This brioche bread is ultra soft, rich, and buttery! Not only delicious to eat, but easy to make too! Perfect for sandwiches, French toast and just to eat on its own.
Learn how to make authentic brioche bread with this step by step recipe!
A few weeks ago, I was able to live one of my life-long dreams! Granted, it’s only a small part of my dream, but it was still an amazing, fun experience! A short course in Viennoiseries at Le Cordon Bleu was everything I dreamed it would be, and more!
Living a dream
Going to Le Cordon Bleu had been a dream since I realized there was a profession called “pastry chef”. After I completed my bachelors, I was itching to enroll at Le Cordon Bleu in Sydney, Australia for a grand diploma, but had to change my plans because my parents didn’t approve of that career path. I should’ve stuck to my guns in hindsight, but hindsight is 20/20 as they say. So I chose my next love for grad school – science. I still have regrets about not living out that dream, but there still may be an opportunity on the horizon for me. Especially, if I get chances to do short courses like this at the Le Cordon Bleu in Ottawa from time to time! 🙂 So if you’re reading this, and contemplating about your dreams, it’s never too late, and don’t compromise on a dream that you’re passionate about.
Learning the techniques, tips and tricks for making viennoiseries was a fantastic experience! And today, I’ll be sharing all of that with you, so you can make the best brioche bread at home too!
What is brioche?
Brioche bread is a French bread, and a cross between a pastry and bread.
This is because the bread is enriched with butter and eggs. It belongs to the family of viennoisseries (think croissants, Danish pastries, sweet rolls etc.). It’s a very buttery, soft and delicious bread and can be made into sweet brioche or savory brioche.
Why this is the best brioche bread recipe!
- This is a tried and true brioche dough recipe from Le Cordon Bleu, but adapted it for home bakers.
- I’ll be sharing step by step instructions, so you know what to look for at each step.
- Details on how to tell when the brioche is ready after kneading and proofing, so you won’t get gluey and under-baked brioche, or dry and crumbly brioche.
- Three shaping techniques for your brioche loaf are also included here.
Professional recipe vs my brioche recipe
Here, I’ll be sharing my recipe for making amazing brioche dough at home! I had to make some changes to the recipe I tried at Le Cordon Bleu, in order to make it more accessible and convenient for home bakers, but still maintain the authentic richness and taste of classic brioche dough.
The biggest challenge was that the orignal recipe didn’t use any water or milk, and used fresh yeast. Here’s the problem with that,
- While fresh yeast doesn’t need liquid to dissolve, fresh yeast also isn’t very accessible to a home baker.
- And to use any other kind of yeast, the dough will need liquid to dissolve the yeast, and that has a big impact on the recipe too.
So to fix this issue, we will be,
- Using active dry yeast instead of fresh yeast – since active dry yeast is concentrated, you will only have to use about 1/2 the amount by weight. Active dry yeast will require liquid to be activated and dissolved in.
- Substituting some of the egg with milk. Eggs play a big role in adding richness to brioche – especially egg yolks. So, instead of removing a whole egg, I’m removing ONE EGG WHITE, and substituting it with warm milk instead. This will allow the yeast to properly dissolve, while still keeping the richness of the dough.
Gluten and yeast are what make bread. Gluten gives bread the structure it needs. The gluten in the flour develops in the presence of a liquid like water, and that gluten development is faster when the dough is kneaded. The yeast in the dough will emit CO2 as it multiplies, and the gluten matrix will in turn expand as it traps more and more CO2.
Gluten develops well in water, but fat hinders gluten development. With an enriched dough like brioche, all the fat from the yolks and butter works against its gluten development. However, it also keeps the dough super soft and rich in flavor giving it an almost cake-like texture!
That is why brioche dough needs to be kneaded for much longer for good gluten development. Since the dough will be quite slack and sticky, a stand mixer is highly recommended to knead the dough until smooth and velvety.
Can I make brioche bread without a stand mixer?
The brioche dough is generally harder to work with due to the soft consistency, so a stand mixer is highly recommended. However, you can knead the dough by hand, but you will need a very clean working surface and patience to really work the sticky, wet dough until you get the right consistency. Do NOT use a hand mixer with the dough hook – it will be too much of a strain on the motor.
So let’s make brioche!
Prep the ingredients
First, have all the ingredients measured and ready to go.
