The word brioche first appeared in print in 1404. This bread is believed to have sprung from une recette normande traditionnelle. It is argued that brioche is probably of a Roman origin, since a very similar sort of sweet holiday bread is made in Romania ("sărălie"). The method of baking it and tradition of using it during holidays resembles the culture surrounding the brioche so much that it is difficult to doubt same origin of both foods. Brioche is often served as a pastry or as the basis of a dessert, with many local variations in added ingredients, fillings and toppings. It is also used with savory preparations, particularly with foie gras, and is used in some meat dishes.
Perhaps the most popular version is Brioche à tête. Today, we will bake a loaf version, using a slow-rise, cool fermentation method. "Louis" lets the dough ferment in the refrigerator twice overnight before a third rise at room temperature on the third day before baking. You can proof the dough quicker than this, but the long, cool fermentation helps develop the flavor and improves the keeping quality. Without further ado,
Pain de brioche
Oven 350º F (180º C)
1/2 cup whole milk
6 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup cool water
7 grams yeast (1 packet)
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
17 ounces unbleached bread flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
egg wash (optional)
1) In a small saucepan, scald the milk.
2) Add the butter to the milk, stir until the butter melts, then add the sugar.
3) Set aside, allow to cool to under 100º F (38º C)
4) Allowing time for the milk/butter mixture to cool, pour the water into the mixing bowl of your mixer* fitted with the whisk attachment.
5) Add the yeast. Allow the yeast to soften for five minutes.
6) With the mixer on low speed, blend the yeast into the water.
7) Pour the milk/butter mixture into the mixing bowl and blend.
8) Add 1/2 cup of the flour, continue to blend on low speed.
9) Replace the whisk attachment on the mixer with the dough hook.
10) Add another 1/2 cup of the flour.
11) When that addition of flour is absorbed, with the mixer running, sprinkle the salt over the dough, blend well.
12) Continuing to mix at low speed, gradually add the eggs.
13) Gradually add remaining flour, running the mixer until the dough forms a soft, sticky ball.
14) Stop the mixer and scrape the sides of the bowl from time to time.
15) When the dough develops a sheen, the gluten is properly developed. At this point, turn the mixer off and remove the dough hook.
16) Resist the temptation to add more flour. This is a soft, sticky dough. The key is to mix long enough for the dough to develop a sheen, indicating proper gluten development.
17) Scrape the bowl. Oil your hands, coat the dough with the oil, shaping the dough into a ball.
18) Cover the bowl well and place in the refrigerator overnight.
19) The next morning, punch the dough down, cover and refrigerate again until the third morning.
20) Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface, shape it to fit the pan you've selected to bake it in.
21) Oil the pan, place the dough in it, cover and allow to proof until at least doubled. Because the dough has been refrigerated, it will take a long time for it to 'wake up' and proof.
22) Bake at 350º F (180º C) for 30 - 45 minutes, depending on the pan you've selected. Brush with an egg wash the last ten minutes of baking to give the crust a sheen.
23) When golden brown and you get a hollow sound by thumping on the bottom of the pan, remove the pan from the oven, placing it on a cooling rack.
24) Let the bread cool for at least 10 minutes before depanning. Resist the temptation to cut into it right away! Let it cool until the internal temperature falls below 100º F (37º C) before cutting.
* Assumes a Kitchen Aid mixer