Sunday, 24 August 2008

Brioche -- A rich no knead bread

Brioche is a very rich and delectable bread. In fact, this particular recipe utilizes a 70 percent butter-to-flour ratio so it would definitely be considered a "rich man's brioche". In France, they make two types: rich man's and poor man's brioche -- the difference being the amount of butter.

I made Brioche this past Easter and my oldest son loved it. He said "Mom, I wouldn't mind if you made this bread again". That's a teenager's way of saying he likes it. I took the hint and made it again.

Shaping Brioche: Brioche can be made into many shapes and forms. It is often made as a petite brioche à tête, a small roll with a topknot; it can be baked in loaf pans and sliced like any other bread; or it may be shaped into torpedo rolls and eaten on the side with foie gras or other rich delights. It also makes wonderful French toast and bread pudding.

Using a Master Formula for Brioche: This particular formula utilizes a sponge that is really a type of poolish, made with milk. It is thicker than other types of poolish. The poolish has enough yeast so that no additional yeast is required.

Making Brioche

The master formula for this brioche is found in Peter Reinhart's Crust and Crumb.

Yield: 3 loaves, or up to 4 dozen small rolls. I’m using a smaller fluted pan to mold the brioche so it will make about 3 brioches.

Ingredients (Sponge):
  • 1 teaspoon Instant Yeast
  • 1/2 cup (4 ounces) lukewarm milk (90°F)
  • 1 cup (4.5 ounces) unbleached bread flour

Ingredients (Dough):
  • 3 1/2 cups (16 ounces) unbleached bread flour
  • 2 tablespoons (1 ounce) sugar
  • 1 teaspoon (0.25 ounce) salt
  • 5 large eggs (8 ounces), cold, plus 1 large egg for egg wash
  • 1 1/2 cups sponge (from above; use all 8.6 ounces)
  • 1 3/4 cups (14 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
  • Vegetable oil cooking spray (optional)
  • Melted butter and flour for the molds (Tip: to coat the pan melt 3 parts butter and stir in 1 part flour (by measure, not by weight). Brush this on pans whenever you need a buttery pan release. The flour keeps the butter from burning.


To make the sponge, stir the yeast into the milk in a mixing bowl. Add the flour and stir until smooth. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and allow the sponge to ferment at room temperature for 1 to 2 hours. It will become very bubbly.

In a mixing bowl or the bowl of an electric mixer with a paddle attachment, combine the flour, sugar, salt, 5 eggs, and sponge.

Note: If you have a heavy-duty mixer, now is the time to use it. Mixing this dough by hand is quite a workout.

Mixing the dough by machine:
Mix it on low speed for about 2 minutes, till a smooth dough is formed. Cut the butter into 3 pieces and beat in 1 piece at a time at medium-low speed till each is absorbed. Continue beating at the same speed till the dough is smooth, about 6 minutes. It will be very soft and sticky.

Mixing the dough by hand:
Gradually combine all the ingredients and beat vigorously with a wooden or metal spoon for about 10 minutes, to make a smooth, wet dough

Mist the top of the dough with cooking spray, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and place the bowl in the refrigerator overnight (or for a minimum of 5 hours). The dough will firm up considerably as it retards.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator and shape it, while it is still cold, into loaves, rolls, or molded petites brioches à tête.

Grease the molds well with cooking spray or with melted butter and flour. Mist the top of the dough with cooking spray, cover it with plastic wrap or enclose it in a plastic bag, and let rise at room temperature for about 2 hours, or till nearly doubled in size.

Brioche dough doubled in size after 2 hours

Position on oven rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 375°F for a large, full-size brioche, 400°F for smaller loaves. Beat the remaining egg till smooth and brush it on the tops of the brioche, taking care not to let it drip down the sides of the molds.

Bake 35 to 45 minutes for loaves, 20 to 25 minutes for small rolls
, until a rich, deep gold. If using molds, remove the rolls 1 or 2 minutes after they come out of the oven, taking care not to tear them (use a small knife to loosen them from the side walls). Cool the brioche on a rack for 20 to 40 minutes, depending on size, before eating.

Happy Baking!

If you'd like to try a different
Brioche Recipe, check out these No Knead Breads.

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