Seven Steps to Perfect Brioche



Step 1. Establish your relationship with brioche. The first – and undoubtedly most crucial – step in your quest to make perfect brioche is to fall utterly, completely, soul-consumingly in love with it. Without this emotional foundation, you will not have the necessary motivation to persevere to the end. Chances are this will happen the first time you taste it, and thus you may have already completed this step. If you’ve tasted it and not fallen in love, something has gone wrong; you have probably been exposed to a bad batch, so head out again to a reputable dealer, buy the freshest specimen you can lay your hands on, and take a bite. If you still find yourself lacking in love, it is best to abandon the project now. For everyone else, move on to step 2.

Step 2. Assess your equipment deficit. If you have, as instructed, truly fallen in love with brioche, you will reach a point where you want to take the relationship one step further by making it yourself. The first thing you must do at this point is check your cupboard for the presence of a KitchenAid® stand mixer. If you find one, and it appears to be in working order, proceed directly to step 4. If you do not, you must heed this important warning: where brioche is concerned, no amount of determination can make up for the lack of the aforementioned KitchenAid mixer. You may try your hand at producing brioche without it, but this is not recommended, for two reasons: (1) not only will your brioche be a dismal failure, but (2) you will be forced to live without the use of one or more of your arms for the next week (which can significantly detract from the quality of your non-briochemaking life). This may trigger feelings of hopelessness and self-pity as you suddenly realize that all other brioche-lovers in the world seem to be in possession of a KitchenAid mixer – this is normal. You do, however, have two options. If you are on amicable enough terms with a brioche-loving KitchenAid-owner to request a loan, you may do so – perhaps in exchange for a finished loaf or two. If, on the other hand, you are not (or if by some cruel twist of fate you only know fellow brioche-lovers through the internet), it is time to bite the bullet and buy your own machine. Just be aware that biting the bullet may mean eating canned beans on toast for the next six months. But at least it will be canned beans on brioche toast.

Step 3. Buy your KitchenAid. Since the price of a new KitchenAid stand mixer is enough to make your skin crawl and your sweat glands short-circuit, you must explore all secondary options. Particularly recommended is the use of ebay for procurement, although this is not a route for the faint of heart. Before embarking on a KitchenAid-buying mission on ebay, it is recommended to carefully read the following helpful tips:
a. Seek out a KitchenAid mixer that is described as having something wrong with it, but only something minor. The last thing you will want is to send your new purchase away for repair as soon as you receive it. A small cosmetic defect is ideal, for the simple reason that ebay bidders are as predictable as they are shallow, and it is a proven fact that if an item for sale is in non-perfect condition, many of your fellow bidders will not want it, thus your competition will be less and the end price lower. If you can find a specimen that is described as "in perfect working order but missing the little cap that covers the attachment hole and prevents dust from settling inside when not in use", so much the better.
b. Whatever you do, play dirty. Ebay is not for the timid, the nice or the morally upright. Decide how much you are willing to pay for this slightly defective machine, set up camp (with no distractions!) in front of your computer to monitor the final half hour of bidding, and then – pay attention here – submit your bid in the last ten seconds to prevent anyone else from outbidding you. You will not win any other way, and it is better to be the owner of a KitchenAid than a nice person. You have brioche at stake, after all.

Step 4. Make your first batch.You now have your beautiful new KitchenAid, in verified working order (apart from that silly little cap, which you discover costs just $3.99), and a recipe or two to guide you. You don’t even have to be particularly picky about which recipe you use – at least not at this point – nor do you have to follow it carefully, for reasons that will become clear in a moment. Do, however, spend as much money as you can on top-quality beurre d’Isigny, free-range farm-fresh eggs and organic unbleached flour, just so you feel suitably guilty when what results from this first attempt is only marginally edible. It is this guilt that will spur you on, when what comes out of your oven crumbles away in your hand like a dry poundcake instead of a soft, fragrant and pillowy bread. Do not despair at this point, however, just chalk it up to experience and move on to step 5.

