Sunday, July 24, 2011

Guest Post: A Smarter Way to Make Brioche

Hey there!  I know by now you probably think I have fallen off the face of the earth, but the reality is that I have disappeared into the black whole known as "My Dissertation."  You think I'm kidding, but it's true.  I finally scheduled my Ph.D. defense for early September, so I am basically working day and night to get everything finished.  Right now, time is not something that I have, and my life has become completely consumed by science.  A sad story, I know.  But instead of cueing the world smallest violin playing the world's saddest song, I decided to bring in some friends to help me pick up the slack so that I can still bring you great recipes and beautiful food.  

Starting today through the middle of September, I will be featuring some guest posts from talented bloggers and wonderful friends.  I am thrilled that the first guest post today is from my good friend Marie, of Meandering Eats, a fellow San Diegian (and scientist!) whom I first met this year when we both attended a photography workshop by Todd and Diane of WORC.  We instantly hit it off, talking non-stop on the drive to and from LA, and we have been happily chatting ever since.  

I am really excited that Marie decided to share a recipe for brioche with you today, partially because I have never made brioche myself so I have something to learn too, but mostly because she brought me a loaf to try.  And it was amazing. Honestly, if it is possible to have bread-envy, I have it right now. Marie's brioche was so much better than any bread I have ever baked.  I told her she could bake four more loaves... and give them all to me. (Who says I have to share?)  But what I really love about this recipe is that Marie shares a smarter way to make brioche, by breaking down the recipe into easy steps that can be completed before and after a normal workday.  So you thought you needed to devote a whole weekend to making bread?  Think again.  And so, without further ado, I will leave you in the very capable hands of expert-bread maker Marie! 

When Amanda asked me to guest post, I jumped at the opportunity, but little did I know I’d face a case of “photographer’s block”. No matter how I photographed this brioche, it didn’t come out quite as I hoped.

Great. It was like being asked to play in the New York Philharmonic and all I could manage was a kazoo.

At the 11th hour, I finally took the images I felt would showcase this lovely brioche recipe and its incredible flexibility. That’s largely thanks to the fact that you can mold the rise times to your schedule. With a busy workweek, I was able to keep the bread rising at home, come home and bake it, then photograph.
Brioche is fantastic at any time, but it’s especially good for breakfast. Pair it with Amanda’s Summer Strawberry Preserves or splurge on a high-end brand of butter. When it begins to stale, use it for French toast. The recipe’s from Baking With Julia, one of my favorite cookbooks by Julia Child and Dorie Greenspan based on the show by the same name. There were many bakers contributing recipes to the book and this one is from Nancy Silverton of the famed La Brea Bakery and Pizzeria Mozza.

The original recipe called for a 30-45 minute rise for the sponge, a 2-hour first rise for the dough, an overnight (at least 4-6 hours) second rise after the dough was deflated from the first rise, and a final two hour rise after the nanterre (the bumpy loaf shape) was formed. And as much as I love baking bread, it can be hard to manage the timing of all of these rises. I found that the dough worked really well if, after the overnight rise, the nanterre was shaped and the loaf pan refrigerated for the day.

My game plan:

Evening: Make dough, first rise, place in the fridge overnight (needs about 3 1/2 hours, with 30 minutes of that active preparation).

Next morning: Divide dough into segments, place in loaf pan, refrigerate, go to work.

Following evening: Come home from work, take dough out, give it a final rise, and bake.

With this plan, the brioche can be made as a side for dinner or saved for breakfast the following morning.


Slightly adapted from Nancy Silverton contributing to Baking With Julia

As Marie outlines above, this recipe can easily be made on a weeknight by preparing the sponge and dough in the evening, kneading and setting the dough to rise in the refrigerator during the day, and baking the dough after work for dinner.  The recipe is divided by components so you can easily follow along with the steps.  

Baking with Julia: Savor the Joys of Baking with America's Best Bakers

1/3 cup whole warm milk
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 large egg
2 cups flour

Note: Before starting this step, take 1 1/2 sticks of unsalted butter and leave it out so it can come to room temperature.

Warm the milk to roughly 100-110 degrees Fahrenheit and it transfer to the bowl of a stand mixer. I find that active dry yeast works best around 95-100 degrees, so I would heat the milk to about 105 degrees, because it will cool once poured into the bowl. Add the yeast, egg, and 1 cup of flour to the bowl and mix with a spatula until combined. Add the other cup of flour, covering the mixture completely.  Allow to sit uncovered for 30-45 minutes, after which there will be cracks all over the flour on top. Place bowl in stand mixer, fit with dough hook, and proceed to completing the dough.

