Monday, 18 February 2013

Qu'ils mangent de la brioche!

I decided I wanted to try to make the french classic brioche. This is a kind of bread enriched with that french staple, butter. It seemed obvious to look for a Julia Child recipe and found the following, although I am not sure if it is authentic Julia since it was quoted on a variety of websites but was also in a YouTube video featuring Julia but where it was demonstrated by Nancy Silverton. Anyway, it worked a treat as you will see!

The recipe was in two halves, first a sponge base and then the dough for the brioche. For the sponge base:

1/3 cup of warm milk (100-110 degrees)
2 1/4 teaspoons of active dry yeast
1 egg
2 cups flour

Now, being European I have always avoided recipes involving cups, but this time I decided to brave it, noticing that my IKEA measuring jug was marked in cups as well as deciliters. So the method was to put the milk, yeast, egg and one cup of the flour into the bowl of your mixer and then mix using a spatula. You were then directed to cover the mixture with the rest of the flour and leave for 30-40 minutes. When you looked at it, the flour covering was supposed to be cracked showing that the yeast had worked. As you can see, this happened right on cue!

Next came the ingredients for the dough.

1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups flour
6 oz butter at room temperature

So back to the method. You put the sugar, salt, eggs and one cup of the flour to the bowl and then mix using the dough hook on low for about 2 minutes until things start to come together. Then you add the rest of the flour and then mix on medium for 15 minutes. This is a bit of hard work for your mixer. You will need to stop occasionally and scrape down the sides of the bowl to make sure that it mixes properly. When it is finished, the dough should stick to the hook and slap the sides of the bowl. This is an excellent description as it's exactly what you will see.

Now you need to add the butter to the dough. To do this, you need to make sure that the butter is the same consistency as the dough. Now the dough is sticky and wet and you can get the butter to this consistency by whacking it with a rolling pin or wrapping in cling film and rolling.

Keeping the mixer on low speed, add the butter a tablespoon at a time. It will look like it's not working and the butter will spread on the sides of the bowl, but keep faith as suddenly it will disappear into the dough. When all the butter has gone, return the mixer to medium for 5 minutes. When done you will be left with a dough that is a little wet and feels cool. So put it in a bowl and cover it with cling film.

You can now have a rest as the dough rises. You need to wait a grand total of 2 to 2 1/2 hours until the dough doubles in size, which as long as the milk was the right temperature at the beginning, it will.

When it has risen, put your fingers under dough to lift it out of the bowl and it will deflate. Don't worry, this is all part of the process. Then cover it with cling film again and then place the bowl in the fridge for 4-6 hours. During this time it will double in size again. I didn't say this was quick!

Now, take the dough out of the fridge and divide it into six equal portions. Roll each portion into a ball and arrange in a loaf tin in two rows, as in the picture.

And guess what? You now have to wait for another two hours for it to double in size.

Next, brush the tops of the balls with egg wash being careful that the sides are not touched. This can stop the dough from rising. Then cut a cross in the top of each ball with a pair of scissors! This is truly the classic technique. I was shocked but then saw this video of Michel Roux doing the same so obeyed.

So this now goes in an oven, preheated to 190 degrees C for 30 to 40 minutes and when you have finished, voilà! You will see that the balls blend into each other and form a very attractive shaped loaf.

Perfect with Nutella or jam for breakfast with coffee, or more traditionally, dipped into a bowl of hot chocolate!
As you can see, brioche takes a long time, but if you plan it correctly, the final stages can be done in the morning, facilitating a wonderful fresh cooked loaf for breakfast!


  1. Yum..when are you gonna invite me around to test?! Looks like a lot of time for a loaf of bread though! :-) I suspect pretty satisfying though!!

    1. You are always welcome Nick, but you always seem to be off travelling somewhere! Drop me a line when you are back and we can sort something!

  2. Wow, looks so yummy! I wish I had the patience to spend time baking ...