Step 5. Make your second batch. Armed with the bitter taste of disappointment (and a few extra inches in the waist, since by god, you weren’t about to throw that first disaster away!), assemble the ingredients again. This time you will meticulously follow a recipe from a reputable source, ignoring all those other recipes you’ve dug up from equally reputable sources. Soften your butter to just the right stage of squishiness, temper your milk just enough to dissolve the yeast, and follow timings for beating, resting, rising and fermenting as if your life depended on it. Tentatively coddle and caress your dough, looking for the signals it sends at every stage to let you know it’s ready to be gently assisted to the next one. When, at the end of two long days of labor, you pull a burnished-brown loaf out of the oven that is on the road to somewhere but clearly not the brioche destination you intended, you may feel a twinge of despondency. Of course you eat this batch too.

Step 6. Make your third batch. Repeat step 5, only substitute another equally reputable recipe, and this time when it does not work out, hang your head in utter despair, wondering how you could have ever loved a bread that seems to want nothing more than to evade, foil and humiliate you. 

Step 7. Make your fourth batch. Assemble all your recipes from reputable sources, and read through them carefully. Notice how they all disagree on just about everything. Never mind – you are past the point of caring. Randomly pick and choose parts of each recipe to follow – the proportions from one, the rising time from another, ingredients from yet another. Feel free to even add your own touches – at this stage in the game you’re understandably itching to flex your creative muscles, so go ahead! It can’t turn out much worse than it already has. Assemble, mix, and proof your ingredients. Surprise yourself with your nonchalance and devil-may-care attitude. Force the dough to conform to your schedule for a change. However, as soon as you slide it into the oven, this is what you must do: cross your fingers and – most importantly – pray to whatever god, gods, goddess, spirits or lack thereof that you either believe or don’t believe in, and continue to pray until your kitchen timer goes off and you open the oven door to see what waits for you inside. You will, if you have followed all the preceding steps carefully and conscientiously,
be rewarded with the most jaw-droppingly beautiful brioche imaginable: long, lacy strands of gossamer bread that separate with a gentle tug; a delicate interior that doesn’t crumble, but instead softly exhales as it collapses together under the weight of your teeth, and flavor that is yeasty, buttery, nutty and subtly perfumed by a mosaic of tiny black vanilla seeds. You will want to cover both your KitchenAid and your golden loaves with kisses, but your mouth will be too full.

Epilogue. Share your success with the world. And give them the recipe that you wish you’d been given so you could have avoided this whole rigamarole in the first place.




Browned Butter and Vanilla Bean Brioche

Yield: 2 loaves
Source: adapted primarily from The Secrets of Baking by Sherry Yard and Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan.
Notes: This is a recipe for medium-rich brioche which I prefer to slightly richer versions for its improved workability and better structure. You’ll notice my unconventional use of browned butter in it – I tried this on a whim and was more than pleased at the deep, nutty flavor it provides, but you can certainly substitute softened, unbrowned butter. Likewise, as my favorite way of eating brioche is plain, for breakfast or a snack with a cup of coffee, I prefer mine slightly sweeter than many recipes make; for a more savory brioche simply halve the sugar and omit the vanilla beans. And in all seriousness, my brioche disasters taught me that there is one technique that is absolutely crucial to achieving the right texture, which is is the technique described by Nancy Silverton in Baking with Julia. You must beat this dough to within an inch of its life before you add the butter – a full fifteen minutes on medium speed – in order to get those beautifully delicate, lacy strands so coveted in this king of breads. No matter whether your mixer protests, grows hot enough to fry an egg on top, or even starts to smell funny (though if you see smoke you should probably give it a rest), you must not skimp on the beating. Trust me.

