Sunday, October 5, 2008


I was supposed to make brioche for the Croque Madame I made long ago, but I was too lazy then. Instead, I linked to The French Laundry at Home and used some store bought bread. I finally got around to making the brioche about a month ago, and now I'm finally getting around to writing about it. Finally.

We'll just jump right in here with the ingredients. You'll see it's pretty tough to mess something up with ingredients like this:

It's a pretty simple list, in absolutely astounding proportions. There's eggs, cake flour, AP flour, sugar, salt, yeast and butter. That would be about five sticks of butter. For two loaves of bread. For comparisons sake, one of the loaves was about the size of a pound of butter. That means that the bread was about half butter. Seriously.

I started by blooming the yeast in some warm water. After a few minutes it looked absolutely gross:

And after ten minutes plus a good stirring it looked a little like a melted Starbucks Frappucino:

During those ten minutes, I sifted together close to equal amounts of cake and all-purpose flour, as well as the sugar and salt. That all went into the bowl of my mixer along with six eggs. I beat it with the dough hook for about a minute:

In went the yeast mixture, followed by another five minute pummeling of the dough:

Now it was time for all of the butter. As you can see in the picture above, I had cut it into slices that were a little less than a tablespoon each. I added about a quarter of the butter at a time, allowing all of the butter to be incorporated before moving on to the next batch. After all of the butter was mixed in, I allowed the mixer to have its way with the dough for ten more minutes. What came out after those ten minutes was pretty disgusting. It was kind of a slimy, greasy mess:

I lightly floured a glass bowl and dumped the dough in. After covering it with plastic wrap it took a little trip to a warm place (a corner of kitchen counter) for a three hour nap:

The dough woke from its little nap having put on a little weight:

I took care of of that problem by removing all of the excess air:

I was surprised at this point that the dough was still so runny and moist, for some reason I had expected it to dry out a little bit. I'm not sure why I thought that, but I did. The dough took another trip, this time to the refrigerator for a night's long rest.

I buttered a couple of bread pans in preparation for baking the bread. You know, just in case there wasn't enough butter in the dough to prevent sticking:

Out came the dough, which had grown yet again, although not quite as much as it had the first time.

It had, however, turned more into what I had expected consistency-wise. It was a little less slimy and a little more firm. I divided the dough into equal pieces and formed them into loaf shapes in each pan:

Then I left the house, again, so they could rise for three more hours. The recipe said to wait until the dough rose 1/2" above the top of the pan, or about three hours. After about four hours, it still hadn't even come close to the top of the pan, and it appeared as if all growth had stopped:

Now if you're keeping track at home, that's about 21 hours of resting. I got impatient, and decided that was plenty. I put both loaves into the oven, which I had pre-heated to 350 degrees. The recipe said it would bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the pan sounded hollow when tapped on the bottom. I gave it a little knock at about the 30 minute mark because the bread looked and smelled like it was about done. It sounded ridiculously hollow for something that was not, in fact, hollow at all. I took these out of the oven:

The next step depends on your intention for the bread. For immediate consumption, you are to let it cool for ten minutes and then slice. If you plan to eat it within a few hours, wrap the bread in foil and set it aside. For anything longer than that, wrap the hot bread in foil and freeze it immediately.

The smell at this point was pretty incredible, so there was no way both of the loaves were going to survive the day. One got set aside to be sliced in the very near future, the other wrapped up in two layers of foil and then put in a plastic bag for freezing. That process took just long enough that I could justify cutting into the bread as soon as I was done.

The bread was delicious, some of the best that I've ever had. It tasted almost like a croissant, which shouldn't be too surprising given the ingredients. The texture was great, and it stayed that way for several days. It was great plain, with some jelly, toasted, toasted with some butter, toasted with some jelly, and drizzled with chocolate for dessert. I'm sure it would have been great other ways, but I ran out after the chocolate part.

This was my first attempt at making bread from scratch, and I have to say I was pretty impressed. Aside from the absurd amount of downtime, it's pretty easy to make. There are a couple of other recipes in the book that make use of it, so I'll get to make it then at a minimum, but I hope to be able to make it a little more often than that. I guess it just depends on how much time I have available to exercise...


Kitt said...

That's a heck of a lot of butter! No wonder it tastes so good.

You might try no-knead bread sometime. So very easy and tasty, even without butter in it.

James said...

I bet you the altitude had something to do with those rising issues...

mike said...

I'll have to give that a shot. It sounds like it might be forgiving of me bread-making incompetence.

I looked around, and it looks like you were probably right about that...

ClaireWalter said...

Random thoughts:

Way back in the baby-step days of my Colorado food blog, I had a question of where in the Denver area brioche is available. (

I'm not a bread baker, but I suspect that James is on to something regarding the reason the bread didn't rise. In yesterday's Denver Post food section, Kristen Browning-Blas tackled the issue of things people are afraid to prepare. Anything with yeast was one of them ( You are fearless. You made tasty bread. Good going.

mike said...


That's some good information. I'll have to check some of the places out.

I would say that things with yeast are some of the more frightening things to make. The disaster quotient is pretty high. I'd say offal is high on that list too, along with maybe deep frying. I guess I should go read the article now...