Brioche

by Sara on March 3, 2009

Brioche Loaves

My fascination with this bread was very sudden, and it seemed to come out of nowhere. I’m not really concerned with the origin of my fascination; I’m happy that it hit me over the head that fateful day, because it is now one of my favorite breads. It’s great on its own with a little jam and a steaming mug of coffee, or as a weekend breakfast of French toast, or even as croutons or bread pudding to use up stale bread. Of course, due to the richness of the bread, it’s not one I make often, but it is such a treat to have now and then.

When I first made brioche, I didn’t have a stand mixer. I tried making the dough with my hand-held mixer. As I started adding that third cup of flour, the motor began to smoke, and the mixer managed to inhale bread dough before it sputtered and died.

So I switched to my hands.

I’ve always thought making bread by hand to be a rewarding experience, as well as a nice little escape from reality. Angry with your husband? Knead some dough. Irritated with your kids? Slap the dough against the board a few times. Stressed out at work? Make several loaves of bread – you’ll relieve some stress and tire yourself out so you sleep well that night.

Brioche Brioche
Brioche Brioche

Of course, making brioche by hand is a little more difficult than other breads, because you have to knead in all of that butter. It’s messy, and even your fingernails will hurt the following day. However, you will become very tuned in to how bread dough behaves during the various stages of mixing and kneading. You may not need to pay much attention to the instructions with a recipe after that point, because you’ll know what to do based on how the dough is behaving. It’s a nice feeling, and it takes a lot of the worry out of bread making.

For this particular recipe, I’m giving instructions for making the bread both with a stand mixer, and by hand.

Brioche

Brioche

1/3 c warm water (about 110 F)
1 package yeast
2 T sugar
6 large eggs (room temperature)
1 tsp orange extract
4 c bread flour, divided*
2 tsp salt
2 sticks unsalted butter (room temp)
1 large egg + 1 T water for egg wash

Stand Mixer Instructions
In a large mixer bowl, combine water, yeast, and sugar, mix with fingers and let sit for 10 min. If the mixture doesn’t foam up, toss it and start over b/c the yeast was bad.

Add six eggs and orange extract, mix with paddle attachment until well blended. Add two cups flour, mix on low for about five minutes.

Add remaining 2 cups of flour and salt, mix for about another 5 minutes on low. With mixer on low, add softened butter 1 T at a time. Switch to dough hook and mix on low until dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl (about 3 minutes total). Refrigerate dough overnight in large buttered bowl covered in plastic wrap.

The next day, bring dough to room temperature (about 1-2 hours). On a floured board, divide dough in half.

Take the first half and roll out slightly into a rectangle (should be about as wide as your loaf pan is long). Roll the dough into a log and press the seam together to seal, tuck under the ends if needed to fit into loaf pan. Place in pan, seam side down, cover with a damp kitchen towel and let rise for 2 hours or until doubled in size.

For remaining dough, you can either make another loaf or divide the dough into 12 equal pieces for mini brioche rolls. For each roll, stretch the dough slightly and tuck ends under in center, forming a ball. Place seam side down in muffin pan. Cover with damp kitchen towel and let rise for 2 hours or until doubled in size.

Brush each with egg wash. Bake 350 – loaf for about 35-40 minutes, mini brioche for about 18-20 minutes.

Non-Stand Mixer Instructions
In a large bowl, combine water, yeast, and sugar, mix with fingers and let sit for 10 min. If the mixture doesn’t foam up, toss it and start over b/c the yeast was bad.

Add six eggs and orange extract, mix with a hand mixer or wooden spoon until well blended. Add two cups flour, mix on low for about five minutes. (Note: do not use a hand-held mixer beyond this step, unless you want an excuse to get a new mixer.)

Switch to a workboard. Add remaining 2 cups of flour and salt and work the dough by hand until it starts coming off the surface of your workboard. It will be really sticky still. Stretch the dough out and add 1 T of butter at a time, folding the dough over and working to incorporate. Repeat until all butter is added, and dough pulls away from workboard and looks kind of shiny. (This takes awhile – about 25 minutes) Refrigerate dough overnight in large buttered bowl covered in plastic wrap.

The next day, bring dough to room temperature (about 1-2 hours). On a floured board, divide dough in half.

Take the first half and roll out slightly into a rectangle (should be about as wide as your loaf pan is long). Roll the dough into a log and press the seam together to seal, tuck under the ends if needed to fit into loaf pan. Place in pan, seam side down, cover with kitchen towel (I’ve also used a damp paper towel) and let rise for 2 hours.

For remaining dough, you can either make another loaf or divide the dough into 12 equal pieces for mini brioche rolls. For each roll, stretch the dough slightly and tuck ends under in center, forming a ball. Place seam side down in muffin pan. Cover with kitchen towel and let rise for 2 hours.

Brush each with egg wash. Bake 350 – loaf for about 35-40 minutes, mini brioche for about 18-20 minutes.

*Though you can use all-purpose flour, I’ve found the results to be much, much better using bread flour. If you’re going to take the time to make a special bread like brioche, make sure you have bread flour on hand.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Sarah January 29, 2010 at 11:31 am

Work stress is where I am at! I think I’ll try making a brioche this weekend! Thanks for the great idea.

Sara January 29, 2010 at 2:54 pm

Sarah, I hope you enjoy it!

gigi October 24, 2013 at 7:08 am

I’ve been wanting to make brioche, but every recipe I’ve seen only had instructions for using a stand mixer. I figured there must be a way to make this by hand and your posting has given me the info I needed. Thanks so much for sharing your insights.

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