We love going to our local Whole Foods. It’s new, bright, shiny, and bursting at the seams with the most beautiful staff of hipsters I’ve ever seen.
Pretty sure that’s every Whole Foods, but I like to think it’s novel to Austin since that’s where the company got its start. We’ve got the best hipsters in the world. As crunchy as you can get.
We don’t do much heavy duty shopping there, but we do love to go to the bar, grab a beer, and walk around to soak up inspiration from their gloriously stocked shelves and departments WITH the beer in hand. It’s wonderful.
A few weeks ago, I was eyeing all of the breads in the bakery, recruiting a few for our Game of Thrones premier party next month (by party I mean, me, Kevin, the dogs, wine, beer, cheese, bread, and a blanket to watch the bloody scenes through). The table of Brioche was glowing, beckoning me to pick up a loaf, tear off the wrapping, and devour its soft, buttery deliciousness. So picked it up I did. And I was greeted with a still defrosting loaf of Brioche.
I’m always pro-freezing and completely understand that it’s both common and necessary for a lot of independent bakeries to get their goods out. While this beautiful, defrosting $9 loaf of bread was enticing, it felt more like an invitation to myself. An invitation for an inspiring adventure of home bread making. An endeavor that often proves to be both infuriating and rewarding.
So Brioche. I recently bought Rose Levy Beranbaum’s The Baking Bible on Amazon after 2 glasses of red wine, and it has been an incredible purchase. It’s an intimidatingly stout piece of literature, but the recipes are detailed, authentic, and give me the courage and confidence to get in the kitchen and make a memory. And a few mistakes. I followed her recipe for Brioche to a tee, except instead of rolling it into a loaf before baking, I divided the dough into 8 equal pieces, rolled them into balls, and layered them in rows of two in a loaf pan so they’d bake into that bubbly, too-pretty-for-words top that I saw in the store.
It’s a day-long labor of love, much of which is hands off. The end result is a shiny, golden loaf with the melt-in-your mouth buttery quality you’d expect from the French. There are a multitude of creative ways to use this dough/loaf (French toast, anyone?), but I ate iy slice by slice, smeared with sweet butter. Then, smeared with more butter AND raspberry jam, because live a little.
Buttery Brioche Bread
For the Sponge
- 2 tablespoons water room temperature
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon bread flour
- 1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
- 1 egg room temperature
For the Dough
- 1 cup plus 3 tablespoons bread flour
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 1/4 instant yeast
- 1/2 teaspoon fine salt
- 2 eggs cold
- 8 tablespoons unsalted butter room temperature and soft
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1 tablespoon heavy cream
For the Sponge
- To make the dough starter, in the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, beat the eggs, water, sugar, flour, and yeast on medium for about 2 minutes. If the dough starts to collect inside the whisk, just shake out and continue to mix.
- In a small bowl, combine the flour, sugar and yeast, then mix in the salt. Sprinkle the flour mixture over the dough, forming a blanket. Cover tightly with plastic wrap, and let sit at room temperature for 1 1/2 hours to 2 hours. You can also leave the dough at room temperature for one hour, then in the fridge for up to a day.
For the Dough
- In the bowl of a stand mixer with the dough hook attachment, add the eggs to the sponge/dough starter and beat on low for 1 minute, then raise the speed to medium for 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, and continue beating for 5 minutes. The dough will be soft and sticky. Add the butter one tablespoon at a time, making sure each tablespoon is incorporated before adding the next.
- Scrape the dough into a lightly oiled bowl or container, and lightly coat the top of the dough with nonstick cooking spray. Cover the container with a lid or tightly wrapped plastic wrap. Let the dough rest in a warm place for about 2 hours, or until it has doubled in size.
- After rising, refrigerate the dough for 1 hour to firm, then gently stir it, deflating it. Return to the fridge for another. This makes it less sticky.
- Turn onto a well floured surface and form into a rectangle, either with your hands or a rolling pin (I used my hands). Fold it into thirds, like a business letter, and brush off any excess flour with your hands or a pastry brush in the process. Press it down/roll it again into another rectangle, then rotate 90 degrees so the closed end is facing your left. Fold it into thirds again and round the corners. Wrap it loosely in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 6 hours to 2 days.
- Remove the dough and press down on it to deflate. Using a large knife, cut the dough into 8 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a golf-ball sized ball. Spray a 9"x5" loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray. Place the balls of dough side by side in twos. Let rise in the pan in a warm spot in your kitchen for 1 1/2 to two hours.
- Whisk together the egg yolk and heavy cream for the glaze. Using a pastry brush, brush the top of the dough generously with the glaze.
- Bake in an oven heated at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 30-40 minutes, or until golden and fragrant. Let cool before turning out of the pan.