My Mom’s introduction from Bread’s From Betsy’s Kitchen: The classic French Brioche is a marvelous bread and well worth the extra effort involved to make it. It is probably one of the most difficult breads to make since the dough should be extremely sticky (adding too much flour makes the dough heavy). Using a heavy-duty mixer helps solve this problem. If you don’t have a heavy-duty mixer, use a dough scraper to toss and fold the dough in order to keep it from sticking to you, the work surface, or anything else it touches.
I started with my Mom’s brioche recipe from Breads from Betsy’s Kitchen – and I merged elements of Vicky Cassidy’s Cardamom Brioche Loaf which has a filling and is baked in a loaf pan. I liked the idea of Vicky’s sugar water glaze more than the egg wash my Mom’s recipe called for – and since I don’t have brioche pans, I followed Vicky’s lead and used regular loaf pans.
I’m surprised this recipe came out as nicely as it did, because boy did I mess it up. This was my first time making brioche. In some ways, it is more like a pastry dough (lots of eggs and butter) than a regular yeast bread. Knowing this, I should have figured that the method of preparation would be a little different. But, I am so used to softening the yeast, throwing all of the ingredients together, and beating for two minutes (pretty standard approach for many of my Mom’s recipes), that that’s what I did.
While the mixer was mixing, I read the instructions. That’s when I realized that I was supposed to add everything but the butter and beat for two minutes. Damn. The butter should have been added in tablespoon increments, not with everything else. Even with that misstep, the bread came out of the oven with a nice moist crumb and was well-received by folks who sampled it. I will need to make it again – by the recipe – to see how the bread turns out in comparison. I suspect the crust will be flakier and the crumb will be lighter.
The second mistake I made was cutting the long braid into four sections instead of baking the braid in one piece on a baking sheet (or twisting the dough tighter like in Vicky’s recipe).
You can see by the picture above, that I simply cut the braid into four equal pieces and stuck them in the pans. I left the ends unpinched, not thinking about how the exposed ends would come out during baking.
The ends behaved eradically, and each loaf came out with what my Mom would call “a little character.” The top of one loaf in particular fanned out in a really cool way…
As pretty as these turned out, they were a bit wily to cut into slices. If you thought of them as pull-apart loaves, then they weren’t half bad.
Hey – check this out… just had some cool Blue Bowl Bread sticker labels printed. Yay, stickers!
For the bread
- 2 scant tablespoons (or 2 ¼-ounce packages) active dry yeast
- ¼ cup warm water about 110 degrees
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 7 large eggs room temperature
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 5 cups unbleached flour
- 1 cup soft butter
- confectioner's sugar for sprinkling
For the filling
- 1/3 cup brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons cardamom
- 1 tablespoon agave
- 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1/2 teaspoon orange peel
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
For the glaze
- 5 tablespoons sugar
- 4 tablespoons water
In a large bowl, stir yeast into water to soften. Add sugar, eggs, salt, and 3 cups of flour. Beat vigorously for two minutes.
Add butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the remaining flour, ¼ cup at a time, beating well after each addition.
Beat the dough in a heavy-duty mixer for 10 minutes at medium-low speed OR work the dough by hand for 20 minutes by picking up the dough and slapping it down on a work surface over and over. The dough gets extremely sticky and this technique requires a lot of patience. Don’t add more flour unless absolutely necessary.
Put the dough into a lightly oiled bowl and turn it once to make sure the entire ball is coated with oil. Cover with plastic wrap, then a tightly woven towel (this extra cover is necessary). Refrigerate the dough for at least 12 hours (the dough can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a week).
About two hours before baking, turn the dough out onto a lightly oiled work surface. With a rolling pin, roll the dough out into an 18 x 24 inch rectangle (or to your desired thickness).
Spread the filling across the dough leaving 1/2 inch of space along one of the long sides.
Roll the dough longways toward the side that has the 1/2 of space. Pinch the dough along the seam.
Slice the roll in half long ways - cross the strands in a two-strand braid. Slice the braid into four sections. Place each section in a small well-greased loaf pan.
Cover the dough lightly with plastic wrap and let rise for 1 hour and 45 minutes.
About 10 minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Just before baking, lightly brush the top of the Brioche with the glaze.
Bake for 40 minutes or until the internal temperature of the loaf reaches 190 degrees.
Immediately remove from pan and cool on a rack.
Before serving, sprinkle the top of each loaf with confectioners' sugar.