Monday, October 15, 2007


My best "brioches à tête" so far, though shape can still be improved

I love the braided look of this loaf

Yay, I am finally the proud owner of a Kitchen Aid mixer (thank you dear husband)! And what better way to use the mixer than to make brioche. I could never have made these by hand, the dough is way too sticky.

I am very happy with my first attempts.

Rich man's or middle-class brioche?

I started with an Hermé recipe (who else), though I was horrified by the quantity of butter: 400g for 500g flour. They were delicious though. Unfortunately I have no photo of the insides of these.

"Middle-class" brioche: fluffy, buttery insides, I think it's referred to as ropy, ("mie filante" in French)

Then I found another recipe with about half that amount of butter -- not exactly light either -- and the flavor was almost as good, the texture almost better (photo above). The large brioche had a lovely moist and airy crumb.

Dough after a 20-minute workout in my Kitchen Aid

Dough after three hours rising at room temperature (different lighting)

I've since discovered that I first made "rich man's brioche*" (80% butter to flour ratio), and then tried my hand at "middle class man's brioche" (50%). The poor man's brioche has about 20% butter to flour ratio, but I haven't made it yet. (Honestly, snobbery aside, why bother?)

(Update August 2008: I have since made and blogged about pains au lait, shown here to the right, which has 25% butter, and could certainly qualify as a poor man's brioche. They look pretty, they're a good snack for kids, but for my taste they're too decadent for bread, and not decadent enough for brioche!)

Loaf in the back, simple brioches with no heads in front

Shaping the brioches

It's so much fun to make the loaf: just place six balls of 95g of dough each, "en quinconce" as they say in French (in staggered rows says the dictionary). Then as they swell into each other they form a nice braid effect.

Trial number 2 of "brioches à tête"

But what I've really been longing to reproduce are the "brioches à tête," also known as "brioches parisiennes." These are the ones I grew up with, and there is no equivalent here in Switzerland. No, not even Sprüngli's will do. However I still have to work a lot on my shaping technique.

For batch one the heads were too big and slipped off (no photo), and for batch two (photo above) the dough was too wet and the heads sort of melted into the bodies. Batch three was barely better, see the second photo in this post. For batch four I made large brioches, 500g and 300g I believe. These larger ones were easier to make and kept their heads better than the small ones. See topmost photo of this post.

Yes, I've already made four batches. In what, three weeks? Oh my. But I've had a lot of house guests lately. Good excuse for making brioches!

Brioches "sans têtes?" The shape may be boring...

But they're still verrrry tasty!

*These expressions are borrowed from my new cookbook, Peter Rheinhart's The Bread Baker's Apprentice (fondly referred to as BBA among bloggers, whose enthusiasm for this book was infectious). So I am indeed happy: a Kitchen Aid and a great new cookbook, whole new horizons to explore!

Recipe: Brioche
(Middle-class variety)
Source: not sure, off of a reader comment on a French discussion forum, and then I made some small changes based on other recipes I read and because the dough first seemed too wet.

- 500g flour (I used a combination of T45 - cake flour? - and Butterzopf flour, the closest to bread flour I could find here. I think all-purpose flour works fine.)
- 20g fresh yeast (you can replace it with something like 7g dry active yeast, but maybe check conversion rate on the internet)
- 6 eggs, or 5 very large ones (290g total)
- 250g butter, room temperature
- 10-11g salt (2 tspn?)
- 60-80g sugar, depending on how sweet you like it
- 60g milk

Mix yeast into milk, add some flour (3 TB?). Cover and let this rest for 15 minutes. (I think this is called a sponge, though most recipes with sponge would let this rest for more like 30 min.)

Sift flour, salt and sugar. Add about 3/4 of the eggs, mix, then the milk and yeast mixture. Mix in the rest of the eggs, then switch to the dough hook and mix for 10 minutes. It's supposed to detach from the sides of the bowl, but I always find it stays very sticky.

Add the butter, one TB at a time, waiting for it to be almost all mixed in before adding the next piece. Continue mixing till the dough detaches from the sides of the bowl (again, this did not seem very apparent to me.)

Butter a large bowl, place dough in it, cover, and let rise for 2 to 3 hours at room temperature. Then place in the fridge for a few hours (I often leave it overnight).

Shape the brioches: 6 balls of 95g each for the loaf above, 50g per small indidual brioche, between 250g and 500g for the larger brioches à têtes, depending on the size of your molds. For shaping balls, try to tuck the edges of the dough under the ball to create surface tension. But the dough is so buttery you have to work quickly so it doesn't warm up. If it is hard to handle, put it back in the fridge for further chilling.

Note: How to have brioches ready for breakfast
I sometimes freeze the shaped dough at this stage. Then if I want some for breakfast, I defrost them in the fridge overnight, get up at 5 am (yes, you read this correctly, but remember I have a handy baby to wake me up in the wee hours of the night, something every bread baker should have at home...) to take them out of the fridge, go back to bed if I can for 2 hours, then glaze and bake in time for breakfast.

I have yet to find a less painful way to have brioches for breakfast, but they're worth it. Still, on a side note, I am always on the lookout for recipes for yeasted breakfast goodies that don't require such brutally early awakenings... End of digression.

Let rise for one or two hours (dough seems very soft and giving if you touch it), and glaze with egg wash (a beaten egg with a pinch of salt), without letting too much egg wash stick to the molds, which might hinder rising.

Bake in preheated oven at 200°C for small brioches, 180°C for larger ones. The small ones bake in about 12 minutes, the larger ones between 25 to 35 minutes. You might want to cover the larger ones with tin foil if they get too dark (like one of my large brioches à tête did). Or perhaps try baking at lower temperatures, which I might try next. Cool on a rack.

And coming soon, a post about my first attempts at making "baguette à l'ancienne..."

Update: Hmm, not sure I'm ready to post about these baguettes. They're from the BBA, they're absolutely delicious, but my first two attempts came out really flat. I must figure out a solution before I can post about them, and I can't say I have any idea what to do about this.

Update, March 18: See my post about Pain à l'ancienne here.