I made this recipe out of laziness. I couldn’t find any brioche or challah to buy for one of Dorie Greenspan’s tartine recipes in either of my local grocery stores and I didn’t feel like driving to my favourite French bakery to buy any. So, I made some myself.
Once again, Ina Garten’s “Barefoot in Paris” book came through with a fail-proof recipe. It sounds like a lot of trouble to make, but it’s nearly effortless. If you’re not familiar with brioche, it is a French bread verging on a sweet with a high egg and butter content that translates into a tender crumb and a dark, golden, flaky crust.
It’s ideal to use when making French toast, bread pudding, or even to toast and spread with a thin layer of butter. I used to wonder what all the fuss was about when my mother would fall into raptures over brioche.
Even my son opened his mouth wide, proclaiming “mahm!” when I took too long between morsels of brioche. But I always preferred the more populist croissant. After making my own brioche, however, I’m not sure I can ever go back to eating any old sliced bread. This may become a weekly tradition in our household.
1 package dried yeast
1/2 cup hot water (Must be between 100 and 120 degrees)
3 tablespoons sugar
6 eggs at room temperature
4 1/4 cups unbleached flour
2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 cup butter (2 sticks), at room temperature
1 egg mixed with 1 tablespoon milk, for the egg wash
1. Combine the water, yeast, and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer with a paddle attachment. Make sure the bowl is not cold – the yeast will only react if the water is between 100 and 120 degrees. Mix these ingredients with your hands, and allow it to sit for 5 minutes, until the yeast and sugar are dissolved.
2. Add the eggs and beat on medium speed for 1 minute, until well mixed. On low speed, add 2 cups of flour and the salt, and mix for 5 minutes. Still on low speed, add another 2 cups of flour, and mix for another 5 minutes. Add the butter in batches, and mix for 2 minutes. With the mixer still on low speed, add the remaining 1/4 cup of flour. Switch the paddle attachment to a dough hook, and mix on low speed for a final 2 minutes.
3. Scrape the dough into a large, buttered bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight.
4. The next day, allow the dough to sit at room temperature for about 45 minutes. Meanwhile, grease two 8½ x 4½ x 2 ½–inch loaf pans.
5. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured board. Cut the dough in half, and pat each half into a 6×8-inch rectangle. Roll up each rectangle into a cylindrical loaf. Place each loaf, seam side up, into a greased pan. Cover the pans with a damp towel, and allow them to self-rise for to 2 to 2 1/2 hours. They should almost double in size.
6. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Remove the towels, and lightly brush the top of each loaf with the egg wash. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until the top springs back and the loaf sounds slightly hollow when tapped.
7. Turn the loaves out onto a wire rack until completely cool.
Would I make this again? Well, considering I have all the ingredients handy and that this is one of the few breakfast items my son will let pass his lips, oui, oui, et oui. Two loaves were a bit much even for our household, however, so I froze one of them. Just take it out of the freezer a couple of hours before you’re ready to eat it, and it will be (nearly) as fresh as it was the day you baked it.
Grade: Five stars out of five. With bonus points for the wonderful aroma of baking bread that will fill your home for hours afterwards. Wait until you see what Dorie Greenspan does with a loaf of brioche!