There is nothing quite like brioche. More than sweet, custard-filled éclairs or even buttery, flaky croissants, brioche is my favorite thing from a French pastry window. In Paris, you can get some so-so versions in grocery stores. And certainly in America, the quality of store-bought brioche is never certain. If that's not enough of a reason to make your own, there's nothing quite like the smell of brioche baking in your oven, or a bite of perfectly warm, freshly-baked brioche!
I've spent most of my cooking life with a fear of cooking with yeast. That being said, brioche is worth it, even if it's not one of the easiest yeast-baked breads to make, mainly due to the difficulty of kneading the butter into the dough without breaking down the delicate gluten structure. This version, made with an almost 1-1 ratio of organic white flour and European-style organic butter (Organic Valley makes a great European-style butter) is truly a treat, perfect for weekend breakfasts and brunches. But, if you can't knead all 300 grams of butter into the dough, you can stop earlier, and you'll still be left with a gourmet treat.
Like other homemade breads, without added preservatives, brioche can go stale quite quickly. Any leftover slices make a truly decadent French toast.
Note: As with most bread recipes, this one is written in terms of weight, not volume. One cup of flour can vary so much in weight, depending on whether it's packed or sifted. For simplicity's sake, I've provided the volume measures, but if you want your brioche to turn out the best it possibly can be, I highly recommend purchasing a kitchen scale. You'll quickly find hundreds of uses for it, including weighing your morning oatmeal for more accurate calorie counting, and weighing servings of local meat, if you buy in bulk and want to freeze individual portions.
11 + 50 grams sugar (1 scant Tablespoon + 1 scant quarter cup)
60 grams warmed organic whole milk (4 Tbsp.)
8 grams yeast (1 scant Tablespoon)
300 grams organic white flour + 50 grams for kneading (2.5 sifted cups + 1/3 cup for kneading)
9 grams vanilla sugar (1 Tablespoon)
150 grams organic eggs (~3 medium eggs)
8 grams salt (1/2 Tablespoon)
300 grams organic, European-style butter, softened (2/3 pound)
1 egg yolk mixed with 1 tablespoon water
Combine 11 grams of sugar and the warmed milk in a small, wide bowl. Sprinkle the yeast over the top. Leave in a warm place for about 5 minutes, then stir to combine. Leave in a warm place for 10-15 minutes, until the yeast is foamy and the combination has doubled in size.
Combine the yeast mixture and the flour. Use a wooden spoon to stir until the mixture resembles sand. Allow to rest for 15 minutes.
Add vanilla sugar, the rest of the white sugar and the eggs. Mix until well combined, then turn out onto a lightly floured surface, using about a tablespoon of the 50 grams of remaining flour. Knead five minutes. The dough will be extremely sticky; don’t fight it. Simply grab a handful of dough and pull it towards you. Then turn your hand right side up and fling the dough (gently!) away from you onto your countertop (like Spiderman). Then bring your hand up to fold the dough still sticking to your hand over the dough that has landed, and start again (seems complicated, but you get used to it). After about 15 minutes of kneading, when the dough is very elastic and stays together, cover with a kitchen towel and allow to sit another fifteen minutes.
Knead in the salt. Knead the butter into itself until you have a soft paste, then add the butter, bit by bit, to the dough, continuing to knead using the Spiderman technique. The dough will start to get quite soft, but it should stay together. When you add the last of the butter, it will be very soft, but it should remain elastic. If it ever starts to lose its elasticity, allow the dough to rest 5 minutes, and then pick up kneading again. You may not be able to knead in all the butter, especially if your kitchen is very warm. You can use some of the remaining flour here, if necessary, but try to avoid it.
Grease a glass bowl with butter, then roll the dough into something resembling a ball and roll it in the butter, coating the dough ball on all sides. Cover with a dishtowel and leave in a warm place until it doubles in size (1-3 hours, depending on room temperature at your house). Punch down, cover with a dishtowel and place in the fridge. Allow to double in size (about 2 hours) and punch down again. Cover, and leave in the fridge overnight.
In the morning, shape your loaves (I make 2), cover with a dishtowel and allow to double in size. Brush with 1 egg yolk.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 350 degrees F and bake for an additional 25 minutes, until the outside crust is golden brown. (Note: these baking times are for baking one loaf at a time. This bread goes stale quickly, so I usually bake one loaf one morning, and the other loaf the next morning).
For other delicious organic French dessert recipes, try some of our favorites:
image: GimmeFood :)