Brioche is a buttery French bread that tastes like a pastry. It is typically eaten for breakfast in France, and makes the perfect dairy challah for Shavuot. When I learned how to make brioche in pastry school in Paris, we were instructed how to prepare it by hand. The process of mixing and kneading the dough and then kneading in the butter took 30 minutes. During two separate pastry courses I had made brioche by hand, so when I had to make it a third time, I asked my teacher if I could make it by machine. I explained that we could compare both methods and see which was superior. He only agreed because at the time I was visibly pregnant. The chef was sure that the hand-kneaded one would be better, but, alas, he had to admit that the taste and texture of my machine-made brioche was perfect. In the interest of time, I am not even suggesting that you ever make this dough by hand!
Yields 2 medium loaves.
- ¼ cup warm water
- 4 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon sugar, divided
- ½ ounce (2 envelopes) dry yeast
- 2½ cups bread flour, plus extra for dusting
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 4 large eggs, beaten slightly, plus 1 egg for glazing
- ¾ cup (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, cut into pieces, at room temperature, plus 1 tablespoon for greasing bowl
- 2 teaspoons water for glaze
- In a measuring cup, measure ¼ cup warm water, add the teaspoon sugar and yeast and stir. Let the mixture sit five minutes, or until thick.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, place the flour, salt and four tablespoons sugar and mix.
- Add the four eggs and proofed yeast mixture and mix with the dough hook on low speed for two minutes, scraping down the bowl and hook two to three times.
- Turn the speed up to medium and knead for eight minutes, stopping to scrape down the hook and sides of the bowl three to four times.
- Turn the speed to low and add the 1½ sticks soft butter, two tablespoons at a time, making sure each addition is fully mixed in before adding more butter.
- When all the butter has been added, turn the speed to medium and mix for three minutes, stopping to scrape down the bowl once or twice.
- Place the dough into a medium bowl greased with the tablespoon butter. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for one hour.
- Remove the dough from the bowl, punch down by folding over a few times, then gather the dough back into a ball and return it to the bowl. Cover the dough with the plastic and let rise for 30 minutes.
- Once again, remove the dough from the bowl, punch it down, return to the bowl and cover. Place in the fridge for 30 minutes.
- Lightly flour your hands and kitchen counter. Divide the dough in half and braid each half into a challah, adding a little more flour to your hands if the dough feels a little sticky. Place the challah on a parchment-covered baking sheet.
- Beat remaining egg with two teaspoons water. Brush the challah all over with the mixture. Let them rise for one hour.
- Preheat oven to 375°F. Brush challah again with the egg wash.
- Bake for 30 minutes or until golden.
- Store wrapped in foil at room temperature for up to five days or freeze for up to three months.
Reprinted with permission.