…from the California Kitchen
How you doin? The first time I made Brioche it was at the Cordon Bleu in France. We were told that it was the original “French recipe.” That recipe is like the one included in Julia Child’s book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking II. As I remember it you were supposed to allow two days from start to perfection. These days, I don’t have the time or patience for that kind of baking. For my cookbook, Stolen Secrets, I developed a less time-consuming and less-intimidating recipe that still makes an outstanding Brioche.
Where did this great bread originate? When studying the anthropology of food there are many conflicting stories. It’s not like discovering artifacts in an ancient Egyptian burial vault—it is mainly handed down by word of mouth, generation to generation. And so it is with Brioche.
Brioche is believed by some to have been adapted from a classic Norman recipe, but some people argue that it's of Romanian origin, because in Romania there's a very similar holiday bread. In France, The Viennese Bakery made this bread well known.
I personally believe that Brioche is a bread of French origin that is similar to a highly enriched pastry whose high egg and butter content gives it a rich and tender crumb. It is best described as light and slightly puffy, more or less fine texture, according to the proportion of butter and eggs. It has a dark, golden, flaky crust, frequently highlighted by an egg wash applied after proofing and before baking. The high fat and protein contents of these ingredients is what makes the bread so special.
Brioche is considered a Viennoiserie because it is made in the same basic way as bread but has the richer aspect of a pastry because of the extra addition of eggs, butter, liquid (milk, water, cream, and, sometimes, brandy) and occasionally sugar. Brioche, along with pain au lait and pain aux raisins—which are commonly eaten at breakfast or as a snack—form a leavened subgroup of Viennoiserie recipes.
Brioche is often baked with fruit or chocolate chips and served on its own, or as the base of a dessert with many local variations of added ingredients, fillings, or toppings.
This recipe is versatile enough to make doughnuts to dinner rolls and everything in between.
Prep time: 30 minutes
Proof time: 1-1/2 to 2 hours
Bake time: 20 minutes for minis and 30+ minutes for the loaf
Yield: Makes about 1 dozen 3-1/2-inch brioches or one 9-inch loaf.
1/4 cup warm whipping cream (about 105°F)
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 package active dry yeast
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs at room temperature
1/2 cup butter (1 stick), melted and cooled
2 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons whipping cream
ChefSecret: The word “Viennoiserie” is French for “things from Vienna.” It is described as a whole category of pastry that includes croissants, pain au raisins and brioche. These products, traditionally associated with France, tend to bridge the gap between boulangerie and patisserie in traditional pastry school philosophy.
Quip of the Day: “Quarantine taught me why dogs get so excited about something moving outside and going for walks and car rides. I’ve now taken to barking at squirrels climbing trees.”
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