Almost all of the ingredients should be at room temperature. The exception is milk, where we want it to be very slightly warm (like tepid water – about 100°F). You can use warm water instead if you want, but milk adds more richness.
Make sure to use softened butter. The consistency of the butter is really important, so that it incorporates into the dough quickly and well. On a winter day, you may need to keep it somewhere warm to give the butter a chance to really soften (to 73 – 75°F).
If you press the butter with your finger, you would easily be able to leave a mark, with no resistance. But the butter has NOT melted. This is the consistency you want with your butter.
Activate the yeast
First, activate the yeast. Since we’re using active dry yeast, the yeast needs to be dissolved and activated. This will ensure the yeast incorporates evenly into the dough. Place the milk and honey in the mixer bowl and sprinkle the yeast on top. Gently whisk to mix the yeast, and let it sit for about 15 minutes. In that time the yeast should become frothy and bubbly.
Make the base dough
Add the vanilla, sugar, large eggs and egg yolk, and just break up the yolks.
Add the flour, and finally, add the salt over the flour (this is important! Do NOT add the salt directly to the yeast mix).
Using the hook of your mixer, or a dough whisk, mix all the ingredients in the mixing bowl to form a scraggly dough.
Place the bowl on your mixer with the dough hook attached. Start kneading the dough on speed 2 – 3 (low – medium low speed) for about 1 minute.
Adding the butter
Then add the butter in four additions, with about 2 minutes of mixing time between each addition. Each portion is added one tablespoon at a time, to make sure the butter is completely incorporated every time. Make sure to use a dough scraper (or bowl scraper) to scrape the sides as you go.
The dough will be very slack and sticky after the butter is added. However, as you knead the dough, it will turn into a smooth, shiny dough that’s a little tacky, but doesn’t stick to the sides of the bowl.
Developing the gluten
Once the butter is added (a total of about 8 – 10 minutes), increase the speed to 5 – 6 (medium speed). Knead the dough for a further 10 minutes or so, until you get the right consistency.
This is where the gluten development occurs. As the gluten matrix forms in the dough, it will become satiny and smooth. It will stick less to the sides of the mixer bowl. And if you use the dough hook to lift the dough from the bowl, it should lift cleanly from the bowl, while still being really soft.
The time it takes for the dough to be properly kneaded will vary. It can take as little as 8 minutes or as much as 15 minutes. It depends on the speed of the mixer, the type of mixer and other environmental factors too. Look for the signs to make sure it’s done. The whole mixing time from start to finish can be between 20 – 30 minutes.
This first proofing is very important. As the yeast multiplies and emits CO2, the dough will expand, further developing the gluten matrix.
Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and shape the dough into a smooth ball of dough. Since the dough will be really soft, make sure your hands are lightly floured too.
Place the shaped dough back in the bowl or a different large bowl (you don’t have to butter it, since brioche is so rich it shouldn’t stick to the bowl). Cover with plastic wrap and let the dough at least double in size in a warm place.
If you’re living in a colder climate like me, it’d be hard to find a place that’s warm enough in the kitchen in winter. So what I do is, I turn the light on in my oven, and keep the bowl in the oven. The oven warms up when I cook on the stove too, so it helps the dough proof.
Depending on the temperature, the brioche dough will proof in 1 hour, but it can take up to 2 – 2.5 hours too.
The first proofing is complete when the dough has AT LEAST doubled in size, or even tripled!
Retard proofing the dough
This is the name for letting the dough proof in the fridge. This low temperature proofing is a much longer process, and helps develop the flavor of the dough. In a more practical sense, it makes the dough far easier to handle when it’s time to shape the loaves, plus it allows the dough to rest.
After the first proof, turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. With lightly floured hands, shape the dough again, and form a dough ball with a smooth, taut surface. Transfer the dough back into the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and place it in the fridge.
This dough can be stored in the fridge for up to 24 hours (maybe even 48 for a stronger flavor).
Shaping the bread loaves
When the dough is nice and chilled, it can be divided and shaped. You can either bake them in a loaf pan, or even a cake pan. In the case of the braided loaf, you can bake that on a baking tray too.
With this recipe, you can make TWO bread loaves. You can shape them in one of three ways (there are more ways, but I’m only going to talk about 3 here).
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and gently flatten the dough into a circle. This will also help release any gas in the dough. Weigh and divide the dough into two portions.
Simple loaf – easiest way to shape the dough
This is the easiest way to shape the loaf. It’s a standard loaf shape with no patterns.
