Recipe 2 of 61: Brioche
Taste: 5/5 the first time I made it, 3/5 the second time. I’ll explain.
How long it took me: 2 days
Brioche. The butteriest of breads, so light and airy and sweet. This post is a doozy…it is long…this first chapter is no joke! After I get through learning these basics in chapter 1, I don’t think the posts will be as long 🙂 Props to you if you read through the whole thing! I’m definitely learning a lot!
Brioche is a two-day process. I’ve actually made brioche before in a couple of hours, but it didn’t even begin to compare with texture or flavor, and it was really dense. Some things you just have to be patient for. I feel like bread forces you to slow down, returning to the simple pleasures in life. I love making bread. Kneading dough is incredibly relaxing to me, and I feel like an accomplished “house wife” when it’s pulled out of the oven and perfect.
In France, you’ll normally see brioche made as brioche à tête (sounds like tet), which translates to brioche head, or top knot as I like to call them. This is not in his book, but I wanted to try and make them. Tim and I pulled the brioche à tête apart to eat them, lathered with jam straight from the oven. I could definitely eat those all day…and have…they’re just the perfect size carb and so so good. Ours were gone within a day, and it made eight rolls.
Brioche Nanterre (in the photo above), or large brioche, which is named after a city near Paris, is the type of brioche that Jacquy explains how to make. This we sliced for toast with jam. I didn’t even think about this, but french toast would be ridiculous with homemade brioche slices!!!
The first time I made brioche with his recipe was a couple years ago, and it turned out perfectly. This time, it did not. Like everyone else in the United States, I’ve had a hard time finding the ingredients that I needed because people are stocking up on everything due to the Corona Virus. At the time of this recipe, I was unable to find bread flour, which is extremely important in the texture and flavor of this bread, and had to use 100% AP flour. The final product resulted in a drier and airier dough with no flavor. Brioche should be rich with flavor and extremely light, but moist. It didn’t even taste slightly sweet like it should! I think that’s because I baked it a few minutes too long though. That didn’t help at ALL…
Brioche starts out on Day 1 by making poolish (pronounced poo-leesh). That includes water, yeast, and a small amount of flour. This helps activate the yeast a lot quicker than if you added all the ingredients at once.
This sits for about 15 minutes, until you can see cracks on the surface of the flour-that signals that the yeast is fermenting.
Brioche has a high egg and butter content which gives it that rich and tender crumb. There’s four eggs just for one loaf and some rolls! To the yeast mixture is added sugar, flour, eggs, and sea salt. Then….we mix!
The mixing steps are crucial with brioche because if it’s not elastic enough, once you start adding the butter, the dough will just fall apart. The first photo is after 30 seconds of mixing, the second is five minutes. The third is 10, and the fourth is 15 minutes.
HUGE difference after 15 minutes! Smooth, elastic dough, completely wrapped around the hook. You think it’s smooth now, just wait until we add the butter and it’s been incorporated fully!!
At this point, it is time to do the windowpane test. You should be able to stretch out a small piece of the dough to where you can almost see through it. If you can’t, mix it for another 3 minutes.
Mine doesn’t look at all like Jacquy’s did in his book. The left photo wasn’t quite there, so I mixed for another three minutes like he suggests…mine still turned out pretty veiny and not super smooth…but this was after mixing it for the extra three minutes, soooooo I left it alone and kept going. Would this make a difference with the end result? Not sure. I knew when I had tried brioche for the first time a couple years ago that it also didn’t look like his; however, the end result was perfect. So I trudged on to add in the butter!
You definitely want high-quality butter. Jacquy recommends French-style with 82% fat, like Plugra. I used Plugra for quite a while and absolutely loved it, but then our local grocery store stopped selling it (downside of living in a small town…)! I have since just looked for butter that has 82% fat.
Butter butter butter. EVERYTHING tastes better with butter. You can quote me on that. Tid bit of info for ya: Tim hates the smell of butter…who did I marry? Thankfully, he loves everything else about it. I don’t know of anyone who puts more butter on their toast in the morning than him lol.
