Brioche is a strange bread. It is somewhere between a cake, pastry and bread. In France it is often eaten for breakfast with just butter and/or jam, but it is also very good lightly toasted with butter as afternoon tea, as a basis for desserts, savoury dishes such as Cervelas Lyonnais en Brioche or coulibiac, or as a decadent version of French Toast. Like a lot of food in the Mediterranean there are similar breads throughout the region from the panbrioche from Italy, tsoureki from Greece and a few others in the Balkans.
Brioche is part of the group of bakery called Viennoiserie, which includes croissants, Danish pastries and beignets and are made from sweet, yeasted dough. Unlike normal breads, these bakery products usually have a very light flaky texture and usually are ‘laminated’. Though brioche isn’t ‘laminated’ like a croissant, the crumb is very light, and the crust is very flaky.
This is quite a wet dough, so it may be easier to mix it in a food mixer, but I did it by hand. Before cooking, the dough should be smooth and shiny, not unlike choux pastry if you’ve ever made it.
Basic Brioche Recipe
Once you’ve mastered the basic brioche recipe you could add things such as chocolate chips, lemon or orange zest to give a twist. If you are lucky enough to have proper fluted, flared brioche pan, then when placing the dough into the pan, keep a little dough to make into a ball to place on top, for the most recognised brioche shape, the Brioche a tete or parisienne.
- 3 cups (400g) of strong white bread flour
- 2 tsp of dried active yeast
- 0.25 cup (50g) of sugar
- 4 medium eggs, beaten
- 2 tsp of salt
- 0.5 cup (100g) of softened butter
- 0.5 cup (100ml) warm milk
- Glaze – Made from 1 egg beaten and a splash of milk
- First mix all the ingredients together (except the glaze) in a large bowl, bringing everything together. Kneed the dough for about 10mins. Form the dough into a ball, place it into a bowl, cover it with plastic wrap and leave it to rise for at least a couple of hours until it has doubled in size. You can place the dough in the refrigerator overnight to rise to develop more flavour.
- Shape the dough into the shape you desire and place it into the cooking tin. Cover the dough and allow it to rise for a few hours until it has doubled in size again. I split the dough into two long pieces and braided them together and then placed them into a loaf tin.
- Brush the glaze over the bread and cook it in a 400F (200C) oven for 10 mins, then reduce the heat to 355F (180C) for 20 mins until the brioche is golden brown.
- Allow the bread to cool and then enjoy slices of it with butter or jam.
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