Brioche is a French bread enriched with eggs and butter. It’s not sweet, but it's a bread with the richness of pastry.
It is often broken down into three types: poor man’s, middle class and rich man’s brioche, depending on the ingredients. This recipe is certainly rich man’s brioche and why not? This bread is rich, velvety and almost flaky. The great thing about this recipe is that the dough can be made in advance – many feel that it is better when it has been given a night in a fridge. The dough will keep very well for two to three days.
‘Let them eat cake’
Although widely contested, the phrase ‘let them eat cake’ has historically been attributed to Marie Antoinette, queen of France and wife of Louis XVI. As the story goes, the queen uttered the insensitive comment during famine times in France upon hearing that peasants were complaining there wasn’t enough bread to go around. The direct translation, however, refers to the word ‘cake’ as a ‘brioche’, and since brioche was made from very expensive and scarce ingredients at the time, it would have been even more out of reach for the peasants, thus highlighting the queen’s ignorance of their plight. However, there is no record of this phrase ever being uttered by Marie Antoinette and it’s argued it would have been uncharacteristic of her to say such a thing.
Makes 2 small loaves
- 500g flour
- 5g salt
- 30g sugar
- 50g water
- 10g fresh yeast/5g dried yeast
- 6 eggs
- 300g butter, softened
- Mix together the flour, salt and sugar in a clean mixing bowl.
- Dissolve the yeast in the water and add to the flour.
- Form a well in the centre and add the eggs one by one. Bring all the ingredients together to form a rough dough. Turn the dough out onto a clean work surface and knead for five minutes to form a smooth dough. Place the dough to one side and allow to rest for several minutes.
- Roughly dice the softened butter.
- Using a rolling pin on a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to a rectangle which is twice as long as it is wide. Cover one half of the dough with the diced butter. Fold the other half of the dough over the butter like a book and seal the edges.
- Turn the dough 90 degrees and repeat the rolling process. Roll the dough out to a rectangle about 1 cm thick. Take one third of the dough and fold inwards. Fold the opposite third of dough on top of the first fold. Place the dough into the fridge to rest for 20 minutes. Repeat this rolling and folding process two more times, resting the dough for 20 minutes between each roll. By folding the dough you create layers of butter within the dough which, when baked, will melt and cause the dough to puff up and rise.
- Place the dough into an oiled bowl and cover. Allow to prove for about 90 minutes or until the dough has doubled in size.
- On a lightly floured surface, turn out the dough and knock back. Divide the dough into two equal portions. Shape the dough and place into two lightly greased 450g loaf tins.
- Cover with a damp cloth and allow to prove for about 60 to 90 minutes or until well risen (not quite doubled in size).
- Preheat an oven to 220oC/gas mark 7. Before baking, brush each brioche loaf with a beaten egg. Place in the oven, steaming the oven as always and cook for 10 minutes before reducing the oven temperature to 200oC/gas mark 6. Cook for a further 30 minutes. Remove and leave to cool.
Recipe Credit: Patrick Ryan
Photography credit: Harry Weir,