Brioche bread is soft and fluffy, made with a slightly sweet enriched dough of butter and eggs. You will find yourself marvelling that you made this, as you slowly pull layers apart. I always do!
“What can I say about Brioche?” I said out loud. My daughter quickly said, “The Queen of White bread”. I gasped. “Has it been called that before?” It sounded too perfectly correct.
What is Brioche bread?
Although it isn’t quite white, it is soft, fluffy and luxurious perhaps more like a royal Corgi than a queen. It is a yeast risen French bread, pronounced bree-osh or bree-aash. Accent on the second syllable.
It is rich with butter and on the sweet side, because it is made with what is called an enriched dough containing, naturally, butter and sugar, and many eggs. You can use this dough to make cinnamon buns and individual buns to use for sandwiches, or the traditional Brioche à tête named for its shape that has a little knob on the top by pushing the dough up through a hole that you put in the middle. This is also the bread that is the base of the beautiful Chocolate and Cinnamon Babka bread.
As with most yeast risen products, it takes time for rising and kneading to form the glorious glutens that make this bread. Soft butter is added a little at a time until fully incorporated and the butter will break down the glutens in the dough and be all sticky again. But when you give it another 10 minutes or so on high using the dough hook it becomes so smooth and stretchy again. It will also not be sticky to the touch.
Ingredients for Brioche Bread
The greater amounts of butter, eggs and sugar make it unique, and French, but the ingredients are not complicated. The method is where the big difference is.
Use warm room temperature, not cool room temperature as you might for cookies. It should be spreadable soft so it can be beaten smoothly into the dough. Do not add melted butter, you will have a greasy shiny dough.
Remember that there is about ½ tsp salt in a cup of salted butter, if you must use salted butter.
Eggs count as a liquid amount to the dough. I have used large size which are about 50g in weight without the shell. They must also be at room temperature. If I forget to bring them out earlier I place them in a bowl of hot tap water.
I have used all purpose. Some people use a combination, adding a bit of bread flour. Bread flour has a slightly higher amount of protein, which forms glutens, but it also makes for a slightly chewier bread. Think of sturdier breads. Brioche has more of a cake like crumb. We develop the fine gluten structure with the beating and kneading.
I have used an 8g packet of active dry yeast, which is activated with warm liquid and sugar to feed it. Your water needs to be lukewarm, between 105°F and 115°F (40.5°C and 46°C).
The rest of the ingredients should be at room temperature.
Steps to Making Brioche
It is best if you have a heavy duty stand mixer. One could knead it by hand, but it takes a lot of kneading, more than 20 minutes with a machine, and it is a soft sticky dough.
Check the temperature of your water and add it to the bowl of the stand mixer.
-You do not really need a thermometer. Check it on your wrist. It shouldn’t really feel hot or cool.
-If your bowl is very cold, swirl some warm water around in it and dump it out.
Too warm may kill the yeast and not warm enough, well, just takes a lot longer.
Add a teaspoon of sugar from your measured ⅓ cup sugar.
Sprinkle the yeast over and let it foam to make sure it is active. It should take about 10 minutes.
If after 10 minutes the yeast does not bloom and double in size, toss it out and try again and be grateful this was figured out now, before wasting more than a bit of sugar and water. It can happen even with a new package unfortunately.
After the yeast has bloomed, whisk in ½ cup (60g) of flour. Let that sit and foam for 20-30 minutes. Any time that yeast is given to expand, it develops flavours. This sponge step, or foam also improves the crumb, or texture of the brioche bread.
Beat in the room temperature milk, all of the eggs and the rest of the sugar. You can just use a whisk for this.
Combine the salt with the flour and add about a third to the yeast mixture. If you are not using a heavy duty stand mixer, you can beat in with a hand blender because it is not too thick yet.
After the first flour addition, scrape the bowl very well, bringing the bottom to make sure the bottom of the bowl has no flour stuck to it. Scrape the bowl and beater down as well and as often as you can but this is where it will be the easiest.
After adding all of the flour, run the mixer on high speed for 10 minutes at a high speed. It will become very glutinous and will pull away from the bowl and be a very smooth dough.
