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What is Brioche?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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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.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a DelightedCooking researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By feasting — On Jan 26, 2013

@Perdido – Coffee and any type of brioche are awesome together. I sometimes even dip the brioche in the coffee.

I had a raspberry filled brioche once that was even better than the chocolate kind. It really made my coffee more interesting when I dipped it in there, too. The raspberry flavor got into it.

By Perdido — On Jan 25, 2013

Brioches filled with chocolate are so decadent. The sweet bread is tempting enough alone, but when chocolate is injected into it, it becomes irresistible.

Even though they are so yummy, I sometimes have trouble eating an entire piece of chocolate brioche. I suppose this is because it contains so many calories. My body just gets so full and satisfied that I only need about half of one.

I don't eat them very often, or I would gain a lot of weight. A brioche is a rare treat for me that I usually enjoy with a coworker at the cafe next to our office before work now and then. Coffee goes great with it, and it helps us wake up before we start our day.

By kylee07drg — On Jan 24, 2013

Wow, making brioche sounds complicated! If I can't make something in a few minutes, I generally don't try.

I would rather buy brioche. It sounds delicious, and it's something I'd like to eat, but I'd never attempt to make it. Too much could go wrong.

By anon129368 — On Nov 23, 2010

what is the shelf life of brioche?

By anon124559 — On Nov 06, 2010

answer to Ann -anon27296, you can substitute brioche with any egg bread or sweet bread. There are two kinds you can mostly find at any grocery stores: the Hawaiian Sweet Rolls and in the fall, the Jewish Challah Bread. I prefer the Challah Bread at local bakery dept, baked daily. Good luck, lulu4MVK

By anon71201 — On Mar 17, 2010

The recipe will make two loaves of bread when baked in a standard pan. The proportions are better stated by weight rather than by volume. If you scoop, fill the cup and then level, you get a different weight than when you use a tablespoon to dump flour into the cup and then level.

By anon68114 — On Mar 01, 2010

this was a great help with my french project.

By anon27296 — On Feb 26, 2009

I have a recipe that calls for Brioche. Can I use a standard bread pan to bake it? And the above recipe will yield how many loaves?



By solomonh — On Apr 19, 2008

Brioche also makes an excellent French toast. Cut it up and cook it like French toast and it is very tasty!

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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