1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 sticks butter (see note above)

Add sugar, eggs, salt, and 1 cup of flour to the sponge, then mix on medium-low speed until combined. Bring the speed up to medium, then add the last 1/2 cup of flour. At this point, set a timer for 15 minutes and knead the dough on medium speed the entire time. If your mixer becomes too hot, stop to let it cool down. As the mixing continues, the dough should become more elastic and start slapping the sides of the bowl. If it doesn’t after 5-7 minutes, the dough is too wet. Add more flour by the tablespoon to bring the dough together. Scrape down the sides of the bowl if needed.  While you wait, take the butter and mash it so it becomes more pliable. The butter should not be oily, but smooth and cool. I like to put the butter on a plate and use an offset spatula to mash it.

After the 15 minutes are up, turn the mixer to medium-low and add butter two tablespoons at a time. The dough will become, for lack of a better term, a wet mess. Do not panic and keep mixing. After all of the butter has been added, turn the mixer to medium-high and mix until the dough starts to come together. Bring it down to medium and keep mixing until the slapping sound is heard again, with the dough back to its original elasticity. Add up to 1 teaspoon of flour if the butter is incorporated and the dough is still too wet.

Butter a large bowl and place the dough in it. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let the dough rise until double in size, roughly 2 to 2 1/2 hours.

I like to use these tubs from Rubbermaid, which have airtight lids. Very useful for dough rises.

Once the dough has doubled in size, deflate it by gently lifting every edge gently and letting it fall. Cover the bowl again, place in the refrigerator and let rise overnight.

After the second rise is complete (the next morning), deflate it again, then turn to a lightly floured board. Give it a couple of kneading turns to smooth out the dough and round it into a disk. Cut the disk in half, then each piece in half three more times to produce sixteen equal pieces.

Butter two loaf pans measuring approximately 10 x 5 x 3 inches and place eight rounds of dough in each one. The dough should be evenly spaced and will not necessarily touch each other. Cover the pans with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator (see alternative to placing in the refrigerator). When close to baking time, take out of the refrigerator, allow to sit at room temperature for 1 hour, then bake.

Alternative: If not placing in the refrigerator, cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise for two hours, then bake.

1 large egg beaten with one tablespoon cold water
Prepared loaf pans with dough

Preheat oven 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Brush the tops of the loaves (the rounds of dough should be touching, but it is ok if there are still small gaps) with the egg wash and be then place in the oven. Set a timer for 25 minutes. After 12 minutes, open the oven and give the tops another coat of egg wash. Bake for the remainder of time. Open the oven, pull a loaf out and being very careful, tap the top of the loaf with your hand. If it sounds hollow (like tapping an empty box), the loaf is done. I found these loaves do best when slightly under-baked, which leaves them perfectly moist.

If not serving immediately, cool the loaves completely and wrap in plastic wrap.


  1. Thanks for making me discover an interesting blog. That brioche is splendid! What an awesome treat.



  2. mmm, brioche is one of my favorites, and this sounds (and looks!) amazing. one day (days...) I will have to tackle this.

    sending you good thoughts and calm right now!

  3. Your photo makes me want to reach and and grab a piece of your brioche, smother it with butter and jam and then savor it. I'll probably wait until it is a little cooler to try this.

  4. Thanks to BOTH of you for a fabulous post! I love brioche, and your hints are so appreciated, Marie.

    Amanda, good luck with your preparations!!!!

  5. That method does seem more manageable. Clever. The brioche is so beautiful. The photos, too.

  6. Good luck with the dissertation! So exciting!

    And the guests posts are a great idea - and what a way to start it off!

    This brioche looks amazing =)

  7. This method looks so do-able...except for my lack of a stand mixer! I think I would need one to get through that 15 minute knead time... or has anyone tried another hand knead method?

  8. A terrific recipe for making brioche, an excellent guest post. Good luck with your dissertation.

  9. Good luck! I know you need all the time you can get: it is going to be my world in a year or so....

    And a great post!! quite suited to busy schedules!

  10. Two local bloggers teaming up...I love it!

    Need to catch up with you BOTH!! soon!

  11. Hey everyone! Thanks for your kind words! It's my first guest post for anyone and I couldn't have imagined a better blogger or friend to do it for.

    Jennifer- The recipe is developed for a stand mixer, but I would imagine that hand-kneading would just require more time and elbow grease (talk about a fabulous arm workout!). What you're looking for is the dough to be elastic and smooth. Slightly sticky is ok, but you should be able to handle it (sans flour) without it getting all over your hands. I suggest doing the initial knead on your board, then transfering it to the largest bowl you have or big shallow baking sheet for incorporating the butter as the dough becomes very wet as the butter is incorporated. Incorporate a couple of tablespoons fully before moving on to the next couple of tablespoons. Hope this helps and let us know how it goes!

  12. Wishing you the best.

    I just want to grab that brioche from my monitor. It looks fantastic.