Add the soft butter one piece at a time, about a tablespoon.
The dough will get very soft and sticky again because the butter is breaking down the glutens, so we have to beat it again for another 10-15 minutes, so the butter is all incorporated and the dough will be gorgeously smooth again. It will pull away from the bowl and the dough hook.
Window pane test
Wet your hands so the dough does not stick and slowly stretch the dough until it is thin enough to let light through, before tearing.
Cover and let rest and rise for 1 hour in a warm area.
Punch down the dough, I just knead it in the bowl, then transfer to a clean bowl and cover again.
Refrigerate 6 hours to overnight. Why so long? As mentioned with the foam stage, flavours will develop, texture develops. If you don’t refrigerate the dough for more than 6 hours, your Brioche bread will not be lacking. Refrigerate the dough for six hours to make the dough easier to handle.
On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough about 10 times and cut it in half to make 2 loaves. Refrigerate one half as you work with the other.
Shaping Brioche Bread into a Loaf
For shaping, you could braid three ropes together before lifting it into the loaf pan. You could also try a style from Nantes, a city on the West side of France that sits on the Loire. Eight little dough balls that bake together but can be easily pulled apart.
Cover loosely and put the brioche loaves in a warmer area. I put it on top of the refrigerator. This is the last rise for about 1½ hours until the dough doubles in size.
How Do you Know if it has Finished Proofing?
Press your finger into the dough. If the imprint stays, perfect, if it springs back, it needs more time to proof. If you poke it and it collapses, it has over proofed.
It is best to punch down the dough, reshape and let rise again.
Beat the 1 egg plus 2 Tbsp water and brush over the loaves.
Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C).
Bake the brioche bread at 375°F (190°C) for about 30 minutes until a deep golden colour. Because of the sugar, and the egg wash, it will be darker in colour than some breads are, but you do not want it underbaked inside. Brioche bread is usually dark golden on the top.
Remove from the oven and place on a rack to cool for about 15 minutes. Then remove the bread from the pan entirely, so it does not get soggy.
If slicing, you might want to wait for it to fully cool. For pulling apart, pull away.
- Heavy Duty stand mixer Recommended
- 2½ tsp Active dry yeast (8g)
- ¼ cup Warm water (63mL)
- ½ cup Warm milk (125mL)
- 4 cups All purpose flour (490g)
- ⅓ cups Granulated sugar (70g)
- 1½ tsp Salt
- 5 Large eggs
- 1 cup Butter, soft unsalted (227g)
- 1 Egg, beaten with
- 2 Tbsp Water, for an egg wash
- In the bowl of the stand mixer, combine the water and a teaspoon of sugar from your measured ⅓ cup (70g) sugar
- Sprinkle the yeast over and let it foam to make sure it is active. It should take about 10 minutes.
- Whisk in ½ cup (60g) of flour. Let that sit and foam for 30 minutes.
- Whisk the salt into the flour and set aside.
- Add the room temperature milk.
- Beat in the eggs and the rest of the sugar.
- Add about a third of the flour mixture and and combine, using a hook attachment.
- Scrape the bowl well, bringing the bottom up to make sure there is no dry flour stuck at the bottom of the bowl.
- Add another third and keep beating or stirring. Scrape the bowl and beaters often.
- Add the rest of the flour and if not using a stand mixer mix in with a sturdy spoon and then knead with your hands.
- Beat for about 10-15 minutes at a high speed. It will be smooth and pull away from the bowl.
- Turn the speed to medium as you add the soft butter about a tablespoon at a time.
- Beat for about 15 minutes back on high speed until it is smooth and pulls away from the bowl again
- Cover and let rest and rise for 1 hour in a warm area.
- Punch down, and on a lightly floured surface, reform into a ball and cover. Refrigerate 6 hours to overnight.
- Refrigerate 6 hours to overnight.
- Shape into 2 loaves, let rise for 1-2 hours.
- Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C).
- Beat the 1 egg plus 2 Tbsp water and brush over the loaves.
- Bake the brioche bread at 375°F (190°C) for about 30 minutes until a deep golden colour.
- Remove from the oven and place on a rack to cool for about 15 minutes before removing the brioche from the pans.