Friday, March 6, 2015

Adventures in Brioche-Makin' (with recipe)

In the hectic side project that is dealing with my life, I have temporarily forgotten to update my little corner of the Internet.

Today, with my apologies, I offer you all a glimpse of the activity that I have been working at for the past month or so: brioche baking.

The urge to make my own brioche started from mere curiosity. I wanted to embark on the journey of making this traditional French bread...and balked at the idea that the entire process would take around fourteen hours.

However, most of the time in question involved waiting for the dough to rise.

Making a brioche (without a machine, mind you) can at times be frustrating, especially when the result you envisioned is far from the reality.

I offer, as an example, photographic evidence of what I entitle Brioche #1.

I won't sugarcoat my actions: Brioche #1 was a failure from the very beginning. I had used too much liquid which gave the dough a very fluid consistency, even after having dumped extra flour on it.

According to some tips that I had read, the brioche dough needed to proof for approximately ten hours in the refrigerator. Since my fridge's capacity to chill items proves highly effective, I worried that the temperature would slow down the yeast. Despite my better knowledge, I covered the bowl with a damp towel and set it in the fridge.

Ten hours later, the dough had hardened and the stiff towel formed a statue making an interesting cloth interpretation of a small table.

After waiting four extra hours for the dough to de-frost, it became runny once again, albeit in double of its original volume.

When I finally deemed the dough ready for shaping (after fourteen hours), I greased a pan with a knob of unsalted butter and divided the dough. As I found the braided technique too daunting for the first try, I thought that I would instead make five pull-apart briochins. I covered the pan with some aluminum foil and nestled it into the mini counter-top oven that has the bad habit of burning everything.

I started out with this:
If you look closely, the dough's appearance is not at all smooth...

Three hours later: more rising and covered in an egg wash

...And ended up with this.

I only *wish* that I could have had a photo of the look of disappointment on my face when I saw this brioche come out of the oven.

C'est la vie.

However, this failure did not deter me from trying again. I made Brioches #2 (success), #3 (nice form, but the dough was too hard), #4 (pretty good), and finally #5 (success).

I am glad to say that with Brioche #5's achievement, I feel confident enough to post a lesson on how to try to make your own brioche at home. 

A fair warning: I have the horrible tendency to eyeball the ingredients. I also learned how to make the brioche using grams and Celsius; sorry about that, fellow Imperial-unit users. 

Brioche- no machine required

200 grams of wheat flour
2 eggs
75 to 85-ish grams of softened salted butter
30 mL-ish of warm milk
2 teaspoons of cassonade (brown/turbinado sugar)
1 sachet/5 grams of brioche yeast (regular dry yeast works as well, but the taste will change)
Some salt to taste (but not too much since the butter already contains salt)

Egg wash + Pan
1 egg yolk
A splash of milk
Some extra butter to grease the pan

Large bowl
Wooden spoon
Damp towel
Basting brush
A firm grasp of sanity
Killer flexor and extensor muscles

1. Divide the butter into little squares. I do this first to allow for the butter to soften.

2. In a bowl, mix the dry ingredients.

3. Add the warm milk and stir with a fork. The milk shouldn't be too hot; otherwise, it might kill the yeast.

4. Add eggs and mix with a wooden spoon.

The mixture will look very sticky at this point. If it looks/feels TOO dry, don't be afraid to add just a smidgen of milk.

5. Incorporate the butter into the dough in three parts. Use a fork to crush the butter.

6. Try to mix dough with a wooden spoon.

7. Give up and use hands. Thus commences the battle with the sticky dough to make it do what you want.

8. After a while, the dough will start form stringy strands but still remain horribly sticky. Keep battling.

9. Get a stiff pain in your lower arm. Shake arm for a few seconds before you resume the battle to mix the enemy.

10. Eventually, you'll notice that the strands will look more like a homogeneous mass as they start to cling to each other to form a ball. The dough will start sticking less and less to the surface you are working on (and your hands).

11. Knead dough and form it into a ball that has a slight even sheen from the glistening mixture of butter and wheat.

Kinda like this (this picture of Brioche #2 will have to serve as a substitute as I hadn't thought of taking a picture of Brioche #5 during this step)

12. Cover the bowl with a damp (not dripping) towel and place it near a heat source/in a room with no drafts.

13. Allow for 7 to 10 hours for the dough to proof. Yes. Really.

14. After the 7 to 10 hours have passed, dump the risen dough onto a surface and flatten it.

15. Divide the flattened dough into three segments

16. Roll each segment into a long tube.

 17. Align the three tubes to braid them.

18. Braid as if it were soft, stretchy hair.

 19. Transfer the braided dough to the buttered pan.

That's what I get for having a small pan that fits into the mini counter-top oven...
 20. Cover the pan with a damp towel and let the bread rise for three more hours.


