Brioche, a classic French bread enriched with butter and eggs, ranks high in a category all its own. Its rich, tender, velvety crumb is a cross between bread and cake. I sent my son to school with a slice of brioche for lunch and he said, “Mommy, your bread is outstanding!” He’s five years old.
About the Dough: Brioche is notoriously sticky. It’s best to use a stand mixer to incorporate some much-needed air and offset the richness of the dough. You’ll also need a warm spot for it to rise, such as a cozy cabinet or near a heater. Chill this dough overnight once it has risen; sticky dough is much easier to shape when chilled and firm.
- Yield: 1 Loaf
- 4 cups plus 2 tbsp (500 g) bread flour
- 1½ tsp (9 g) fine sea salt
- ¼ cup (50 g) sugar
- 1¼ cups (250 g) bubbly, active starter
- 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
- ½ cup (120 g) warm milk, whole or 2%
- 8 tbsp (113 g) cold, unsalted butter, cut into small cubes, plus more for coating
- 1 large egg
- Splash of water
- A few days before baking, feed your starter until bubbly and active. Store at room temperature until ready to use. Make the dough
- Add the flour, salt, and sugar to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix briefly to combine. With the machine running, gradually add the starter, eggs, and warm milk. Mix on low speed until a sticky, shaggy dough forms and all of the flour is fully absorbed, about 2 to 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Cover and rest the dough for 15 to 30 minutes. Meanwhile, replenish your starter with fresh flour and water, and store according to preference. Add the butter
- Fit the stand mixer with the dough hook attachment. On low speed, add the butter one cube at a time, waiting 10 to 20 seconds before the next addition. Increase to medium speed, and knead the dough until the butter is fully incorporated, about 5 to 7 minutes or more. When ready, the dough will look shiny and smooth but will not come together into a ball. It will also feel warm to the touch. Scrape down the sides of the bowl when finished. Bulk rise
- With floured hands, transfer the dough to a new, lightly buttered bowl. Cover with a damp towel and find a warm spot for the dough to rise. This will take about 5 to 8 hours or more, depending on temperature. Once fully risen, cover the dough with lightly oiled plastic wrap and transfer to the fridge. Chill overnight.
- In the morning, lightly coat a 9 × 5-inch (23 × 13-cm) loaf pan with butter. Remove the cold dough onto a well-floured work surface. It will feel very firm from the chilled butter. To shape, you have two options: For a traditional-style loaf, pat the dough into a rectangle and roll into a log. Place into your loaf pan, seam side down. Or divide the dough into four pieces, about 265 g (about 9 oz) each. Working with one piece at a time, gather the ends, flip the dough over, and gently roll into a ball. Stagger the dough, seam side down, into your loaf pan. The dough will fit snugly. Second rise
- Cover the dough with a damp towel and let rise until puffy, about 1½ to 2 hours or more. Because the dough is cold, it might take longer than usual to puff up and become less dense. If so, you can always return the dough to the warm spot you used for the bulk rise. The dough is ready when it has risen about 1 inch (2.5 cm) above the rim of the loaf pan.
- Preheat your oven to 400°F (200°C). Combine the egg with a splash of water and brush the dough until well coated in the egg wash. Bake
- Bake the dough on the center rack for about 40 to 45 minutes. If the loaf starts to brown too quickly, loosely tent with foil. The loaf will be rich, golden brown, and shiny when finished. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely before cutting into slices.
- Brioche will stay fresh up to 2 days, stored at room temperature, covered in plastic wrap.