This is very similar to how I shaped my white bread loaf which you can find here.
Braided brioche loaf
This is a classic braided loaf that can be either baked in the loaf pan, OR baked as is on a baking tray.
This is made by dividing the dough into 3 equal portions, then shaping each portion into a long “rope”, then forming a braid with the 3 “ropes”.
Nantaise brioche loaf
This is also a very classic way of shaping brioche dough. I call it a faux-braided loaf, because it looks braided, but it’s not. The dough balls can also be cleanly pulled apart from the dough with this loaf.
The dough is divided into 8 equal pieces, and each portion is shaped into a small, smooth ball. The balls are then placed in a zig-zag pattern in the loaf pan as shown below.
Final proofing and baking
Cover the shaped dough in loaf pans with plastic wrap and allow it to double in size before baking. This will be the final proof. This proofing can also take 2 hours at cooler room temperature, so make sure to keep it in the oven with the light on, or the warmest place in your house.
When the dough doubles in size and reaches the top of the loaf pan, it should be properly proofed. Do the finger test to find out if the dough is properly proofed. To do this, gently press the side of the loaf with your lightly floured finger. This leaves an indentation. If this indentation remains, OR if it bounces back halfway, then the loaf is ready to be baked.
If the indentation bounces back completely, then it’s under-proofed and needs more time to proof.
What to do if your brioche was over-proofed?
If the indentation causes the loaf to deflate, that means it was over-proofed!
If your loaf deflates after proofing, then you have to reshape the dough and start again. Otherwise, baking an over-proofed dough can cause the loaf to overflow, or deflate once baked. So make sure to check on the dough periodically, especially when it has nearly doubled in size.
Egg wash or not?
I prefer an egg wash on my plain brioche bread loaves. It gives it a beautiful, shiny crust!
You can alternatively brush the loaf with simple syrup once out of the oven too. But I prefer this option for sweeter brioche bread recipes (like cinnamon rolls or babka).
Brush the surface well with an egg wash. You can sprinkle the top with small pearl sugar (Swedish pearl sugar, not the Belgian kind) if you like, for that extra crunch!
Preheat the oven while you prep the loaves for baking. Bake the loaves in the preheated oven until the loaf is a beautiful deep golden brown in color, and the internal temperature is about 180° – 190°F when checked with an instant read thermometer. Because this dough is enriched, it doesn’t need to reach 205°F like other types of lean dough.
Once baked, turn the loaf out onto a wire rack and allow it to cool completely.
How to enjoy brioche bread
Brioche toast is an incredibly delicious way to enjoy brioche bread. It doesn’t even need any butter because of how rich it is (but it won’t hurt of course!).
Make cinnamon toast with the brioche bread. The caramelized crunchy cinnamon on top is a great textural contrast with the soft bread.
You can slice the brioche loaf while it’s still a little warm. A freshly baked, warm piece of brioche dough is one of life’s simple pleasures, indeed! 🙂
What to do with leftover brioche?
- French toast
- Bread pudding
- Bread crumbs
Brioche Bread Recipe
INTERMEDIATE - This is an easy brioche recipe, but requires a stand mixer. The dough is slightly harder to manage than a regular lean dough. US based cup, teaspoon, tablespoon measurements. Common Measurement Conversions
- ½ cup warm milk
- 2 ½ tsp active dry yeast about 9 g
- 2 tsp honey
- 5 large eggs
- 1 yolk from a large egg
- 2 tsp vanilla
- 2.1 oz granulated white sugar 5 tbsp
- 17.6 oz AP flour 4 cups + 2 tbsp
- 1 ½ tsp sea salt fine grind
- 8.8 oz unsalted butter very soft, roughly divided into four portions (1 cup + 2 tbsp)
Making the dough
- Measure all the ingredients.
- Add the milk, yeast and honey into the mixing bowl and whisk gently to combine. Set aside for 10 minutes to allow the yeast to activate.
- Add the eggs and yolks, and whisk gently to break the egg yolks.
- Add the vanilla, sugar, flour and sea salt, and mix to form a scraggly dough.
- With the dough hook attachment, knead the dough on speed 2 or 3 for about 1 minute.
- Add the first portion of butter, in increments, after the first minute of kneading. Allow the butter to be mixed well into the dough. This should take about 2 minutes.
