Brioche for some reason has always intimidated me. I’ve baked bread and rolls before, but something about it has often made me push it back on my very informal Must Bake list. Perhaps it’s the waiting game: the first rise, deflating the poofy dough, then the gentle kneading followed by the second rise, more thumb-twiddling before it finally goes into the oven. And when they’re done, showing off its golden glory, I wonder why I don’t make bread more often.
What threw me off about this brioche was its scent of milky sweetness. It was unlike anything else I’ve made at home. Of all things, it reminded me of a Chinese bakery; even when I toasted them for breakfast the rest of the week, its distinct waft made me weak in the knees.
I was ecstatic when these were done. They sat on a wire rack to cool while my mom nudged me to eat one despite my best intentions to avoid burning my tongue. A few more nudges later, I gave in and we split one, eating it plain with our bare hands, the second one disappeared quickly too. I totally get it now, I get why brioche is really that good. The springy, tender grain is so soft I could use it as a pillow. The browned top is just crispy enough to get that striking contrast to the feather light buns. They even taste good the next day, lightly toasted with a smear of blackberry jam. Oh Bubble-top Brioche, you amaze me.
I had a serious debate in my head of which brioche recipe to use. The contenders were: Nick Malgieri’s recipe from his cookbook Bake! or Dorie Greenspan’s recipe from Bon Appetit. I’ve read each recipe a thousand times just to make sure I wouldn’t screw up. Finally I went with Nick’s method since it seemed the easiest and followed Dorie’s instructions for forming the brioche, hence, their cute names. Making bread isn’t difficult, though it takes a ton of patience and some technical know-how to get it right, the recipe I’ve included is epic long, but believe me when I say it is worth every bit.
Make sure your yeast hasn’t expired. I made the fatal mistake once by using active dry yeast that was already long gone two years ago, no wonder the dough didn’t rise. Also, I used all-purpose flour instead of bread flour and didn’t have any trouble with the dough. I’m definitely not a brioche expert, far from it, but I do have some brioche words of wisdom to share, most of them from Bake!:
- It is tremendously helpful to have an electric stand mixer to do most of the heavy mixing.
- Measure all fluids with a thermometer or the yeast won’t survive and the dough won’t rise (allow fluids to reach a maximum of 110°F).
- Don’t let the sponge rise more than twice its size or it will lose some of its leavening power and give the dough a sour flavour. Ensure the butter is soft enough or your dough will be lumpy.
- Be careful that the dough doesn’t over-rise after mixing or shaping or it may not keep its even shape when baking.
- After rising, the brioche dough is fairly sticky. For best results, flour your hands instead of the work surface or the dough.
- If you’re shaping the dough, chill it thoroughly for several hours or will be difficult to roll and shape.
2 ½ teaspoon (1 envelope) active dry yeast
¼ cup warm water, about 100°F
¾ cup bread flour (spoon into a dry measure cup and level off)
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 large egg yolks, at room temperature
3 tablespoons sugar
All the sponge, above
2 cups bread flour
1 tsp. salt
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
Preparing the dough
For the sponge, warm the milk in a small pan over low heat; pour it into a small bowl and allow it to cool to 100°F .
Whisk the yeast into the warm water in a medium bowl. Wait 2 minutes, then whisk again to make sure all the yeast has dissolved. Whisk in the cooled milk. Use a rubber spatula to stir the flour into the liquid. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the sponge ferment until more than doubled, about 30 minutes.
Once the sponge has risen, use a rubber spatula to break up the eggs and yolks in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook. Stir in the sugar. Scrape the risen sponge into the bowl and mix it into the eggs. Add the flour and salt to the bowl and stir in. Mix on medium speed until the dough comes away from the sides of the bowl, 3-4 minutes.
Add a third of the butter and continue mixing until the butter is completely absorbed. Repeat with the remaining two thirds of the butter, mixing to incorporate after each addition.
Continue to mix until the dough is very smooth, elastic, and shiny, 4 to 5 additional minutes.
Scrape the dough into a buttered bowl and turn it over so that the top is buttered. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in size, about 30 minutes.
Cover with buttered plastic wrap and chill overnight.
Shaping the rolls:
Shaping the rolls:
Scrape the risen dough from the bowl to a floured work surface. Flour your hands and gently round the dough without deflating it too much by pushing inward at the bottom with your flat upturned palms all around the piece of dough; the outside skin of the dough will tighten and become more spherical.
Remove dough from fridge and allow to soften at room temperature until it is no longer ice-cold. Butter 12 standard muffin cups. Flour your hands and divide dough into 12 equal pieces; cut each piece into thirds. Roll each small piece between palms into ball. Place 3 balls in each prepared cup (dough will fill cup).
Place muffin pan in warm draft-free area; cover with a sheet of buttered plastic wrap. Let dough rise until almost doubled (dough will rise 1/2 inch to 1 inch above top rim of muffin cups), 50 to 60 minutes.
Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 400°F. Place muffin pan on rimmed baking sheet. Gently brush egg glaze over risen dough, being careful that glaze does not drip between dough and pan (which can prevent full expansion in oven).
Bake brioches until golden brown, covering with foil if browning too quickly, about 20 minutes. Transfer pan to rack. Cool 10 minutes. Remove brioches from pan. Serve warm or at room temperature.