Brioche is a wonderful light-textured, rich-tasting french bread or cake, made from eggs, butter, flour, yeast, sugar and salt. The high quality butter used in it makes its soft, buttery, and meltingly tender crumb. One of the local bakery called Le Boulanger (Luh Boo-lawn-ZHAY) makes the best brioche bread I have tasted in the bay area. On the once a week grocery shopping trip, the brioche loaf is always on my list. I slice the loaf to make French toast on Sunday morning, which has been specially noted as Hero’s favorite breakfast over a million of other things he used to like even since I made one for him. I also like to make brioche toast with avocado and arugula, which will always be my go to things to eat as long as I have avocados on hand. What I do is first I toast 2 slices of brioche, while they are been toasted, I slice half of an avocado. Then I arrange the avocado slices on one brioche toast and grind sea salt on top of it. (I know… half avocado is a lot and really they never fit on my bread, so I usually put the rest avocado into my mouth directly, problem solved…) Next, I top the avocado with lots of baby arugula, and then stack the other slice of brioche on top. Now lunch is ready!
The fact that it is so delicate and the fact that it has the word French in it make it sounds daunting to reproduce at home. Last week, I decided to see how hard it is to make but did not give myself much hope. Surprisingly I successfully made 1 brioche loaf and 6 brioche buns. So in my opinion, it’s not THAT hard if you carefully read and follow the steps and notes in the recipe.
Before trying to make one, I did quite a bit research on the many different types of the brioche dough, with the ratios varying primarily in the percentage of butter. The amount of the butter determines the texture of the crumb. The different crumb textures, such as rich and soft like cake, or less rich more like bread, are used as the base structure to make different things later on.
My own notes on making brioche is: The dough doesn’t require much kneading, but needs to be chilled for a long time preferably overnight in the fridge. Because the dough has a high ratio of butter, it needs to be chilled in order to handle and shape it. And you want to work with it on cool surface and cool kitchen. The consistency of the dough is soft and smooth, and should not be greasy and sticky when working with it. So make sure the surface and your hand is well floured when shaping the dough. The recipe I used below is relatively simple than most other ones I have read, but I followed it and the result turned out great.
Brioche Loaf and Brioche à tête Recipe
adapted from Brioche Loaves by Ina Garten, “Barefoot in Paris”
Makes 2 loaves by the original recipe, I made 1 loaf and 6 jumbo muffin sized buns
1/2 cup warm water (110 to 120 degrees)
1 package, 7 gram active dry yeast
3 tablespoons sugar
6 extra large eggs, at room temperature
4 1/4 cups unbleached all purpose flour
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 egg mixed with 1 tablespoon milk, for egg wash
Combine the water, yeast, and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. (If the bowl is cold, start with warmer water so it’s at least 110 degrees when you add the yeast.) Mix with the hands and allow to stand for 5 minutes until the yeast and sugar dissolve. Add the eggs, and beat on medium speed for 1 minute, until well mixed. With the mixer on low speed, add 2 cups of the flour and the salt and mix for 5 minutes. With the mixer still on low, add 2 more cups of flour and mix for 5 more minutes. Still on low speed, add the soft butter in chunks and mix for 2 minutes, scraping down the beater, until well blended. With the mixer still running, sprinkle in the remaining 1/4 cup of flour. Switch the paddle attachment to a dough hook, and mix on low speed for 2 minutes. Scrape the dough into a large buttered bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerated overnight or at least 10 to 12 hours.
The next day, allow the dough to sit at room temperature for 45 minutes. Grease two 8 by 4 loaf pans. I only have 1 loaf pan, so I used another jumbo muffin pan to make brioche à tête instead of loaf.
Turn the dough onto a lightly floured board and cut in half. Pat one portion into a 6*8 inch rectangle, then roll up each rectangle into a cylindrical loaf. Place each loaf, seam side up, into the greased pan. Cover the pans with a damp cloth and set aside to rise at room temperature until doubled in volume, 2 to 2 1/2 hour. Now if you have 2 loaf pans just do the same thing for the other portion of the dough.
For me, I decide to go a little fancy with the other portion of the dough. I wanted to make Brioche à tête, which is perhaps the most classically recognized shape: a large ball of dough is placed on the bottom and topped with a smaller ball of dough to form the head, called tête. Below is the illustrated steps of how I made it. From the shape in the 3rd picture to the finished shape in the last picture, what you do is you lift and hold the whole thing with your hands, then bend the top part backward and tuck it through the hole, back to front. The end shape is a little button sticking out in the middle of a ring.
Once I form the Brioche à tête and put them in the jumbo muffin pan, just like the one sitting in the loaf pan, I let them rise at room temperature until they doubled and puffed outside the muffin tins.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Once the loaf and buns have risen, brush the top of each with the egg wash and bake for 45 minutes for the loaf and 20-25 minutes for the little buns. When they are done, the top should sound slightly hollow when tapped with you finger nail. Turn the loaf and buns on wire rack to cool and then unmold.