You might not know it, but you need brioche in your life. With this one recipe, you have the power to make not only one gorgeous loaf of bread, but also dinner rolls, hamburger buns, hoagie rolls, cinnamon rolls, monkey bread, and a host of other homemade treats. Learn to make brioche, and you're well on your way to turning your kitchen into your very own bakery.
What Is Brioche?
Brioche (pronounced brie-osh) is a rich yeast dough made with eggs and butter. You're basically taking regular sandwich bread and turning it into something so tender, buttery, and rich that it walks the line between bread and cake.
Brioche is not, however, inherently sweet. It's rich, but can be used to make either savory or sweet baked goods (think: dinner rolls verses cinnamon rolls).
Use a Stand Mixer to Make Brioche
Kneading brioche dough is a tricky affair. All the eggs and butter make it soft, sticky, and slippery. Traditionally, bakers developed the gluten in this dough by slamming it repeatedly on a marble counter — a messy, labor-intensive route that takes some real skill (and muscle) to pull off well.
Instead, let a motor and a dough hook do the work, and make your brioche dough in a stand mixer. This dough needs to knead longer than most other kinds of bread dough — the amount of fat in brioche prevents gluten from forming easily.
Rest the Brioche Dough Overnight
After kneading and rising, it's best to let the brioche dough chill in the fridge overnight. Shaping the cool dough is significantly easier than trying to coax the warm dough into submission — plus the slow overnight rise improves the flavor and texture of the bread.
Brioche Is What You Make It
In the recipe here, I make two large loaves of bread, perfect for afternoon toast with jam (and Saturday morning French toast). But with this basic dough, you can make any number of baked creations. Here's a quick run-down of some of the possibilities and how to shape them.
Sandwich loaves: Follow the directions for a knobby, braided look, or roll the dough into two standard sandwich loaves.
Grande brioche à tête: Divide the dough in half. Pinch off a small portion of dough from each half and set aside. Roll the large portions into two balls and transfer to two fluted brioche tins. Roll the small portions into smaller balls and press one on top of each of the larger balls to make a top-knot.
Petite brioche à tête: Divide the dough into 14 portions. Roll 12 portions into balls and transfer to fluted mini-brioche tins. Divide the remaining portions into 12 smaller pieces, roll them into balls, and press them into the tops of the mini-brioche.
Dinner rolls: Divide the dough into 16 to 20 portions. Roll them into balls and bake on baking sheets.
Hamburger buns: Divide the dough into 12 portions. Roll into balls and bake on baking sheets.
Hoagie buns: Divide the dough into 10 portions. Shape into torpedoes and bake on baking sheets.
Cinnamon rolls: Increase the sugar to 1/4 cup. Roll the dough out into a rectangle and spread with butter, cinnamon, and sugar. Roll the dough into a log and cut into 12 rolls. Bake in a 13x9-inch baking dish.
Read More: 3 Stunning Ways to Shape Brioche
About an hour before you plan to bake, place the butter on the counter to soften.
How To Make Brioche
Makes 2 sandwich loaves, or 12 large rolls
What You Need
1/2 pound (16 tablespoons) unsalted butter
1 tablespoon active dry or instant yeast
1/2 cup water or milk
1/4 cup sugar
6 large eggs
2 teaspoons salt
4 to 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon water, for the glaze
Stand mixer with bread hook attachment
2 standard loaf pans (8x4-inch)
Pastry scraper or sharp knife, for dividing the dough
Let the butter soften: About an hour before you plan to bake, place the butter on the counter to soften. If you're short on time, microwave the butter at half-power in 10-second bursts. The butter should be pliable and easily spreadable, but not melted.
Prepare the brioche dough: Combine the yeast and water in the bowl of a stand mixer, and allow the yeast to dissolve for a few minutes. Add the sugar and the eggs, and stir until the eggs are broken up. Add the salt and 4 cups of the flour. Stir until you've formed a shaggy, floury dough.
Knead the dough for about 2 minutes: With a dough hook on low speed, knead the dough for about 2 minutes, until all the flour has been absorbed and the dough comes together in a fairly smooth ball.
Begin adding the butter: Increase the mixer speed to medium. Begin adding the butter one tablespoon at time. Wait until one lump is mostly mixed in before adding the next. Stop and scrape down the sides of the mixer as needed until all the butter is added.
Beat the dough for 5 minutes: Once all the butter is added, continue to beat the dough for about 5 minutes, until all the butter is completely absorbed. When finished, the dough should look glossy and supple, and it should jiggle slightly when you shake the bowl, like firmly set custard.
Cover and let rise for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, until doubled in bulk: The dough can rise in the bowl in which it was mixed. Cover loosely and place the bowl somewhere warm until roughly doubled in bulk.
Refrigerate the dough overnight: This dough is much easier to work with once it has chilled, and the flavor improves with a cool overnight rest. Once it has doubled in bulk, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place it in the fridge. Let the dough rest overnight, or for up to 2 days. It might rise a little more in the fridge; if it looks like it will spill out of the bowl, lift the edges to degas it slightly, but don't punch it down.
Prepare the loaves: Grease two loaf tins. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter and pat into a rectangle; the dough will be quite stiff and easy to shape. Divide the rectangle into 12 equal pieces, then roll each piece into a ball. Tuck 6 balls of dough into each loaf tin, staggering them slightly so you create a braided look. (Alternatively, you can divide the dough in half and shape each half into a standard sandwich loaf.)
Let the brioche rise 1 1/2 to 2 hours: Cover the brioche loosely and place somewhere warm. Let them rise until they're doubled in bulk, look puffy and pillow-like, and are just starting to peek over the top of the pan — 1 1/2 to 2 hours. (If in doubt, it's better to under-proof rather than over-proof these brioche loaves, so bake them as soon as you start wondering if they're ready.)
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Begin preheating the oven when the brioche has risen to just under the tops of the pans, about 30 minutes before you estimate they're ready to bake. Place a rack in the middle position.
Brush the brioche with glaze: Whisk together the yolk and water for the glaze. Brush it evenly over the tops of the brioche. Try not to leave any drips in the corners of the pan or under the loaves.
Bake the brioche 30 to 40 minutes: When done, the loaves will look puffed, glossy, and golden-brown on top, and register 190°F internally. If the loaves puff up a lot in the oven, brush a second time with egg wash so the tops are evenly glossy.
Cool the brioche: Cool the brioche for about 5 minutes in their tins, then gently ease them out and transfer them to a wire rack to finish cooling completely.
(Image credits: Quentin Bacon)