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October 16, 2007

A Better Brioche for World Bread Day


Do bad things always happen in threes? My pastry teacher told us that she would always get kitchen injuries in groups of three. While that hasn't happened to me so far (knock on wood), I did encounter a couple of technological mishaps in my attempts to bake something for World Bread Day - this entry certainly came quite perilously close to not occurring in time. First, my beloved KitchenAid broke down -  is there any more awful kitchen appliance disaster, especially when you're trying to make bread? Fortunately, a trip to the repair shop revealed that the speed control was merely jammed up, and it got fixed in a couple of days (I never dreamed my kitchen could look so naked without the graceful, sentry-like silhouette of my stand mixer - I felt quite off-kilter and bereft).

With the return of a fully functional KitchenAid, I set about mixing up a batch of brioche for Kochtopf's annual salute to the glories of yeast. With the success of brioche fresh and gloriously golden from the oven, photos eagerly snapped, I was all ready to write my post. And computer broke down! Fizzled out. It was about that time that I wondered if maybe I was not meant to contribute to World Bread Day and I would just sit at home and cry into my basket of brioche.

Well, my computer is still being repaired, but I have very fortunately got a temporary computer to use, so I am able to share the happy results of my breadbaking with you all, and I am very furiously knocking on wood to ward off the power going off in my building, or my oven combusting, or some other disaster.

I am very thrilled to participate again in World Bread Day - perhaps it's no coincidence that my entry last year was also brioche-based, given how much I love this ultimate way to have dessert for breakfast. This time, I seized on the chance to try out a new brioche recipe from Alice Medrich's glorious Pure Dessert.

Adapted from her friend Desiré Valentin's (how perfect a name is that?) recipe, Medrich's brioche is luxuriously rich and meltingly delicate, like eating honey-spun,sunshine-dipped clouds. A dollop of sour cream in the dough adds to the refined texture and accentuates the warm buttery lusciousness. Most intriguingly, Medrich suggests swirling raw sugar into her brioche to create a ribbon of contrasting flavor - her new book is all about exploring new ingredients like unrefined sugars. I followed her idea and folded a streusel-like mixture of butter and muscavado sugar into the dough, then formed it into the classic brioche à tête.

Muscavado sugar, or Barbados sugar, gets its color and flavor not from molasses but from sugar cane juice. It is dark, very sticky, and smells intensely fruity, almost like grapes. It has a earthy, fruit taste quite different from regular brown sugar. Added to the brioche, it gives the bread an added dimension of rich sweetness and takes it even closer to dessert territory - if you enjoy Danishes and other filled pastries, this is what brioche laced with extra butter and sugar is like!

I used a lighter brown muscavado sugar, so it is not so apparent in my brioche, but you might be able to see parts where it appears darker or to be glistening - that would be a streak of warm, melting sugary joy running through soft, pillowy reaches of the bread. I'd love to try the brioche again with a dark muscavado sugar, or some piloncillo sugar - this is certainly a bread that needs no additional adornment, just a languid Saturday morning, freshly brewed coffee, newspaper spread over the table, and the city waking up just outside the window.


Desiré's Brioche

adapted from Alice Medrich's Pure Dessert

makes about 10 individual brioche


3 cups (15 oz) bread flour

20 tablespoons (10 oz ) unsalted butter, cold

1 envelope active dry yeast

1/3 cup plus 1 teaspoon sugar

1/4 cup warm water (105 to 115 degrees F)

5 large eggs, cold

1 tablespoon sour cream

1 1/2 teaspoons salt


3/4 cup ( 5 1/2 oz) muscavado or piloncillo sugar

1/8 teaspoon salt

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

1 egg for egg wash

To make the brioche dough: Place the flour into a bowl, cover, and chill in the freezer for about 15 minutes. This will help keep the dough cool while you are mixing it and prevent the butter from melting.

Cut the butter into 1-in pieces and place in the mixer bowl. Beat with the paddle only until the butter is smooth and there are no hard lumps; do not overbeat and let it get soft and creamy. Place the butter in a bowl, cover, and store in the refrigerator while you prepare the rest of the dough.

Place the yeast, water and 1 teaspoon of sugar in a clean mixer bowl and let the yeast dissolve.

Add the 1/3 cup sugar, eggs, sour cream, eggs, and flour, and mix with the dough hook on low speed until all the ingredients are combined.

Knead the dough for about 5 minutes on medium speed until it forms a ball around the dough hook and is moist and sticky but not gooey or mushy; you should be able to form it into a cohesive ball.

Add the cold butter a few pieces at a time, letting them incorporate into the dough before adding more. Scrape the bowl down as necessary.

Scrape the dough into an oiled bowl and cover. Refrigerate overnight or for up to 24 hours.

When you are ready to make the brioche: Butter individual brioche tins or pans if you want to make loaves.