For the browned butter:
2 vanilla beans
1 cup (2 sticks/225g) unsalted butter, cut into cubes

For the sponge:
2 teaspoons instant (fast action) yeast
1/2 cup (125ml) whole milk, room temperature
1/2 cup (70g) bread/strong flour

For the dough:
1/2 cup (100g) sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
3 cups (420g) bread/strong flour, plus more if needed

For the egg wash:
1 egg
1 tablespoon heavy cream

Split the vanilla beans down the middle and scrape the seeds with the tip of a knife into a skillet. Toss in the vanilla pods in too and add the butter. Turn the heat to medium. Swirling occasionally, bring the butter to a boil and keep it boiling until the solids turn chestnut brown and everything smells deeply nutty. Do not let it burn. Remove from the heat, remove the vanilla pods pour into a heatproof bowl or container (scraping in all the vanilla seeds and browned butter particles), and refrigerate until solid, about 2 hours. Remove it from the refrigerator about twenty minutes before using it.

To make the sponge, put the yeast, milk, and flour in the bowl of a heavy duty mixer. Mix the ingredients together with a rubber spatula, mixing just until everything is blended. Cover the bowl with plastic film and set aside to rest for 30-40 minutes. During this time it should bubble up, your indication that everything is moving along properly.

Add the sugar, salt, eggs, and remaining flour to the sponge. Set in the mixer, attach the dough hook, and mix on low speed for a couple of minutes, until the ingredients come together in some semblance of a dough. When everything is incorporated, turn off the mixer, cover the bowl loosely, and let the mixture rest for 5-10 minutes. Uncover, increase the mixer speed to medium and beat for 15 minutes, stopping to scrape down the hook and bowl as needed. During this mixing period, the dough should come together (clearing the sides of the bowl), wrap itself around the hook and audibly slap the sides of the bowl. If it doesn’t after about 8 minutes, sprinkle in more flour, a tablespoon at a time (to a maximum of about 1/3 cup), until it does (this partially depends on the amount of sugar you use; if you use the full amount you will probably need to add some extra flour).

In order to incorporate the butter into the dough, you must work it until it is approximately the same consistency as the dough. If it has softened enough, you can easily do this by working it with a fork or spoon until no lumps remain. With the mixer on medium-low speed, add the butter a couple tablespoons at a time. This is the point at which you’ll think you’ve made a huge mistake, because the dough that you worked so hard to make smooth will fall apart. Don’t panic – just carry on. When all of the butter has been added, raise the mixer speed to medium again and beat the dough for 5 full minutes, or until you once again hear the dough slapping against the sides of the bowl. When you’re finished, the dough should feel somewhat cool, and be shiny, slightly sticky and very elastic.

Transfer the dough to a large oiled bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and let it rise at room temperature until doubled in bulk, 2 – 2 1/2 hours.

Deflate the dough by folding it over itself a few times in the bowl with greased hands. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate the dough overnight, or for anywhere from 6-24 hours, during which time it will continue to rise and may double in size again.

To make loaves: grease two loaf pans. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and working quickly, divide the cold dough in half. On a greased work surface, pat each half into a square about the length on one side of your pans. Roll each half up tightly, pinching the seam together to create surface tension. Lay the dough in the pans, seam-side down.

To make pull-apart rolls (my favorite): with a pastry scraper or large knife, cut the dough in half, then half again, and continue until you have pieces of dough about the size of golf balls. Take each ball in your hand and knead it lightly a few times to deflate it and redevelop the gluten. Form into a rough ball, pinching it together at the bottom to create surface tension. Lay each ball with the pinched side down in a buttered cake or springform pan so that they are close but not touching each other. Fill the entire pan in this way – you will probably need two, depending on their size.

You can also bake these in brioche à tête pans or as individual rolls, but adjust baking time accordingly.

Cover the pans with buttered plastic and allow the dough to rise at room temperature for 2-3 hours, or until doubled in size. Preheat the oven to 375F/190C. Mix together the egg and cream. Lightly brush each loaf with egg wash, taking care not to let the glaze dribble into the pan (it will impair the dough’s rise in the oven). Bake the loaves for about 30-40 minutes, until they’re well-browned, firm and lofty. Cool to room temperature on a rack, and consume or freeze within a day.

