My mum used to buy my brother and I brioche when we were kids because I think we preferred it to bread…..it was only ever the tear and share plastic-wrapped version, but we loved it all the same. I’ve had a soft spot for it ever since, and now that I have a reliable recipe and the technical know-how to pull it off, I probably eat it more often than I should. I’ve tried several different recipes from domestic cookery books, but I don’t think I ever got the method quite right. It’s incredibly frustrating when you follow a recipe by the letter, only to be left with a sticky, greasy mess that you don’t really know what to do with. It wasn’t until I watched it being made, rolled and baked by a professional that I started to understand the process.
407g strong white flour
10g fine salt
49g caster sugar
6g dried yeast or 12g fresh yeast
264g whole egg
20g milk (cold)
244g unsalted butter (cold)
1. Put the flour, salt, sugar and yeast into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment – mix on medium speed until combined
2. Lightly whisk together the whole egg and milk – drizzle into the flour and continue to mix until smooth and elastic (about 4-5 minutes on medium speed)
3. Place the block of cold butter between two sheets of baking parchment – using a rolling pin or the base of a clean saucepan, beat the butter until pliable (the butter must be cold but supple when added, otherwise it will not mix well with the dough)
4. Whilst mixing on medium speed as before, start by adding half the butter to the dough – as soon as it is well combined, add the remaining butter – continue mixing until the dough is smooth and shiny, and starts to come away a little from the sides of the bowl
5. Place the dough into a lightly floured bowl, cover tightly with cling film and rest in the fridge for at least 6 hours or overnight
Once the dough has been very well chilled and rested, divide it up into pieces weighing between 40-50g. Now roll the pieces into balls – press each piece of dough firmly against the work surface with the palm of your hand, then hook your thumb and little finger around it to form a ball. Lightly flour the work surface, but don’t get carried away as too much flour will make the dough dry. Each ball needs to be as tight and as smooth as possible. The dough will start to get very sticky as soon as it gets warm, so roll as quickly as you can. It helps if you can find somewhere relatively cool to work.
Lightly grease your baking tins before placing the balls of dough inside – sit them relatively close together but not touching (imagine that once the dough has risen the pieces will connect forming the loaf). The tins pictured above are small non-stick loaf tins; a slightly larger model would hold four 40g pieces comfortably. Once the balls of dough are safely inside, wrap the tins loosely with cling film and leave at room temperature for at least two hours (CAREFUL…..anywhere too warm and the butter will start to melt!). Brioche dough does take some time to rise, so be patient…..2-3 hours normally does it. Just before baking brush each loaf with beaten egg yolk. Cook the brioche at 180°C for roughly 12 minutes (the baking time obviously depends a lot on the size of your loaf), turning after the first 6, until golden brown. Wait a few minutes before removing from the tin, then leave to cool completely on a wire rack.