The top left photo is when the first half of the butter was added…it wasn’t even sticking to the dough! The top right is two minutes after, the lower left is four minutes after that, and the lower right is when the last half of the butter was added.
It takes a little over 10 minutes to fully incorporate the butter. I didn’t think it’d actually mix in, but thankfully Jacquy said to be patient lol 🙂
See how SMOOTH it is?! I’m kind of obsessed with smooth dough, and it was SO SOFT! This may sound really weird, but it actually reminded me of my grandma lol- she had really soft saggy underarm skin, and it really reminds me of that! My sister agreed with me, so I don’t think this is strange…
After the butter is finally mixed in, you place the dough in a bowl and cover it for about 1 1/2 hours, punch it down, let it raise again for 2 hours, punch it down again, and then let the dough rest in your fridge overnight. Phew. Day 1 is done!
I had to keep this picture in here…this is from 2017, and my nephew, Micah, helped punch down the dough ♥
Day 2! Anyone who’s made it this far has way too much time on their hands 🙂 Just kidding, but really, this is a long post! Day 2 is all about forming the dough and baking it. I found out that I’m terrible at cutting dough. You’re supposed to cut 55-gram pieces of dough. You can tell from the below photo that I only got it spot on a couple of times lol!
Making the dough into top knots if you’re making brioche à tête is relatively easy, honestly I just looked it up on YouTube. For brioche Nanterre, Jacquy has a huge section in his recipe where he explains how to accurately roll them out. Mine aren’t perfect, but they’re a heck of a lot better than if I did them without his help! You start out with a flat hand over the dough, then roll clockwise, slowly starting to cup your hand over the dough. It takes about 10 seconds total, and you end up with dough that doesn’t have a lot of creases in it. Perfectly round balls.
After you’ve shaped the brioche, you’re supposed to lightly brush the surface with egg wash and let the dough rise, doubling in size.
One more egg wash and some sprinkling of coarse crystal sugar before baking 🙂
The above three photos of the brioche Nanterre are from the first time I ever made brioche, but I wanted to include them-as you can see, the dough did rise; however, I think these should be about 1/4 size higher. He says to let it rise until double the size, I’d say slightly larger. I tested this out in 2020, which you can see below:
Much taller! Brioche loaves I’ve realized since the first time I made it are actually a slightly darker bread! The first loaf with the coarse sugar wasn’t actually 100% baked on the inside, whereas the second loaf, while it looks dark, was perfect! I couldn’t find any coarse sugar, so I just left that off, and I actually prefer it that way, even if it doesn’t look as pretty.
Now for the brioche à tête! Normally you use a brioche tin to make brioche à tête which makes a pretty design from the tin on the bottom of the brioche; however, I didn’t have any, so I just made them on a cookie sheet.
When I made these, we had them with jam only, straight out of the oven because I literally could not WAIT to eat them, they made our home smell so divine. The flavor of these rolls compared to the loaf didn’t even compare, these were SO GOOD!!! Strange how using the same dough can create such different results! Other ideas of how to eat them would be to pull away the top knot part and fill them with a sweet or savory filling. You could even wrap the dough around something, like sausage! Or hot dogs? Yum.
Ok, so seeing as this is a learning blog, I’ll be honest…I tried the hot dogs…and proceeded to use WAY too much dough on each hotdog, PLUS I burnt the batch. I’ve never thrown bread out before..this I threw out. They were awful hahaha! I’m sure they’d taste good not burnt, but I don’t know if I’ll ever try it again. Also, those brioche à tête tasted terrible. No flavor, dense, disgusting, and obviously also burnt. #epicfail
So, what did I learn from this recipe? Three things: using a mix of bread and all purpose flour is important to the texture and flavor of brioche, rising time is extremely important when it comes to baking bread, and making two-day recipes of bread is NOT HARD! Yes, it’s time consuming as you can tell by the long post, but man, once it’s in your oven, making your home smell like a bakery, it is so worth it. I can’t explain the feeling of when you pull a hot, golden loaf of bread out of the oven. It’s unmatched.
Oh, and in case you didn’t already get this from everything I’ve said…butter seriously makes everything better ♥