I wasn’t exactly sure how I’d feel about brioche. My husband is so not a fan of rich breads, so I had that to worry about. Plus, I can’t say as I’d ever had really good brioche before. I’ve had it, but it always seemed kind of dry and just like a plain roll.
I have a new attitude about brioche now. And this recipe has further demonstrated the amazingly professional results you get baking from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice. My brioche were absolutely gorgeous:
Wouldn’t you agree? And yes, they were delicious too. I made the middle class version and it was very much like a dense croissant – it does peel away in those gorgeous buttery flakes but isn’t as light and airy. It made perfect, if rich, burger buns. Only there aren’t any left to freeze, as I had originally planned – these got eaten up pretty darn quickly.
It started, as so many good breads do, with a sponge. This one is made with warm milk:
It fermented only for about 40 minutes. This is the first recipe in the challenge for which I used my mixer:
I am really glad I had it – this bread is an absolute breeze to make with a mixer, which is really saying something for such astounding results. Once the sponge has fermented, you first mix in the beaten eggs, then add flour, salt, and sugar (since I intended this for savory buns, I added a scant 1.5 T sugar instead of the recommended 2) to the sponge and mix until it is all hydrated. At this point, it has the shaggy, floury look of most bread doughs, aside from a golden color because of the eggs:
But then you begin to add the butter, 1/4 at a time (this recipe uses two sticks – I left them out overnight to ensure complete softness and mixability), and the dough turns into a glossy, sexy, gorgeous, frosting-like substance:
You use the paddle to mix the dough, and Reinhart mentions that the dough will want to climb it. I wasn’t actually having that problem at all until I scraped down the sides. After that, I couldn’t get it off the paddle, but fortunately the mixing process was nearly through then. You scrape the dough into a rectangle on some oiled parchment – the dough was very gooey but held together beautifully, coming out of the mixing bowl in one cohesive clump. Check out the pre and post rise dough:
I chilled the dough only the recommended 4 hours, which seemed fine, although the last portion I shaped was starting to get a bit difficult. I used the bench scraper to divide the dough, which was definitely a necessity. It was tough to decide on portions, because the dough is quite dense and I wasn’t sure how much it would rise. I ended up with 6 rolls and two brioches a tete (I couldn’t resist not making at least a few of these classic shapes, and I used two really small tart pans for the molds. It worked perfectly and I’m really glad I did them because they are adorable!), although I could have reduced the roll size – they got HUGE.
With everything shaped, time to proof. The rolls:
And the brioches a tete:
They rose a lot in proofing, but nothing could have prepared me for how much bigger they’d get in the oven. Oven spring city! And they smelled kind of like roasting marshmallows while they were baking. I was delighted when I pulled them out of the oven:
Unfortunately, my oven is not that wide and I put one pan of rolls on the lower-middle shelf. I should have rotated them, because the egg wash burned a bit on the bottom of the rolls on that pan. Live and learn – and try not to also be roasting potatoes, grilling burgers, and cooking green beans at the same time if you don’t want that to happen to you.
Though it is definitely rich, it is delicious and beautiful and makes perfect buns. The soft texture and golden color, along with the glossy crust, makes it look like they came from a fancy bakery. I truly cannot get over how professional the results are and how little actual work is require to produce such amazing bread. Brioche is probably the first bread I’ve made in the challenge that I wouldn’t have made otherwise, just because it isn’t the kind of thing we normally eat. But I will most definitely make it again – it is especially perfect for fancy breakfasts, because the dough could be refrigerated over night, and the final proofing and baking take relatively little time.