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Brioche: Sweet, Rich Bread

February 26, 2014

Brioche

Brioche is a deliciously sweet and rich velvety textured bread. The flavors and texture are developed during its rather long rising process, first at room temperature, and then in the fridge. Like any other bread, the longer this dough is kneaded, the smoother the finished product will be. A heavy duty mixer, such as a 5 or 6 quart KitchenAid will come in very handy for making this bread. Brioche takes most of the day to make, although most of that time is waiting for dough to rise, so settle in for a day of bread making.

If brioche is so time-consuming to make, why not just buy a loaf from the store or bakery? Given it’s ingredients: butter, eggs, milk and sugar—in healthy proportions, and the amount of time this bread takes to make, brioche is one of the more pricey loaves to buy. Shelling out $4 for a miniloaf of brioche just doesn’t make fiscal sense, when for the same amount of money, three full-size loaves can be made. And with all the delicious recipes that call for brioche, making it is the best option.

On its own, toasted brioche needs almost nothing to dress it. This buttery bread can be heard sizzling while it toasts. A little, or a lot, of apricot preserves on this toast is a meal unto itself. Brioche is delicious as a sandwich bread for turkey and ham and a mild cheese. Brioche toast points—a fancy name for brioche toast cut in triangles—are the perfect platform on which to spread a thick layer of pâté. Sliced, it can accompany almost any soup. And bathed in a sweet egg wash and cooked not quite all the way through, it is, without question, french toast royalty.

Brioche, like other breads, starts with a quick sponge which needs to mix for a while to activate the yeast and gluten, dissolve the sugar, emulsify the fats and proteins and begin the fermentation process. After the sponge develops, the rest of the flour can be gradually mixed in until the dough is just barely firm enough to knead without falling apart. Adding small amounts of flour, and allowing the mixer to knead for long periods of time in between, reduces the total amount of flour that you’ll need for this bread.

So if you have a day to spend in your kitchen, and the desire to make a bread that is the starting point of several other delicious recipes, let’s start in with the ingredients.

As a slight post script – in the unlikely event you end up with leftovers, Click here to check out our Brioche French Toast recipe.

Brioche

  • 2 cups whole milk, warmed to 120°F
  • 3 whole large eggs, slightly beaten
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) of lightly salted butter, cut up
  • 5-6 cups King Arthur unbleached all purpose flour, divided
  • generous ¼ cup vital wheat gluten
  • generous ½ cup white sugar
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1½ tablespoons instant yeast

Add 2 cups of flour, the sugar, salt, yeast and wheat gluten to the mixing bowl of a heavy duty stand mixer. Mix the dry ingredients by hand with the paddle attachment. Pour the warm milk into the bowl and mix the ingredients by hand with the paddle attachment until a thick batter forms. (Using the mixer for this will just cause flour to fly all over your kitchen.) Set the mixing bowl in place, and using the paddle attachment, mix the sponge on medium low (setting 3 of 10) for 3-4 minutes. With the mixer running, add the butter, a couple cubes at a time and mix until the butter is incorporated into the sponge. Slowly pour the eggs into the sponge while the mixer is running. Continue to mix on medium low for 3 or 4 more minutes.

Scrape down the sides of the bowl using either the paddle attachment or a spatula. Add 2½ cups of flour to the sponge and change to the dough hook. With the mixer on low (setting 2) allow all the flour to incorporate into the dough. Continue to add flour, ¼ cup at a time, allowing a few minutes between additions, until the dough pulls cleanly away from the sides of the bowl. The dough should stay in place around the dough hook when enough flour has been added (remember, less flour is better, so allow the mixer to thoroughly knead between flour additions). If the dough ball slowly settles down the hook, add another ¼ cup of flour and continue kneading on setting 2.

This dough should machine knead for at least 20 minutes. Once it’s done kneading, remove the dough from the bowl and loosely shape into a ball. Place the dough in a greased, lidded container (just set the lid on top, don’t seal it) and allow it to rise until doubled on your counter. Don’t forget to grease the lid.

Punch down the dough—don’t worry about rekneading this—place the lid loosely on top, and put this in the refrigerator. Allow the dough to rise until doubled again. This will take much longer. After the cold dough has risen, punch down the dough, divide it into three equal amounts shaping each into a loaf. Place the dough in three lightly greased 8×4 loaf pans and allow to rise until the loaves are mounded above the loaf pans.

Preheat the oven to 375°F with the convection fan on if you have it. Bake the loaves for 35 minutes. Remove from the oven and brush the tops lightly with butter. Allow the loaves to cool for about 15 minutes, and then depan to a cooling rack. Store in a ziptop bag only after the loaves have completely cooled.

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