52 thoughts on “Seven Steps to Perfect Brioche

  1. A big GIANT BRAVO to you – what a fabulous posting! And further proof that I possess the talent nor patience for baking, darnit! 🙂

  2. i stand in awe of your persistence and determination! and i could just lick the screen, the end product looks so bloody delicious 🙂

  3. holeeeecow! this is way impressive. one of these days i will attempt it using this recipe. i mean could the finished product be more perfect? i thbink not! great instructions too. thanks for this post 🙂

  4. Wonderful post as always. I am selling my 6 quart Kitchen Aid since I am moving overseas and if anyone interested, email me. It is absolutely the best…

  5. That looks absolutely beautiful- makes me miss Paris even more! I don’t have a KitchenAid right now but will be in a few weeks. Maybe this will be the first recipe to try!

  6. My to-do list now includes your recipe for brioche! Another tip on procuring a KitchenAid stand mixer — try and search for refurbished or reconditioned units. They are typically less than half the cost of a new one and still carry a 6 month manufacturer warranty. The availability of mixer models changes weekly, so check in with them often. Also, Amazon always seems to have a $25 off coupon for Kitchen & Housewares, so be sure to look for it.I may sound like a shill for Amazon, but I promise I’m not. I just always seem to find bargains in their outlet sections.

  7. What a great post. I, unfortunately, don’t have a Kitchenaid mixer and none of my friends have one either…My stand mixer is definitely NOT up to the challenge…sigh…j

  8. I got my refurbished 6-quart KitchenAid (after 20 happy years with a 5-quart) from KitchenAid’s own retail store (and shipping was free!): take apart and rebuild the refurbished models from the ground up, even repainting if necessary. You might as well be getting a brand-new machine. I couldn’t love mine more.In his wonderful blog, David Lebovitz tells of touring the KitchenAid factory and what amazing bargains are to be had in the retail store: only advice I would add is to go no smaller than a 5-quart model, get as much power as you can (heavy-duty or pro version), and don’t bother with the tilt-head models– bowl-lift is the way to go.

  9. Wow! Looks delicious! And I, for one, cannot live without my KA mixer. Actually, I got a larger capacity one this spring and it is most awesome!

  10. That brioche looks like it would melt in your mouth like cotton candy. I can’t believe you had the patience to stick with it, but look at the results! It sort of makes me feel bad that my Kitchen Aid (Delonghi, actually) is sitting on my countertop gathering dust.

  11. Yaaaaay! You got a KitchenAid! Knowing how you have searched, my dear, I am SO happy for you. Whooooooop! And the brioche looks just heavenly – especially with that vanilla bean browned butter. Genius, my friend.

  12. What a fantastic post — hilariously funny writing, great pix and yummy recipe as always. I was so totally nervous when I made my first batch of brioche dough (for those pecan sticky buns I made a while back). Fortunately, because my wise wife picked which recipe I should follow, it actually worked with on my first attempt! Another lesson in always listening to the wife. 🙂

  13. I really love your step by step especially for bying the kitchen aid , hopefully I’ve got one and my brioche is really good too ! The difference with your is that I use the ingredients cold very cold and not at the room temperature, and it’s always a success ….Hope you’ll try once ! and tell me the result!I have spent a great moment reading your post !

  14. So funny! I am glad you triumphed in the end, and glad that you and your Kitchen Aid are having fun together–replacement cap and all. Congrats on a smart buy, and on some seriously gorgeous bread.

  15. Melissa: Glad you’re enjoying your mixer (finally!) and from the looks of things, you’re finding it’s up the whatever task. I got my first KitchenAid over 22 year ago and it’s still going strong (I mean, it was going strong, since it’s back in the US, buried in storage.)When I moved to France, I realized I couldn’t live without mine and made the committment. In the US, they’re about one-third of the price they are in Europe (darn that deficit! will the dollar ever rise again?) Well, think of all the money you’re saving by making your own brioche though…

  16. Your first step is the key: in order to persevere with anything challenging (but ultimately rewarding) you must establish that deep, emotional connection. Otherwise, why continue?

  17. Congrats on the Kitchenaid, Melissa. I do not think I would want to imagine a world without mine. And the brioche, absolutely lovely! The texture looks perfect.

