I have been putting off this brioche post for a while now because, truth be told, the recipe I make was not where I wanted it to be at. I was not even planning on posting it, until Julia from Leave Room for Dessert requested help with her quest for the perfect brioche. I’ve had moderate success with this recipe, but it was never what I envisioned. So, since blogging is also about documenting progress, I embarked on a more detailed testing of the brioche recipe. This took me a good number of weeks as I could only make and eat a certain amount of brioche in one week (I still have a loaf in the freezer!). And although Julia has already found brioche success, this post is still a shout out to her.
This story begins with the bread I grew up eating: pan de moña. Pan de moña in itself is difficult to define because the range goes from a very lean challah-like bread, to an ultra rich sweet brioche-like bread. The challah-like bread would be your everyday bread. The super rich sweet brioche-like one would be something you serve on special occasions. In Panama, if you visit the supermarket during the holiday season in December, you will see these special pan de moña everywhere, golden brown and heavily sprinkled with sliced almonds. The common denominators throughout the range are only eggs and a sweet component (either sugar or honey). But really, most times, pan the moña is something in between these two extremes. I am more of a super rich, ultra-sweet, special occasion brioche kind of gal, so I have only experimented with the rich brioche recipes out there.
A few years ago I went to a brioche making class, and this is where my recipe comes from. I tried many others, but was never happy with the outcome. So I decided to stick with this one recipe which yields excellent results without having to make any changes.
Step one in my brioche baking journey, about 7 months ago, was the purchase of a stand mixer. I tried several times making it by hand, a very exhausting endeavor. So when I finally purchased a stand mixer, the first thing I made was a double batch of brioche. I figured that if I broke it at least it would still be during the warranty period. And if I did not break it, I would know for sure that my mixer could stand up to pretty much any recipe out there. Although my mixer has managed to survive several double batches of brioche, please note I do not recommend you make a double batch of brioche in your stand mixer.
For the purposes of this post, I made the recipe four times. The first time I made a single recipe, and did not make any changes to it. I made one large loaf. It was pretty good, with more of a cake-like texture. I wanted something with a more bread-like texture, and a little sweeter in flavor.
The second time I made a single recipe with all-purpose flour and rapid rise yeast since it was the only kind of yeast I had on hand. I usually make one large loaf, or two smaller ones. This time I reserved 300 grams for a peach tart, and baked a medium loaf. Results: dense, flat, cake like, soft crumb, a bit too bubbly from the rapid rise yeast.
The third time I made a single recipe in the form of braided brioche with bread flour, honey instead of sugar (3 tablespoons), European style butter, and farm eggs. Results: good texture and flavor, a bit too sweet from using only honey as a sweetener, color was too yellow from farm fresh eggs, high fat butter started to bleed out of the dough during resting period.
The fourth time I made a double recipe that yielded two large loaves, with bread flour, sugar and honey. I used regular eggs and butter. Results: higher rising loaves, more structure, springy texture, perfect development of flavor. This was my favorite out of all four.
So what are my future brioche plans: same recipe made with bread flour, half regular butter half European style butter, 2 regular eggs and 2 farm eggs, sugar and honey, and a bit extra salt. Rest in fridge for 48 hours.
I would love to find out if you have a favorite brioche or challah recipe. Please do share your brioche/challah baking experiences in the comments! :O)
Very Rich Brioche (Sur La Table Bread Making Class)
Brioche is not particularly difficult to make, but it is time-consuming. Try to use the best ingredients you can find. If you want to bake your brioche the same day you make the dough, let it rise at room temperature for 1 hour instead of overnight for rise #2. If you do this then rise #3 (proofing time) will only be 10-20 minutes. I highly recommend that you let it sit at least overnight. I prefer to leave it in the refrigerator for 48 hours. I think it develops more flavor. I have also frozen the dough after rise #2 successfully. To defrost, simply remove it from the freezer 24 hours before planning to use it, and proof as indicated in the directions.
4 teaspoons active dry yeast
½ cup whole milk, warm to the touch
¼ cup sugar
½ cup flour* (all-purpose or bread, depending on desired results)
3 cups flour* (all purpose or bread, depending on desired results)
1 ¼ teaspoon salt
4 eggs, at room temperature
8 ounces unsalted butter,
Canola oil for bowl
1 egg, beaten
1. Remove butter from refrigerator about one hour before starting recipe and cut into one inch pieces. The butter must be at room temperature when added to the dough. This will depend on your climate and temperature in your kitchen.
2. Prepare the sponge: In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine yeast, milk, sugar, and flour. Combine well with clean hands. Cover and let stand at room temperature for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes the mixture should be stiff and bubbly.
3. Using the paddle attachment of your mixer, add flour, and salt. Start the mixer on low-speed. Add 2 eggs, and mix until incorporated. Add remaining eggs, until incorporated. Turn mixer off and let rest for 5 minutes to allow the dough to absorb the liquid and for the gluten to relax.
4. Knead dough on medium speed for 5 minutes in the mixer. Scrape down the dough as needed. You may need to hold down the mixer from time to time, especially if using bread flour.
5. On medium speed, add the butter a few pieces at a time. Let each addition of butter to incorporate before adding more. If using all-purpose flour you will pretty much have a very soft dough with little structure to it. If using bread flour, after adding the butter, place the dough on a lightly floured surface, and knead the dough for about 7-10 minutes or until you get a dough that is smooth and uniform in texture.
6. Rise #1: Place about 2 teaspoons of canola oil in a large bowl. Put dough in oiled bow and turn over so that all the dough is coated with oil. Cover and let rise at room temperature until doubled in volume. About 2 hours.
7. Rise #2: Deflate dough by punching it down in the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in refrigerator overnight, or up to three days, to develop flavor.
8. Rise #3 (Proof): Spray two 9 x 5 inch loaf pans with spray. If using bread flour, knead dough for about 5 minutes. Divide dough into two for two small loaves or use all of the dough for one large loaf. Pat each piece into a rectangle that is at least double the width of your pan. Roll each rectangle tightly, like a jelly roll, and place in pan seam side down. Your pan should be half full with dough. Cover, and let rise until it has doubled in size, about 1 ½ to 2 hours.
9. Pre-heat oven to 400 °F. Make egg wash: beat egg in a small bowl. After the dough has proofed, brush it evenly with egg wash.
10. Bake for 10 minutes at 400°F. Reduce oven temperature to 350°F and bake for an additional 10-25 minutes until well browned. baking time will vary depending on the size and shape of your brioche.
11. Remove brioche from the oven. Let it cool in the pan for about 10 minutes. Remove from the pan and finish cooling on a rack.
*For the all purposed flour I used Whole Foods brand, and for the bread flour I used King Arthur brand.
Here is a link to the peach brioche tart recipe from the Wild Yeast blog. My peaches were not very sweet so I added some turbinado sugar on top.