Brioche is an enriched French bread, meaning that the dough contains a high proportion of fat it in. Adding ingredients like milk and oil will enrich a dough. In the case of brioche, the dough is enriched with a lot of butter and egg yolks. This gives the bread a very fine, very soft crumb and an almost flaky texture, in addition to turning the crust a dark golden color after baking.
Brioche is a type of bread that comes up often in recipes, particularly recipes for bread pudding and French toast where you might want to add some extra richness to the finished product. Brioche is often used in sweet dishes, leading to the perception that the bread is sweet. Actually, the bread does not usually contain much sugar at all — it is featured in sweet dishes because of its rich texture and buttery flavor. Brioche does just as well in savory applications, where its buttery flavor can really shine.
Brioche can take on several different shapes. A classic shape has a fluted bottom and an upper protruding knob, and it is made in a special brioche pan. The bread can also be made like a regular loaf, or it can be braided or molded into a ring. It often takes the form of an individual bun, served warm.
Making brioche dough is a rather lengthy process with many steps. However the final results are what make it worth all the work! Since brioche is made with butter, it is best for bakers to handle the dough while it is cool, to prevent it from melting. Many cooks chill the dough intermittently while they work on it, and the dough is set to rise under refrigeration. While the rising will take longer, it also yields a better final product.
To make this bread, you will start with yeast, dissolved in water with a pinch of sugar. While the yeast starts to foam, sift together bread flour with salt and sugar, adding more sugar for sweeter bread. Then work butter into the flour, forming a grainy mixture. Next, beat eggs together with cream, and add the yeast mixture when it is ready.
This clumpy dough should be refrigerated for 10 minutes before kneading until it is smooth and elastic. Allow the dough to rise, covered, at room temperature for around 45 minutes before putting it in the refrigerator in a large plastic bag. The brioche can rest in the refrigerator for up to three days as long as it is periodically punched down, or it can be used after 10 to 12 hours. The dough can be taken out, molded into the desired shape, brush with egg, and be baked at 350 degrees Fahrenheit (180 Celsius) until golden brown, around 40 minutes, depending on the shape used. For small individual size brioche much less time is needed, about 15 minutes.
It is very important to store brioche in a plastic bag or wrapped tightly in order to maintain moisture. This will allow the brioche to keep for three to four days. Brioche for the freezer will keep for several months, wrap the freshly baked loaf in foil while still warm, if not using immediately, and then a layer of plastic wrap.
The rich, buttery flavor and slightly cake like texture of brioche bread makes it a versatile bread you can serve as a sweet pastry or a savory dinner roll. With all of those options you can enjoy brioche for breakfast, lunch and dinner!
Amber Clay is a resident of the Mechanicsburg area. After graduating with her degree from the Culinary Institute of America, her food path started at the Hotel Hershey and continued on with teaching.