acting) yeast is another type of leavening agent becoming popular in supermarkets. I don’t like using this type of yeast in any bread that requires a sponge, as this brioche does. Instant yeast is a dry yeast that has been broken down into smaller particles. Because of its size, it doesn’t need to be rehydrated as active dry does. It’s just added directly to the dough. Because of its makeup, if you were to add it to the sponge and go through this recipe as it’s written, your final bread loaves won’t rise as high. That’s because, no matter how fresh yeast is, it can only rise as a certain amount before it gives up the ghost and quits. Once you add that warm liquid to instant yeast, the countdown starts.
All that is to say, you can replace the active dry yeast with instant yeast, but your loaves of bread won’t be as great as they would if you make it with active dry.
How long do I leave the sponge to rise?
The sponge needs 30 minutes off by itself to start the rising process. Even though 30 minutes isn’t a lot of time, it’s 30 minutes of alone time where the yeast doesn’t have to compete with anything else in the recipe. That means it can focus on feeding on the sugars in the mix and reactivating. That, in turn, will make your bread more flavorful and fluffy.
After 30 minutes in that warm area, the sponge will have doubled in volume and look airy and spongy, which is so apropos, isn’t it?
Once you’re staring at this (above), you’re ready to move on to the rest of the brioche-making.
Why does the temperature of the ingredients matter?
Remember how much effort you went to to make the yeast feel warm and cozy? You need to maintain that level of comfort for the yeast during the entire mixing process. If you add ice-cold eggs to the mix, you’re defeating the purpose of warming the yeast up, to begin with. Instead, make sure your eggs are at room temperature before proceeding with this step.
If you need to warm them quickly, pop them into a metal bowl and set that bowl into a larger bowl of warm water.
Develop this dough in a large mixing bowl or your 5-quart (or larger) stand mixer bowl. Add the sponge, eggs, sugar, and salt to the bowl. Do it in that order so the eggs can form a barrier between the salt and the yeast in the sponge. Remember, salt kills yeast. So try to avoid the two linking up as much as possible.
Can I use all-purpose flour to make Brioche?
Add some of the bread flour to the bowl. Bread flour is a must when making most bread. All-purpose flour doesn’t have the same percentage of protein, so while you can use it if bread flour isn’t sold in your stores, the result won’t be as chewy or classically “bready” as when you use bread flour.
Use your mixers paddle attachment to blend this mixture together until it is smooth. Once the mixture resembles a thick batter, add another cup of bread flour. At this point, the dough is too stiff to continue using the paddle attachment. So instead, scrape the bowl and the paddle down using a rubber spatula and switch to the mixer’s dough hook.
Once the dough hook is on, begin mixing again on 2nd speed and add the remaining bread flour. Now, since we’re working with such an enriched dough, some factors may affect how much flour you need to add to your dough. The biggest factor is the weather. If you’re making this brioche on a very hot, humid day, you might need more flour. So be prepared to add up to an additional cup of bread flour.
What’s the best way to add the butter to my Brioche?
Like I said before, this is an enriched dough. So please don’t try to substitute margarine or some other God-forsaken butter substitute. YOLO, my friend. Life is short. Eat the butter.
This is another part of the recipe where room temperature ingredients are a must. The butter must be soft enough to be mixed into the dough you’ve just made but firm enough not to turn it into a gooey mess. I test this by pressing a tablespoon of butter between my fingers. If it feels a little cool to the touch and mushes slightly, then you’re good to go. If it goes to goop, it’s too soft and needs some time in the fridge to firm up. On the contrary, it needs a quick zap (15 seconds) in the microwave if it feels rock hard. The easiest way to prep the butter for use is to unwrap it and cut it into tablespoon pats (use the wrapper as a cutting guide).
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. While you wait for the previous addition to mix in, press the next one between your fingers to give it a head start.
How long do I knead the dough?
Continue kneading the dough on second speed for 10 minutes after the butter is mixed in.
Your dough should be soft, pliable, and smooth once all of the butter has been incorporated.
Remove the dough from the bowl and lightly grease the inside of the bowl with the butter wrappers or with a neutral-tasting oil. Return the dough to the bowl and turn it to cover the surface of the dough with a protective layer of fat.
How long does Brioche dough need to rise?
Cover the bowl with plastic film or a kitchen towel. Next, place the bowl of brioche in that same warm draft-free area to rise for an hour or until it’s doubled in bulk. As tempting as it may be to leave to rise for longer than an hour, remember that whole spiel about yeast giving up when it’s had enough.
After an hour of rising time, punch the dough down to dispel the gases that have developed during the rising. Next, turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead for 3 or 4 turns. This redistributes the yeast in the dough to, hopefully, give it some more stuff to feed on. That, in turn, means we get a little more rise out of it.
What kind of pan do I use for Brioche?
Use a bench scraper, or knife, to divide the dough in half. This recipe makes two 1 1/2 to 2-pound loaves. Make the full recipe. Freeze one for later. You’re welcome in advance.