Be patient.

21. Once it has risen, cover it with the egg wash using a basting brush.

22. Bake at 200 degrees Celsius for 40 minutes. 

(For those of you using a mini counter-top oven like me, cover the bread with some aluminum foil and uncover during the last ten minutes to allow the bread to brown.)

23. Allow the bread to cool off for two hours before nomming.

24. Nom.

Barb the French Bean


  1. It has to proof in the refrigerator for ten hours? I thought I was done with proofs when I took my last algebra class, many years ago. The braid looks very nice. It reminds me of when I used to French braid The Hurricane's hair.

    Janie, who would like to eat brioche but doesn't want to make it

    1. Yes, quite a number of recipes that I've seen recommend proofing in the fridge. However, I'm pretty sure that refrigeration didn't exist when the recipe first came about. :P And since my fridge is WAY too cold, it's better for the yeast to proof in a warm, albeit non-refrigerated, area.

      And you should try to make the brioche at least once, just to see what it's all about. :D

  2. I too eyeball ingredients but I don't think it's a horrible tendency. I think it's the sign of a great cook. Besides, the only thing I measure in grams is my daily heroin intake.

    Also, my inner fat guy kinda wants to add some chocolate chips to this. Or maybe some fruit. You know, if I'm going to go through 14 hours+ of prep work (which I have and will do for the sake of good food).

    So how does one eat this, anyhow? Alone? As a side? As a dessert? All of the above? I imagine it could be used as a dessert or the base for a dessert (because of the rich butteriness) but I also imagine not (because of the not terribly sweet ingredients).

    1. Yes, it's best to make sure that your heroin supplier isn't skimping on the quantity now. Good call.

      And this outer fat girl will now address your inner fat guy/epicurean foodie: brioches can be both sweet and savory. There are even sweet brioches WITH chocolate chips, or simply topped off with the fancy baking sugar. Heck, you might even try to decorate it with edible ball bearings to satisfy your inner Doctor.

      The brioche that I made is, of course, of the saltier variety, but I'm certain that the recipe could be adapted by replacing the salted butter to unsalted and adding a few more tablespoons-ish of sugar.

      And, generally speaking, brioches are meant to be enjoyed in the mornings as a breakfast treat, especially on the weekends. They can be eaten as is or topped with any jam or spread of your choice.

      Here in France, there are several store-bought sliced brioche loaves available that essentially resemble the good ol' 'Murican Wonder Bread, but the taste is nothing at all like what you get in the bakeries here.

      But, hey, if you want to eat a brioche as a dessert, what's stopping you? IHOP cornered the "Breakfast at all Times" market ages ago.

    2. Hey, if they can pass off Nutella as a breakfast food, then I'd say I can get away with making a dessert brioche. I think I'm going to. I'll report back with the findings.

      And I know a lot of blog people say that kind of thing, but you're talking to a guy who makes his own soup broth from bones and essentially spends 6-8 hours stirring a pot full of bone water. In other words, I'm more than willing to spend hours making food. I'm up to the challenge.

  3. I was going to type something about how even with the brioche, it shouldn't have meant a two-month gap in posting. But after reading the post, I sort of agree that it explains it very well...

    1. Thank you for understanding. The side project that is my life sometimes takes away from the time I can dedicate to the blogging sphere. --.--

  4. I was going to congratulate you on giving it a second go, but you went and did it another four times. Most of which were successful. Hopefully the first try was at least edible and you had something vaguely resembling regular bread. I can still congratulate you on getting it done though; so congratulations.

  5. I'd be tempted to try something like this if not for two obstacles:

    1. My wife is currently of the belief that flour is the devil & has banned it in the house (I'll have to whit until the phase passes)

    2. I suck at baking, in general.

    1. 1. At least try to convince her to eat whole wheat.
      2. Welp, start practicin'.

  6. Your blog is very nice,Thanks for sharing good blog.

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Apparently, leaving comments on this blog is a hit-or-miss game of Russian roulette: you are either lucky and can comment away, or you are required to log in when the settings are CLEARLY set to allow trouble-free commenting (sorry 'bout that, folks). If anything, the Facebook page is always a viable option. :) -Barb