Brioche is a French bread, characterized by a rich, sweet flavor and flaky texture that almost makes it feel like a pastry, rather than a bread. It is often served as a breakfast food and can be sweet or more savory, depending on how the recipe is manipulated. The sweeter versions are sometimes confused with cake, but they really are bread, since they are leavened with yeast and kneaded. Many French bakeries sell this bread, and it can also be made at home.
The term “brioche” dates back to at least the 1400s, and the bread itself may be even older. The word is a name for a style of bread and dough that can be made in a number of shapes. A classic shape has a fluted bottom and an upper protruding knob, and is made in a special brioche pan. The bread can also be made like a regular loaf, or it can be braided or molded into a ring. It often takes the form of an individual bun, served warm.
Sweet varieties can be filled with things like fresh or candied fruit or chocolate. The dough may be given some extra sweetness to complement the filling, making the dish particularly decadent. Savory versions are filled with vegetables or meats, depending on the taste of the cook. In all cases, it has a light, flaky crust with a high gloss, caused by brushing the dough with egg before baking.
Since brioche is made with butter, it is best for bakers to handle the dough while it is cool, to prevent it from melting. Many cooks chill the dough intermittently while they work on it, and the dough is set to rise under refrigeration. While the rising will take longer, it also yields a better final product.
To make this bread, a cook can dissolve one packet of yeast (about 7.2 g) in 0.25 cup (about 59 ml) water with a pinch of sugar. While the yeast starts to foam, the cook should sift together 3.5 cups (479.5 g) bread flour with 1.5 teaspoons (9 g) salt and 0.33 cup (66 g) sugar, adding more sugar if he wants a sweeter bread. He should then work 12 tablespoons (170.4 g) of butter into the flour, forming a grainy mixture. Next, the cook should beat four eggs together with 0.33 cup (78 ml) cream, and add the yeast mixture when it is ready.
The cook can then slowly add the liquids to the dry ingredients, forming a clumpy dough that he should refrigerate for 10 minutes before kneading until it is smooth and elastic. He should allow the dough to rise, covered, at room temperature for around 45 minutes before putting it in the refrigerator in a large plastic bag. The brioche can rest in the refrigerator for up to three days as long as it is periodically punched down, or it can be used after 10 to 12 hours. The cook can take the dough out, mold it into the desired shape, brush it with egg, and bake it at 350°F (180°C) until golden brown, around 40 minutes, depending on the shape used.