  13. So sad, I just ate the last slice of my brioche. *tear*

    Marie, time to bring over another loaf! I am ready and eagerly waiting. :D

  14. Mmm, I love brioche! My favorite way to use the dough is to fill the balls of dough with jam before baking. Like a jelly doughnut, but classier.

    The recipe I usually use is an overnight one, but I'm tempted to make both... to compare. Yes. Science. Great post ladies!

  15. I love brioche!! This is a sensible and smart way to make it, thanks!

  16. Marie I love your photos, and the method does look very doable. it's helpful that you've broken it out, waiting for and timing the rises quite frankly can stop me in my tracks.

    Amanda good luck with everything - you'll be great!

  17. I actually wrote down the whole recipe and realized how much time it must have taken Marie to make these rolls. Its a lot of work but I can see why they look gorgeous!

    sensational really!

  18. This looks like a lovely recipe !! Marking it down for a long weekend/ break to try.
    Good luck on the defense. I know how nerve wracking it can be.sleepless nights and nightmares. I'll say one thing, FEED your committee. I'll send a prayer to the dissertation defense gods for you that may your committee be too full to ask to many crazy questions.

  19. I've often thought about making Brioche but have just never taken the time to do so. But this lovely post, where it's broken down into manageable chunks, has made me change my mind. I'm not sure why I let some recipes overwhelm me to the point of not even wanting to try them. =P If I had my brain firing correctly I'd automagically break every recipe down this way, right? Something I obv need to work on ~

    Anyway, I've got the sponge percolating in the kitchen as I type this! Wish me luck. =)~

  20. Oh my, I just want to sink my teeth into that loaf!!

  21. First, let me state for the record that I think the photos are beautiful!!
    Secondly, I am beyond impressed with this bread!! Sometimes when I read the instructions for breads I think "eh, too much work" and move on. Thanks for breaking this one done into a process that impatient people like me can do!!

  22. Wonderful method for tackling this bread. It turned out beautifully.

  23. Wonderful guest post my fellow San Diego gals! Lovey bread.

  24. This recipe is beyond awesome! Brioche is daunting to me for some reason, but this makes it seem simple!

  25. Good luck dissertating! I can't wait to hear about your successful defense! (I've been there... the light is at the end of the tunnel! You can do it!!!) And Marie, this brioche is picture perfect!!!

  26. I have made brioches many times not realizing it was that complicated; next brioche, I will try your method and see; eager to do so!

  27. I just had to come back and say how absolutely perfect this turned out for me. (I left it in the fridge for about five hours instead of overnight.)

    It's a feast for the eyes as well as a treat for our taste buds. It's perfectly light and fluffy, with tons of layers when torn apart. I've had two slices already and am trying to find a way to justify a third ...

    I can not wait to make french toast with it in the morning!!

  28. Thanks everyone for the well-wishes and I am glad you are loving Marie's brioche post!

    Nichole: I am SO glad you loved this brioche recipe, and light and fluffy is definitely the perfect way to describe it. I can imagine it will make fantastic french toast! Now, can you make another loaf for me? ;)

  29. What a delicious brioche. I love them to death but have never tired making it for myself. I'll be changing that soon. Thanks Marie!

    And good luck with your dissertation and all your fancy science stuff miss cilantropist!

  30. Amanda, best of luck with your preparations for the Ph.D.
    Marie, what a wonderful brioche. I love making bread and your tips are so helpful. I'll definitely going to give this recipe a try. Thanks so much for sharing.

  31. Thanks again, all... I'm glad to see so many kind words for the recipe and the photos (they turned out... whew!). It's especially great to see that the recipe's working out well for those who have tried it! I wanted to add that this recipe also works very well with bread flour, so if you have extra bread flour you want to use up, this is ideal for it.

  32. This is brilliant! Marie - can you bring over a loaf to tide me over for a few days until I get my own loaf baked? :)

  33. Gorgeous, gorgeous, goregous! Nothing beats homemade brioche.

  34. What a great way to make brioche, love it!
    Great guest post and will stop over to check out Marie's site :)
    Best of luck with your dissertation...

  35. Wonderful post and recipe!! I've recently gotten into bread-making and I'll give this a shot next time =)

  36. Lovely recipe, and good luck with your dissertation!

  37. I am so happy to have this recipe. Love the break down of steps and the timeframe for rises. That is the worst part of bread. I always feel like I need to make it on the weekends when I am home all day.

  38. Marie, is this the brioche we got to sample? So yummy! And I love the photos as well regardless of what you say :) This is a great book -- I've enjoyed so many wonderful recipes from it over the years. Nice work!

  39. Oops! Forgot to say congrats on your almost achievement, Amanda. Must be exciting to see the light at the end of the tunnel :)

  40. Kelly- Yes, it was, but a later iteration. The one you tasted was my first try and it got a lot better after that. The book is AWESOME. Gotta love Julia, Dorie, and co.!

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