I think many people would agree if I say that the French know best about bread making. Today I brought a recipe for classic French brioche: a light and soft buttery bread. Knowing how much butter and eggs is used for this recipe, it seems incredible. But only because of so much of those the brioche results in a unique taste and texture which can’t be mixed up for any other type of bread. The taste of this brioche is quite neutral, but it’s easy to make it a sweet bread by adjusting the amount of sugar in the recipe to taste.
According to Bread Baker’s Apprentice book, a basic brioche divides into 3 types: “poorman’s”, “middle class” and “richman’s”. “Poorman’s” brioche has less butter and eggs in it, and “richman’s” has more of them compared to the other 2 types. 80% butter brioche is considered “richman’s”.
This brioche has flour:butter ratio 1:1, so it’s probably “richer than Bill Gates”?)))
Despite of so much butter brioche is a very light and not at all greasy bread. The contrast of a crispy flaky crust and a chiffon-like crumb creates a great mouthfeel, along with wonderful butter flavour. It’s really hard to resist!
It takes a while to make a brioche (almost 24 hrs), and as any other bread it has its own procedure and requires a lot of patience. But each small brioche crumb is so worth the time and effort spent!
I’ve tried a few different recipes, with different flour:butter ratio, but my favourite is this one, the recipe is by Pierre Herme.
It’s easier and essential to knead the dough with a mixer, because the kneading cycle is quite long and requires quite low dough temperature. Hand kneading will warm the dough.
The recipe makes one ~700 g loaf or ~12 x 50 g buns:
- 300 g all-purpose flour
- 39 g sugar
- 5 g instant dry yeast
- 8 g salt
- 210 g eggs (~4)
- 300 g unsalted butter, cubed, at 13-15ºC
- 1 egg, lightly beaten, for egg wash
- 1-2 T pearl sugar (optional), for sprinkling
In a bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a hook attachment, mix together the flour, sugar, yeast and eggs. The dough will be sticky. Add the salt. Mix ~15 min on medium speed, until the dough cleans the bowl. This intensive kneading is a must before adding that much of butter.
Add butter a bit at a time, mixing well before the next addition. It will take a while, but this step is very important for having a light and tall brioche. The dough must clean the sides of the bowl and pass a windowpane test very well.
Cover the bowl with cling film. Leave the dough to rise at room temperature for 1-1.5 hrs until doubled in size. Gently punch it down, cover with cling film and put in the fridge for 2 hrs, then punch it down again and return to the fridge for minimum of 4 hrs or better overnight (but not longer than 18 hrs).
Shape the dough right from the fridge, while it’s still cold. I’ve ended up having 800 g of dough. I divided it into 8 x 100 g parts, rolled each into a ball and arranged in a loaf pan (4 x 2 rows). Brush with the egg wash. Cover with cling film, leave to rise at room temperature for 2,5-3 hrs.
Preheat the oven to 200ºC/ 420ºF. Sprinkle the loaf with the pearl sugar, if using. Bake for 15 min. at 200ºC/ 420ºF, then lower the temperature to 180ºC/ 375ºF for ~30 min or until done. The crust must brown very well. Remove from the oven, let cool.
I’ve also tried adding flavorings (during the kneading cycle, just before adding the butter):
- 80 g candied orange peel + 10 g orange zest (may be substituted for any other citrus).
- 10 g orange zest + 1 t ground cardamom. This variation I’ve shaped as buns. While shaping, I placed 1 sugar cube lightly soaked in Cointreau into each bun. The buns were very flavourful, sweet and juicy.