Brioche is a soft rich bread that tastes like a buttery croissant. It contains a good amount of eggs and butter which give it a golden colour and amazing flavor. It's the most delicious when fresh however the leftovers make some of the best french toast.
The amount of butter in brioche can range from excessive (equal to the weight of the flour in the recipe) to reasonable (less than half the flour weight). I like recipes that sit at a happy medium with the butter sitting at around half of the weight of the flour. It produces a loaf that is rich and buttery without being heavy or greasy.
As I was prepping my butter for this recipe I decided that although butter is delicious in baking...
The brown butter takes a trip to the freezer to firm up while the sponge is assembled for the brioche.
The sponge for this bread is just instant yeast, flour, and some luke warm milk. When a recipe calls for instant yeast make sure that you are actually using instant and not just active dry yeast! They are two different things and the wrong one can mess up your results.
For those people out there who are afraid of baking with yeast it really helps to start with a loaf of bread that uses a sponge. You get to see the sponge grow in about 15-40 minutes (thus proving the yeast is alive) so that you don't spend the next 4-6 hours poking at your bread dough worrying that the yeast is dead.
Once the sponge has grown so much that it collapses when the bowl is tapped on the table it is time to make the dough.
This is the kind of dough that I would not attempt without a mixer. The large amount of eggs and butter weigh down the bread so it needs to be thoroughly mixed and kneaded to develop a strong gluten structure that will help it rise. Once the sponge,flour, sugar, salt, eggs, and milk are mixed together the brown butter is beaten in a little bit at a time.
At first the dough seems more like a batter but as the mixing continues it starts to come together into a shiny elastic dough. Adding brown butter to the dough made it smell so good that I couldn't help but try a little bit. However, I regretted that decision because raw bread dough is kind of gross regardless of brown butter.
Bread develops the best flavor when you allow the dough to rise very slowly by chilling it. This way the flour has time to release its sugars and the result is more complex instead of just yeasty. So instead of rising on the counter, the brioche gets flattened into a rectangle and stuck in the fridge overnight.
Flavor isn't the only perk of rising your bread in the fridge. Breaking up the work into a dough and a baking day makes bread baking manageable on weekdays. And gives you extra time to do important things.. like making your cat try on your aprons.
Little loaves are formed while the dough is still cold so that the butter doesn't melt and make it difficult to handle.
The length of the time it takes your loaves to proof and fill the pan will depend on the temperature of your house. Its tempting to stick them in an oven with a bowl of hot water to encourage faster rising but unless your house is really cold and unfriendly to rising doughs (or you have a time constraint) then try to stick it out at room temperature. My dough took about 2:45 minutes to rise in the pans.
When they are the done the outside is chestnut brown and the crust is a bit flaky..
The brown butter adds even more golden colour to the loaf and a slightly richer flavor. It doesn't have a strong distinct brown butter flavor that you would find in cakes or cookies but it does add a little something extra to the recipe.
Brown Butter Brioche
(Adapted from Bread Baker's Apprentice)
I've included both the volume and weight measurements for the dough but I really suggest that if at all possible you use the weight measurements to achieve the best results.
1/2 cup (2.25 ounces) Unbleached Bread Flour
2 tsp (.22 ounce) Instant Yeast
1/2 Cup (4 ounces) Luke warm whole milk
5 large (8.25 ounces) eggs, slightly beaten
3 cups (13.75 ounces) Unbleached Bread Flour
2 Tbsp (1 ounce) White Sugar
1 1/4 tsp (.31 ounce) Salt
1 cup (8 ounces) Unsalted butter cut into pieces
1 egg whisked for egg wash
Step one: Brown the Butter
Take the one cup (8 ounces) of butter and melt in a pot over medium high heat. Once the butter has melted reduce the heat to medium and continue to heat while stirring occasionally. Keep an eye on the butter at all times because it can go from golden brown and toasted to burnt really quickly. Once the butter starts turning golden with toasted flecks in it remove the pot from heat. Pour the butter into a bowl and place in your freezer to firm up slightly.
Step Two: Make the Sponge
Stir the sponge flour and yeast together in a large mixing bowl then add the milk and stir until thoroughly combined. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise at room temp for 30 - 45 minutes. The sponge should have risen so much that when you tap the bowl it collapses.
Once the sponge is ready check on the butter in the freezer. If it is a soft solid then it's ready, if not then continue to chill until it is the same consistency of room temperature butter.
Step Three: Make the Dough
Add the eggs one by one to the sponge while beating on medium speed with the paddle attachment until completely incorporated.
In a different bowl whisk together the flour, sugar and salt. Mix this in with the eggs and the sponge on low speed until combined (2-3 minutes). Let the mixture sit without being stirred for a full five minutes. This allows the flour to absorb the liquid and reduces the amount of time it takes to knead the dough.
On medium speed with the paddle begin to add the butter in one tablespoon at a time. Allow each addition to full mix in before adding the next. You will need to stop and scrape down the bowl after a few additions.
Once all the butter is added switch to the dough hook and knead for about 6 minutes until the becomes smooth, soft, and elastic. Because it is such a heavy dough its important to develop as much gluten as possible to get a good rise and oven spring.
Step Four: Rise in Fridge
Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and mist with spray oil. Transfer the dough to the sheet pan and pat into a rectangle roughly 6 by 8 inches. Spray the top of the dough with spray oil and cover the pan with plastic wrap. Place in fridge overnight.
Step Five: Shaping and Proofing the Loaves
Remove dough from fridge (it will not appear to have risen much) and divide into three equal pieces while the dough is still very cold. Working with one piece of dough at a time roll it out into a rectangle, fold the sides into the middle, and then roll into a loaf and place into a 8.5 by 4.5 greased loaf pan. The loaves will seem really small but they do eventually fill up the pans.
Mist the top of the loaves with spray oil and cover very loosely with plastic wrap. Let rise at room temp until the loaves fill up most of the pans. This can take anywhere from 1.5 to 3 hours depending on the temperature of your house.
Step Six: Baking
Preheat the oven to 350
Brush the top of the loaves with the egg wash and bake for 30 - 40 minutes (check the bread after 30 minutes). The bread should be golden brown and sound hollow when thumped on the bottom. If you have an instant read thermometer it should register 190.
Let bread cool for at least 45 minutes before slicing.