  18. There is no word to tell how much i LOVE this post. It’s so well written and so funny yet true.Your brioche looks simply divine and i’m jealous bout the kitchenaid – just headind towards ebay to see if i can find one too.fanny

  19. I have completed step one, and have a beloved Kitchenaid in British Racing Green. As soon as the weather cools down a bit, I’m ready to go. I’ve been thinking about this for a while now, and you have officially pushed me over the cliff. Lovely post.

  20. Wonderful recipe and post, thanks so much. I recently had a party and made gorgeous strawberry sandwiches using mini-brioche from a fantastic bakery in New York…had the timing of this post been a month earlier, I definitely would have used your recipe and followed your sage advice.

  21. Ok, you´ve officially scared me now. I am terrified of e-bay, of brioche, of butter…But I will try it. I will. I don´t have a Kitchen aid. It´s my bajor object of desire, but the Thermomix will have to do for now. Sigh.

  22. You have to explain to me how it is possible that you haven’t been offered millions of dollars on a book deal! Your writing is so unspeakably fantastic, not to mention the glorious photography. I completely envy your persistance with the brioche, but it sounds like it was worth it!

  23. Wow. You nailed it, every single beautiful step, including the purchase of the KitchenAid and the necessity of failing on the first try. (My own failed brioche was from a 19th-century cookbook, Miss Parloa’s Kitchen Companion by Maria Parloa, whose recipes are nearly foolproof, but whose brioche recipe rendered a loaf that was tough, crumbly and just plain weird. I then turned to Sherry Yard and never looked back (although Peter Reinhart has some pretty fine brioche recipes, too).Browned butter, though? That is a genius idea. You, dear Melissa, are a genius. Did I mention you are a genius?

  24. Wonderful post.Thanks for the tips.My KitcheAid died on me many moons ago but I think I could still make this.

  25. Beautiful post and beautiful brioche! I definitely have step #1 taken care of. My favorite day is saturday soley because we make brioche at work. I eat it there, I take some home, I make french toast out of it for breakfast the next day. Yes, brioche and I are very much in love.

  26. hi melissa, you know what really blows my mind about this post ? – aside from the terrific writing, trustworthy recipe, and fabulous pictures of course, things your ardent fans have come to expect whenever they visit 😉 the fact that every single time you’ve previously posted about some divine baked goods, you did so without the aid of a heavy duty stand mixer. if that isn’t telling of your skill and passion, i don’t know what is!

  27. As they say, "Practice makes Perfect" . . .Nice job. May I offer some homemade fig confiture for your enjoyment?Tootles,Anni 🙂

  28. ***drool***ok so ive decided to take the plunge and go ahead and (atempt?) make it… my only real question is if the recipe can be halved? i would prefer making a pan of pull-aparts and 2 pans for brunch would be far too many… (im thinking romantic breakie for 2) yay or nay? i guess i could always freeze leftovers…

  29. Malibu – In all honesty I don’t know! I can’t imagine it would be a total failure, but my feeling is that one loaf is very little payoff for quite a lot of effort, so if you have the freezer space to store the second one, why not make two? Next time you feel like brioche you’ll be really glad you did, believe me! 🙂

  30. For those who are desperate for a KitchenAid but either can’t find one on ebay, or can’t afford one even then, try the Kenwood Patissier. It does pretty much everything the KitchenAid does although you can’t add attachments. They go for about £50-60 new on ebay or for about £100 on amazon. Happy brioche-making.

  31. Thank-you for this amazing recipe. Definitely worth the time and calories. I just know that I’ll be making this again and again.

  32. Having no access to a KitchenAid mixer and no means to purchase one (I’m in a bit of a lurch with money as a unversity student right now) I thought there would be no reason not to try this recipe out by hand. It was SO easy! Definitely take out the PURCHASE KITCHENAID MIXER step in this recipe. It’s so much more rewarding (and easy!) making this brioche by hand.

  33. After eyeing this recipe for more than one and a half years, I finally took the plunge and – thanks to your detailed instructions – everything worked out beautifully. I’m in brioche heaven! Without you, I would never have accomplished this glorious taste and texture!