Brioche is usually baked in a brioche pan to form what is called brioche à tête (brioche with a head or headed brioche). You arrange large balls of dough in the pan and plop a smaller ball of dough (or head) on top of them before baking. While you can do that, I find that a loaf pan works better, especially if I plan to toast the bread after baking it. A plain 8 1/2 x 4 1/2-inch loaf pan works well, or you can use a 9 1/4 x 5 1/4-inch pan.
How do I form the Brioche if I’m baking it in a loaf pan?
Brioche that has a quirky shape is fun. Of course, you can bake a plain loaf, but I think giving it a little personality is best, and it’s easy to do.
After dividing the big ball of dough, cover the piece of dough that you left whole while you work with the other. Next, cut the uncovered ball of dough into eight equal sections. Using the fleshy part of your palms- the sides of your hand- to pinch the bottom of a section of dough, form the ball into a perfectly round shape.
Place that ball of dough into a lightly greased loaf pan. Form the remaining sections of dough this way to fill the pan. It’s okay if you need to squish them into the pan. The more balls, the quirkier your baked loaf will be.
Cover your pan and repeat this process with the other half of the dough.
How long do I let the Brioche rise the second time?
Allow the brioche to rise for 30-45 minutes or until slightly doubled in volume. Again, you want to keep them in a warm area of the kitchen for this.
While they’re rising, preheat your oven to 375°F (190°C). Adjust one of the racks so it’s sitting in the lower third section of your oven. Instead of baking on the middle rack like you normally would, drop it down a notch to account for the way the brioche will bake up.
Once the dough has risen just under double its size, brush the tops with an egg wash. At this point you can sprinkle sesame seeds, poppy seeds, or kosher salt over the tops.
Bake the brioche for 30-35 minutes, or until the tops are a deep golden brown. Tap the tops of the loaves. They should sound hollow. If not, return them to the oven and bake for another 5 minutes.
Remove the pans from the oven and allow the brioche to cool while inside them for 15 minutes. Once cool, carefully remove the loaves of bread from the pan and place them on a cooling rack. You can slice and serve while they’re still warm or let them cool completely.
How do I serve Brioche?
I really don’t think you need me to tell you how to serve this amazing bread, but just in case:
Slice and eat your brioche bread. Seriously, taste your creation on its own without any toppings. The taste will shock you. I’m always excited at how a simple loaf a bread can be so delicious. Okay, but if you want to go a step further, top yours with jam or jelly. You can spread more butter on it; peanut butter or hazelnut spread is also a great topping.
Again, you can use this brioche to make your next grilled cheese or tuna fish sandwich. Use it to create new loaves of bread or to bake in a casserole.
How do I store leftover Brioche?
Tightly wrap your brioche loaves in storage wrap or put them in a airtight container. The air causes bread to go stale, so try to avoid exposing the baked bread to too much of it. Whatever you do, don’t store your brioche in the fridge. Cold air will also cause it to go stale faster. Instead, just leave the wrapped bread on the counter or in a bread box for up to 5 days.
To “freshen” up the flavor of leftover brioche, just warm it in the microwave for a few seconds, and it’ll taste like you just baked it.
Can I freeze brioche?
Can you freeze it?! You MUST freeze it. Freeze one of the loaves for later. You have to. I mean, you have to force yourself not to eat both within 24 hours, but try your hardest.
To freeze the baked loaves, allow them to cool completely. Then, wrap the loaves in a layer of plastic film, and transfer them to a freezer storage bag. You can also wrap it in a layer of foil if your loaves are too big for a bag. Freeze the brioche for 2 months. To thaw, just pull the bread out of the freezer and let it thaw on the counter. I don’t recommend freezing the brioche dough before baking. The loaves never bake up as high when you do that.
So, all hail the queen, y’all! One taste and you’ll see why this bread really is the best thing ever. Make some time to try out this recipe- if you love it, share it with your world, and don’t forget to pin it, too!
- 5-quart (or larger) stand mixer
- Two 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 loaf pans
For the Brioche Sponge
- 1 cup (240 milliliters) whole milk warmed to 110°F
- 1/4 cup (60 milliliters) honey
- 1 tablespoon (11 grams) active dry yeast
- 1 cup (120 grams) bread flour
For the Brioche Dough
- brioche sponge
- 8 large eggs at room temperature
- 1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons (12 grams) kosher salt
- 6-6 1/2 cups (720-780 grams) bread flour
- 1 cup (226 grams) unsalted butter sliced and at room temp
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1 tablespoon (15 milliliters) water
Make the Sponge
- In a small mixing bowl, use a rubber spatula to combine the warmed milk, honey, and yeast. Allow the yeast to bloom for 5 minutes in the milk mixture. If the yeast shows no signs of movement or doesn't foam, discard the contents of the bowl and start over with fresh (new) yeast.
- Once the yeast begins to foam, pour a quarter of this mixture into a medium size mixing bowl filled with the first quantity of bread flour, stirring to form a thick, smooth paste. Add the rest of the milk and yeast mixture to the bowl, stirring, until a thick batter forms.
