Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Brioche: the end of the dough journey

I've baked my way through bread rolls, speciality breads and enriched doughs and I finally reach the end of the dough section in my course. Today I give you Brioche. Actually about three batches of brioche as the first two went ever so slightly wrong due to a basic lack of attention to detail on my part.

Brioche is a beautifully sweet, enriched dough and when made in the traditional manner can take hours to make as it proves in the fridge in order to retard the rising process and enrich the flavour. As with other enriched doughs it is made with egg and butter and it is the latter that can make it difficult to form. The high fat content resists smoothing and has a tendency to form folds when you shape into rolls or cottage loaves etc.

I found a very easy, quick recipe in Leith's Cookery Bible but I've made a small alteration to the method as I found too much liquid for the quantity of flour. For the first attempt I distracted myself by eating dinner and managed to burn the top. Schoolgirl error. The bread itself was perfect, with a lovely spring back when I compressed the dough between thumb and forefinger. It had a rich, 'not-too-sweet' taste that would be delicious with butter and jam. I used a 6-inch cake tin (like a Christmas cake tin), resulting in a round of brioche. Luckily I caught it just before the burnt taste had permeated into the bread but it certainly wouldn't win any points for presentation. The remains of attempt #1 now reside in the deep freeze and await transformation into something else.

Attempt #1

My second effort used the same ingredients and method but this time I used a loaf tin and set the oven temperature slightly lower. I also watched it like a hawk. The results were better, with the same delightful texture and spring back. Taste-wise it was much the same as the first effort, but this is to be expected from the same recipe. But the temperature must still have been too high as the sides cracked and expanded. On the whole a perfectly acceptable loaf with a cakey texture, but still a far cry from being aesthetically pleasing. It's keeping attempt #1 company in the freezer.

Attempt #2

With my third and final effort I had more success. With one slight hiccup. Again, the same recipe produced an identical texture and taste but this time I used some small tins and made miniature loaves with half the dough. With the other half I made cute little cottage loaves. The mini loaves satisfied my high standards but the cottage loaf shapes suffered from what can only be described as a lack of sufficient anchoring. The taste results were divine. Like a sweeter, spongier scone. And they are cute. The power of cute should never be underestimated.

Attempt #3
Research tells me that in future I need to push a pencil through
the cottage loaf from the top, to prevent slipping.

Brioche - makes 1 large or 12 small brioches
  • 7g fresh yeast
  • 5 tsp caster sugar
  • 2 tbsp lukewarm water
  • 225g plain white flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 55g melted butter
For the glaze
  • 1 egg, beaten with 1 tbsp water and 1 tsp caster sugar
  1. Preheat the oven to 180C.
  2. Butter and flour the mould or tray you plan to use.
  3. Cream the yeast with the water and 1 tsp of the sugar until it has fully dissolved, then sift the flour, the salt and the remainder of the sugar into a large bowl.
  4. Melt the butter and leave to cool to hand temperature. 
  5. Make a well in the centre of the flour and add the yeast, combining with one hand, then the beaten egg and then add the butter incrementally until you form a soft dough. Add a little more butter as the dough can be quite wet, but not so much that it loses form.
  6. Turn onto an unfloured surface and knead for 10 mins until you have a smooth, elastic dough. If the dough sticks to your hands coat them in some of the remaining melted butter and work the dough with buttered hands. This prevents sticking and works more butter into the dough at the same time. Then place the dough in a clean, lightly oiled bowl and cover in clingfilm to prove in a warm place for 1 hour.
  7. Remove the dough from the bowl and knock it back by gently kneading for 2 minutes before you form the shapes required. If making rolls divide the dough into 12 pieces or alternately place the dough in your pre-prepared loaf tin or brioche mould. Cover and leave to rise again in a warm place for 30 mins.
  8. Brush the brioche lightly with the sweetened glaze and bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 mins for large loaves or 10-15 mins for rolls. Check 5 mins before the stated cooking time to check they aren't browning too quickly, if they are reduce the oven heat and cook for remaining time.
I'm currently looking for ideas of what to do with attempts #1 & 2. So far I have bread and brioche pudding. Any recipe suggestions would be appreciated!


  1. Hiya Swiddart. I used a floured wooden skewer to anchor the top knob to the bottom of the cottage loaves and did them in mini tart tins. They came out wonderfully. I also made the dough without the butter and then while kneading it added small knobs of softened butter and kneaded it in before adding the next. This seemed to have stopped the pockets and kept the dough smooth. Well done you - it's hard to work with but what rewards!! Ooh and brioche bread and butter pudding is wonderful so try that . Tammy xxxx

  2. Excellent tip on the skewers! Look at them...they look all tipsy.

    I thought I could add some little chocolate drops in with the brioche and butter so they all melt and go gooey.

  3. One of the cottage loaves looks just like a little duck. Aw.