Not too long ago, brioche was a fairly unknown bread stuff to the general public. We take it for granted that these days you can get brioche anywhere from grocery stores to fast food chains. What I love about brioche is how versatile it is, and it doesn’t hurt that at the end of the day it’s pretty easy to make too.
Brioche falls in to the family of vienoisserie; yeast-raised breads and baked goods that have the addition of ingredients like eggs, milk, butter and sugar to separate them from standard artisan breads. The addition of fat and sugar gives them a richer flavor and denser texture. These baked items are also known as breakfast breads because of the tendency to eat them during…yup, breakfast. Many who are new to brioche are still familiar with the item by way of Challah bread, which is very similar.Like I said before, Brioche has many uses which is part of why I like it so much (other than the fact that it’s damn good). You can use it for hot dog or hamburger buns, bread slices for grilled cheese, dinner rolls (similar to Parker house rolls), bread pudding, french toast and, with added sugar or elements like chocolate or fruit, even as part of a pastry or dessert.
If you’re a pro reading this post, chances are you have a standard, consistent means of proofing your dough. For everyone else (including pros baking off the clock) one of the most difficult tasks for anyone baking yeast-risen product at home is proofing. My preferred method is to gently heat my oven by turning it on to its lowest temperature setting for just a few minutes and then turning the oven off. Additionally, I place a roasting or baking pan in the lowest rack of the oven and add several cups of steaming water to the pan just after adding product to proof (on the rack above the pan). If you have a digital thermometer with a heat resistant cord you can keep tabs on the internal temp. of the oven while you heat it and during proofing. A hygrometer is a dead cheap and easy way to track the humidity level in your oven while you proof. Technically, different products call for different temperatures and humidity levels to achieve the best result. That being said, for most of your home proofing needs aim for a proof chamber that sits at 80F and about 80-85% humidity.
100g whole milk
15g dry yeast
10g sugar A
70g sugar B
120g bread flour A
680g bread flour B
440g whole eggs
Cut the butter into 1/2″ cubes and reserve in the cooler.
Combine the whole milk, dry yeast and sugar (A).
Gently cover the mixture with an even layer of the bread flour (A) and let stand, undisturbed for 30min. As the yeast eats the sugar from the milk and expels carbon dioxide, the gas bubbles will rise and create cracks in the surface of the bread flour. When you see those cracks forming, you’ll know the yeast is live and active.
Add the bread flour (B), salt, sugar (B) and whole eggs.
Mix the dough in a stand mixer with a dough hook attachment for about 5min. or until the dough begins to form and starts to bind toward the hook.
Add the cold butter to the dough and increase the mixing speed to medium. Continue to mix until the butter is fully incorporated. This can take a little while so stay patient, the dough will eventually bind.
Once the dough is smooth and shiny and has good gluten structure you can cover it with plastic wrap to touch and proof the dough for 1 hour or until doubled in volume.
Press out the developed gasses and place the dough in the cooler, covered for 2 hours. Press out the developed gasses once more and keep the dough in the cooler overnight (approx. 8 to 12 hours).
Shape the dough as desired and egg wash. To make balls of dough for a small or large roll or to create a loaf, cut a piece of dough, measuring it, and roll it tightly on the surface of the table, letting the base of the dough stick slightly to the table to help tighten and stretch the dough into a ball. For buns the ball is all done! For a loaf, you can place the balls side by side in a loaf pan.
For a smooth loaf I roll the brioche dough like a batard. If you aren’t familiar with that term, not to worry, we’ll attack that in a future post. For now go ahead and practice rolling buns!
Gently egg wash the dough. For egg wash, I usually mix approximately 1T of whole milk (15g) and a pinch of salt (1g) per whole egg.
Proof the dough until doubled in volume, approx. 1 to 1.5hrs. Give the brioche a second brush of egg wash before baking.
Bake the brioche at 360F/182C. The baking time will vary depending on the size and shape of your brioche, but the internal temp. of the product should reach 190F/87C when finished.