- Cover this mixing bowl with plastic wrap, or a clean kitchen towel. Place the bowl in the microwave or in a warm, draft-free area of your kitchen.Allow the sponge to rise until it has doubled in bulk or for about 30 minutes.
Develop the Brioche
- Add the brioche sponge, eggs, sugar, and salt to the bowl of a 5-quart (or larger) stand mixer. Do it in that specific order so the eggs can form a barrier between the salt and the yeast in the sponge since salt kills yeast. Add 2 cups (240 grams) of the bread flour to the bowl. Use the paddle attachment to blend this mixture together, on second speed, until it resembles a thick batter.
- Add 2 more cups (24 grams) of bread flour. Blend once again on second speed to bring the mixture together to form a soft dough. At this point, the dough will become too stiff to continue using the paddle attachment. Scrape the bowl and the paddle down using a rubber spatula and switch to the mixer's dough hook.
- Once the dough hook is on, begin mixing again on 2nd speed and add the remaining bread flour.* The dough should be stiff, but supple at this point.
Gradually Add the Butter
- With the mixer on second speed, add the unsalted butter to the dough two tablespoons at a time. When the butter you've added becomes absorbed into the dough, add the next two tablespoons. While you wait for the previous addition to mix in, press the next one between your fingers to give it a head start.Continue kneading the dough on second speed for 10 minutes after the butter all the butter has been added.
Allow the Brioche Dough to Rise
- Remove the dough from the bowl and lightly grease the inside of the bowl with the butter wrappers or with a neutral-tasting oil. 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 place the bowl of brioche once again in the draft-free area to rise for an hour or until it's doubled in bulk.
- After an hour of rising time, punch the dough down to dispel the gases that have developed during the rising. Lightly grease your bread pans with baking spray. Next, turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead for 3 or 4 turns.
- Use a bench scraper or knife to divide the dough in half. Cover the piece of dough that you left whole while you work with the other. Cut the uncovered ball of dough into eight equal sections. Using the fleshy part of your palms rotate the balls of dough between your cupped hands to pinch the bottom of dough, forming a ball. Place that ball of dough into a lightly greased loaf pan. Form the remaining sections of dough this way to fill the pan. It's okay if you need to squish them into the pan. The more balls, the quirkier your baked loaf will be.
- Cover your pan and repeat this process with the other half of the dough. Allow the brioche to rise for 30-45 minutes or until slightly doubled in volume. Again, you want to keep them in a warm area of the kitchen for this.
Bake the Brioche
- While the brioche loaves are rising, preheat your oven to 375°F (190°C). Adjust one of the racks so it's sitting in the lower third section of your oven. Instead of baking on the middle rack like you normally would, drop it down a notch to account for the way the brioche will bake up. Prepare the egg wash: in a small bowl, beat together the egg yolk and water until smooth and runny.
- Once the dough has risen just under double its size, brush the tops with an egg wash. Bake the brioche for 30-35 minutes, or until the tops are a deep golden brown. When tapped the tops of the loaves should sound hollow. If they don't continue baking the for an additional 5 minutes.
Cool and Serve the Brioche
- Remove the brioche from the oven and allow the bread to cool inside their pans for 15 minutes. Once cool, carefully remove the loaves of bread from their pans and place them on a cooling rack. You can slice and serve them while they're still warm or let them cool completely.
Tips and Tricks:
- If you're making this brioche on a very hot, humid day, you might to knead in more bread flour up to an additional cup (120 grams).
- The easiest way to prep the butter for use is to unwrap it and cut it into tablespoon pats (use the wrapper as a cutting guide).
- Test that the butter is ready to use by pinching a tablespoon of butter between your fingers. If should feel cool to the touch and slightly mushy. If smears easily, it's too soft; put it in the fridge to firm up for 5-10 minutes. If it's rock hard, heat it for 15 seconds in the microwave.
Optional ToppingsAfter brushing the tops of the loaves with egg wash top with one of the following:
- 1 tablespoon of sesame seeds
- 1 tablespoon of poppy seeds
- a generous pinch of sea salt
- 1/2 cup chopped nuts
Storage and Freezing Instructions:
- Wrap the brioche loaves in storage wrap or put them in a airtight container. Leave the wrapped bread on the counter or in a bread box for up to 5 days.
- Don't store your brioche in the fridge. Cold air will also cause it to go stale faster. Instead, just
- To "freshen" up the flavor of leftover brioche, just warm it in the microwave for a few seconds.
- To freeze the baked loaves: allow the bread to cool completely. Then, wrap the loaves in a layer of plastic film, and transfer them to a freezer storage bag. You can also wrap it in a layer of foil if your loaves are too big for a bag.
- Freeze the brioche for 2 months.
- To thaw frozen brioche, just pull the bread out of the freezer and let it thaw on the counter.
- I don't recommend freezing the brioche dough before baking. The loaves never bake up as high when you do that.