- Repeat with the other 3 portions of butter, kneading the dough for about 2 minutes after each addition. Make sure to stop the mixer to scrape down the sides of the bowl (and the bottom if needed) between kneading as well. You will have incorporated all the butter in about 9 - 10 minutes of kneading time.
- Once all the butter is incorporated, scrape down the sides of the bowl (and bottom if needed), and knead the dough for a further 5 - 8 minutes on speed 5 or 6.
- The dough will have been kneaded enough when it can be lifted fairly cleanly off the bottom of the bowl when picked up with the dough hook. It will be very soft and tacky to the touch, but shouldn’t stick to your fingertips.
- Flour your work surface, and turn the dough out onto the floured surface. Lightly flour your hands and the surface of the dough to prevent the dough from sticking to your palms. Then flatten the dough with your hands to deflate.
- Fold in the edges of the dough towards the middle and gently press them into the dough (see pictures in the post for more information). Carefully flip the dough over, and then with the heel of your palms, shape the dough to form a tight ball.
- Carefully pick up the dough ball and place it back in the mixer bowl (or another large bowl).
- Let it rise until at least doubled in size, in a warm place (72°F), for about 1 hour.
- Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and fold in the edges again as before towards the middle and press them in. Carefully flip the dough over (seam side down now). Tighten the dough into a ball with a smooth, taut surface (using the edges of your palms). Transfer the dough into the mixer bowl again.
- Cover and let it chill in the fridge for at least 8 hours, or up to 24 hours.
Shaping and baking the bread
- Remove the chilled dough from the fridge. The dough will be much easier to work with now.
- Butter and dust two 8.5 x 4 inch, standard loaf pans. (You can also use 9 x 5 inch loaf pans).
- Keep a bowl of flour, a pastry brush and a dough scraper/cutter ready as well.
- Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Deflate the dough by flattening it lightly. Measure the weight of the dough, and then divide it into two EQUAL portions, using the dough cutter or a sharp knife.
- Now you've got two dough portions to make two brioche bread loaves.
Shaping the loaves
Nantaise brioche loaf
- Weigh one portion of the loaf and divide it into 8 equal portions.
- For each portion (with the smooth side down), fold in the edges towards the middle as before. Carefully flip the dough over, and using a cupped palm, roll the dough portion on your work surface until you have a smooth dough ball (see pictures in the post for more details). Repeat with the other dough portions to get 8 smooth dough balls.
- Place the dough balls in the loaf pan in a zig-zag manner. This will likely be a fairly snug fit.
- After arranging the dough balls in the loaf pan, flatten them slightly. Then cover the pan with plastic wrap and set aside.
Braided brioche loaf
- Divide one portion of the dough into 3 equal portions.
- Flatten each portion into a small rectangle. Then tightly roll up the rectangle to form a tube. Using your palms, and a back and forth motion, roll out the dough into a 14 inch long bread rope. Apply light but even pressure to get a bread rope with even width.
- Repeat with the other two portions.
- Now you have three 14 inch long bread ropes. Bring the ends of the three ropes together and pinch to seal. Braid the dough, while being careful to avoid any loose folds and to not stretch the dough ropes at the same time. Once braided, the bread loaf should be a little longer than the length of the pan (about 9 - 10 inches).
- Pinch to seal the other end. Using your palms, press down the ends of the bread to flatten them against the work surface. Tuck the flattened ends to get a lovely, rounded loaf.
- Carefully transfer this to the buttered and floured bread pan. Flatten slightly to fit the loaf pan.
- Cover with plastic wrap and set aside.
Regular bread loaf
- Follow the same shaping instructions as for my white bread loaf in this recipe to form a regular bread loaf shape.
Proofing the bread before baking
- Proof the bread in the covered loaf pans for about 2 hours at room temperature, or until doubled in size, and almost reaching the top of the pan. Preheat the oven to 325°F/163°C before baking the loaves.
- Once doubled in size, brush the tops with an egg wash. Optionally, you can also sprinkle some Swedish sugar pearls on top for a sweet crunch.
- Bake in preheated oven until golden brown on top and the internal temperature registers 190°F/88°C. This can take about 35 - 45 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and let the bread loaf cool slightly - about 5 minutes.
- Carefully flip the bread loaf out of the pan, onto a cooling rack. Let it cool completely. Store in an air-tight container.
Tips & Tricks
- If you have access to fresh yeast, use 18 g of fresh yeast.
- If you have access to instant yeast, use 4.5 g of instant yeast.