  34. I was thinkng of making brioche for french toast, and I remembered this site about browning the butter and I looked you up to see how much of it you browned. I do want to tell you, though I have a kitchenaid, I personally recommend getting an electrolux dlx. It cost more than kitchenaid, but I don’t have to worry about the overheating problems I have with kitchenaid. Too bad none on ebay though, that is where I got my kitchenaid. I wonder if Amy who did it by hand got the strong gluten development? The threading on your bread looks great, I can’t wait for mine to finish proofing. Cornmeal crusted french toast, with strawberry butter is in my future. Yum 🙂

  35. Fantastic recipe. I just made some and it turned out perfect!, yummm. I didnt have vanilla pods so I tried vanilla essence, probably not as intense in the vanilla flavour but still yummy and buttery. I used just over half the sugar…Love the recipe and my partner, who bought me my kitchenaid 🙂

  36. You don’t need a Kitchen-Aid mixer to make brioche. Time does the work in this recipe which takes at least 18 hours of elapsed time and minimum hands-on time. You’ll need a food processor with a capacity of 12cups or greater, and the metal chopping blade to make a lovely brioche, with very little effort. The main effort is spent scraping the dough out of the food processor and cleaning it.Food Processor BriocheDry ingredients- 550gm all purpose flour- 1/2 tsp salt- 1/4 tsp instant yeast- 70gm sugarliquid ingredients- 1/2 cup of cold buttermilk- 1/2 cup of cold milk- 4 cold eggsButter- 225gm butter cut into 1/2 inch chunks, additional butter for the bowl. You can use beurre noisette (brown butter) for a more complex flavor.Butter a large, ceramic bowl for the dough.If it is particularly warm, then chill the bowl in the freezer for at least 30 minutes before starting.In a 12 cup food processor, combine all the dry ingredients and mix until well distributed. Take the liquid ingredients and combine in a bowl until well mixed. Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients in the food processor and pulse until well incorporated. The dough will be very thick and liquid. Scatter the butter over the dough and pulse on and off until incorporated. The machine may stall. If it does, remove some of the batter and process in two batches.Scrape the dough out of the food processor and into the prepared bowl, taking care to remove all the pieces. It will take you longer to this than it did to make the dough. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Let the dough sit at 68F overnight (about 8 -9 hours) for the first rise. If the bowl is just the right size, the dough will almost rise to the top. Place the dough in the refrigerator overnight or for at least 6 hours. It will rise just above the pan. You can then use form the dough into shapes, let them rise (2 hours for individual-sized brioches and 4hours for larger loaves. Bake them using the standard recipe. Brush the tops with an egg wash before baking and sprinkle course sugar over them/ I bake them at 450F. Formed into standard-size loaves, they bake for 45 minutes, individual brioche take 20minutes. The exterior will be heavily burnished. When using black tins, reduce the heat to 425F or bake for 17 minutes at 450F.

  37. I made this recipe past weekend it the brioche came out just perfect. Glorious! Thank you so much for such detailed instructions. My KitchenAid mixer didn't overheat at all, it was a little warm at the end, but nothing terrible.

  38. Dear Melissa, Thank you for the extensive and wonderful explanation. A couple of days ago I saw Nancy Silverton in Julia Child's program ( making the amazing brioche tart with crème fraiche and I just can’t wait to get to this weekend to try the recipe! Just one question, from the program I gathered they used ALL PURPOSE FLOUR, although I thought that was kind of strange as all the best recipes I had found so far (at least all the ones that sounded serious enough) called for bread/strong flour, just as you say in your post. Can you confirm this is what appears in the original recipe or is this part of your adaption? Please let me know! Thank you again for all! I will definitely make use of your advice!Marta (Pulgarcita)http:///www.horneandoaciegas.blogspot.comHi Marta, you're right, the original Silverton/Child recipe calls for all-purpose flour. I used bread flour in my adaptation based on what Sherry Yard says, namely that she finds it gives brioche a better structure. She does say, though, that all-purpose works almost as well. So I'd recommend just using whichever is easier to find! -m

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