Take the dough out of the refrigerator and scrape out on a floured surface. Roll out to about 18 by 12 inches by 1/2 inch thick - the dimensions don't need to be too precise as long as you keep the thickness even.

Mix together the softened butter and muscavado sugar and salt. Spread the mixture evenly over the dough, leaving a one inch margin on one long side.

Roll up the dough on the long side, pressing down firmly on the seam to completely seal it.  You can now either slice off pieces to form into the little boules for brioche à tête, or you can slice into segments and bake off in the loaf pans. If you are making brioche à tête, you may need to use a bit of flour to keep the dough from becoming too sticky as you are working it.

(I am not going into detail about making brioche à tête; if someone really wants to learn about the process, I can write about it at a later time!)

Cover the tins or pans with plastic wrap and place in a warm place. Let the dough rise until doubled, about 2 hours.

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Beat the egg with about a teaspoon of water to make an egg wash. Brush the tops of the brioche with the egg wash, avoiding the sides of the pan (otherwise the egg will make your dough stick to the pan and it will rise unevenly).

Bake the brioche for about 20-25 minutes, until the tops are deep golden brown and the bottoms of the tins sound hollow when tapped. If you are baking loaves it may take longer.

Cool brioche on a wire rack for about 5 minutes, then unmold and let finish cooling. They are best eaten warm, but you can easily rewarm them in the oven or toast older brioche.

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these brioche looks so soft and fluffy! I'm glad you were able to fix your KA. I just wish I had counter space to have one :)

Brioche, yeah! They look cute and so good! We do have the saying in French: "jamais deux sans trois".

Yum, that looks good, but especially the tins you baked them in! How cute.

I so feel the pain of your kitchen problems. I too had many problems with getting my latest creation up.

Just a beautiful brioche. It just doesn't get any better looking than that.

Beautiful pictures!

They look so light. Beautiful!

hey the 3 thing is true ...i failed terribly for the last 3 times at my dessert attempts. Not even blogging abt them... so bad !But have been having a week of bad cooking as well , so dunno what to make of that :(
I hate it when u're in the middle of something and your machine cracks down...what a bummer ! I'm glad it was'nt anything big though. These brioches look amazing...saw them first n flickr. Irresistible :)

mmm.... brioche... I've been dying to learn how to make it - though i lack both the bread flour and those really awesome tins you got there. I suppose I need to make an investment in them - and just make the brioche already!

They are gorgeous!

I just bought this book yesterday. I saw the brioche and it looked make it look even better.

Do we need the brioche molds to bake brioche or will muffin liners do?

ooops, I meant muffin pans

Hello Anita! I am an avid reader of your blog and would like to thank-you for the always wonderful pictures, recipes, and advice. I was so happy to read your latest entry because I just recently tried my hand at brioche and failed miserably, which was just so discouraging. This brioche recipe sounds easier and more tasty then the one I tried! I'm definetly going to attempt to make this tasty bread again. Thanks for turning my spirits around!

Oh my god these look delicious!!! I have never tried making brioche but I am so tempted now.

Sounds like you've had a challenging week! Just remember, "Out of adversity, comes strength". I don't remember who said that, but it's true.

Your brioche looks fab! I just got Pure Desserts myself and have been eyeing that recipe. The thing is, that I don't have individual brioche tins. Do you think this recipe would this work in a regular loaf pan? I have a lovely porcelain Kugelhopf mold too.

What lovely brioches! I've been eyeing this recipe in Alice book for weeks now and have even bought my brioche pans. I guess I know what I'm making this weekend!

I usually avoid yeast like the plague, but these look so good that I'm ready to run out and buy brioche tins (and yeast)!

Oh you did it again! ...made me wish I were your neighbor....again and again! You are a master at brioche making and just like last year I am drooling over these. The first picture is really styling and "cute"...(I hate that word because of it ditsy connotation but yours are far from it.)

your brioche looks beautiful, even without the brown sugar filling really showing...i;ve never made bricohe, but it's definitely something i want to do soon!

funny, i was in the bookstore today browsing this book (and sherry yards) and came across this recipe. her book is great and hopefully i'll be able to get it soon, too!

This looks perfect! but then, when you are the baker, who's doubting:) I also baked herb and cheese bread for this day!

I'm hosting my first food blog event this month, AFAM-Peach/Nectarine, and I'd be glad if you could participate! you can get the details on my blog!

Anita, your photos are tops, but this time it was your descriptions of this brioche that had me drooling, especially the part about the mucavado sugar joyfully melting. MMMMM.

i love brioche baked in those classic cute! funny seeing this post today-- two days ago i made a big batch of brioche at work. the large hobart is broken, so i made it in multiple batches on the kitchenaid (which i thought would kill the little machine) and then combined them by hand. it didn't rise as nicely as it should have...useable, but disappointing.

I love these marvelous brioches. Thank you for your WBD participation in spite of your troubles.

Unfortunately I made the experience that bad things happen always in 3, too. ;-)

Your brioches look gorgeous! I'd love to have a bite in one of them! Terrific!



Leave it to you to build a better brioche, Anita! They're just adorable and kudos to you for recovering so well from the Kitchen Aid mixer mishap. I'm happy it was repaired so quickly! What would we do if Pastry Girl didn't have her mixer???!!!

Such cute little brioche! I made mini bread for the day too! I hope your troubles are gone and now you have some luck in threes. ; )

I love brioche! The tins are just adorable! I hope your computer makes a speedy recovery. :)

Fantastic looking bricohe. I haven't made any as yet, but you have tempted me! :)

I've never made brioche in those traditional molds, always in a loaf. And I believe that brioche always taste better when they're freshly baked, no matter where they're from.

Thank you! Getting a KitchenAid definitely requires a sacrifice of counter space!

Thank you! I love the French expressions, they seem to sound so much wittier than in English!

Thank you! I love those little tins too!

Thank you! I know it's the love of baking that keeps us going through the kitchen hardships!

Thanks so much!

Thank you! They are so light just out of the oven!

Thank you...and my sympathies too. I hate it when something goes poorly and then I have nothing to blog about! It seems like you've gotten past that problem though, your last posts have been gorgeous!

Thank you! I find brioche actually easier than other yeast breads. If you have a stand mixer, you've got the hard part down already!

Laura Rebecca,
Thank you! I'm glad the brioche turned out so well!

Thank you...I'm blushing! It really is a great recipe, and the variations are all tempting!

Yes, muffin tins, loaf pans, bundt pans will all work for brioche dough - you can make whatever shape you like!

Thank you for your sweet compliments and I'm glad you enjoy my site! I've had many bread disasters before, I hope you try making brioche again sometime! let me know how it goes!

Thank you! I am not a huge bread baker but I make an exception for brioche!

Thank you! Yes, you can use a loaf pan or a bundt pan - see Medrich's babka recipe in that book. I'm sure the kugelhopf pan would work great also!

thank you! Mmm...brioche on the weekend, it doesn't get better than that!

Yes, I think this a good reason to use that dreaded yeast:) - this is one of few items where I actually enjoy working with yeast!

Oh, you're so sweet! I never wish I lived on the other side of the country so much as when I see your creations - so I could sample them too!:)

Thank you! Yes, I hoping for a darker swirl, maybe next time I'll use a darker sugar. Still yummy though, I highly recommend the book!:)

Thank you and your bread is so tempting! Your event sounds great, I'll try my best to make something!

Thank you! I did really like the sugar swirl in the brioche - I'm glad I was able to convey it!

Thank you! That's too bad your brioche didn't turn out the way you wanted...wonder if it was just the kitchenaid not working as well as the Hobart? I've made large batches of croissant dough in a Hobart and I can't imagine doing it in a kitchenaid!

Thank you so much for hosting and for you awesome roundup!! Fortunately nothing else bad has happened so far:)

Thank you! That's so sweet!

Thank you! Yes, I do admit to not feeling whole without the kitchenaid - or I guess I'd start developing some huge arm muscles!

Thank you! Your orange honey bread looks so delicious, I'll have to try that recipe!

Thank you for the compliments and nice wishes, my computer is on the mend!

Thank you! I hope you try it sometime, I think you would do a beautiful job seeing how skilled you are!

I had more dough than tins and I put the rest in a loaf pan - it came out just as tasty! Thanks!

OMG, they look soooo good!!!
can you please tell me how many spoons are there in "1 envelope active dry yeast" ...

Thank you! 1 envelope of dry yeast is about 1/4 oz, or 2 1/4 teaspoons.

Your website is just glorious and such a source of baking inspiration. I have been enjoying your recipes and techniques. I actually tried making this brioche (and using her "swirl" directions but added currants as well). I thought it came out very well, but was wondering if the formula might benefit from some fermentation time at room temperature prior to going into the refrigerator. Did you have a problem with the dough going straight into the refrigerator? Thanks so much!

"like eating honey-spun,sunshine-dipped clouds"... omg, i am sooo gonna bake these little treasures right now.. and it's 5:30 pm here!!!!

Can you provide a recipe for the Tarte Tropezienne, with struesal-like topping?

I receive Tante Marie's latest newsletter and there were your beautiful desserts. You have quite a talent. I will buy your book and bake your recipes.Good luck in your ventures.

Der Anita: Unfortunaely, I share your pain. My kitchen aid broke this year too and I felt totally lost without it (even wondered how I ever lived without one!). Luckily, it was repaired and we're doing fine. Lovely brioche, I always chicken out of making it but maybe I'll try yours.

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