Brioche

Despite my title, I am not well versed in bread baking. It might even surprise you to hear that two days ago I baked my first brioche.

In working on a dessert based on the established combination “bread and chocolate,” I found myself in need of a loaf or two of brioche. At Veil, I used brioche often. However, when I needed a loaf or two to appear in my pantry, I made a call to Columbia City Bakery and had them deliver a few of their outstanding loaves with our daily bread order. When Veil started serving brunch on the weekends, I didn’t even need to do that, I just opened the freezer and pulled a loaf.

Ok, I was spoiled. With wholesale prices and the attitude, “they can make it better than I can and don’t my customers deserve the best,” I hid behind the fact that I had never tried my hand at the buttery bread. Or any bread, really.

You see, in Baking and Pastry School our instructor drove into our heads that there were two kinds of people in the pastry world; bread people and dessert people. There were 12 bread people in my class of 13. Can you guess who the lone dessert person was?

It’s not that I have anything against bread. Well, not any more at least. I suppose for some reason I held fast to my status earned alone in school. I was NOT a bread person. I even made ridiculous statements like, “bread and I have issues.”

And maybe we did. Maybe I lacked a certain patience that came with age. Maybe I had other things to master first. After all, you can only fit so many things in your head at once.

Last weekend, with bread and chocolate on the brain, and knowing that Jerry, having invested in hobarts, pullman pans, ovens, and a well stocked pantry would never let me buy brioche, I searched for brioche recipes. I consulted with Google, picked a recipe with pedigree, and turned all systems to “bread”.

I first set to the task of destroying the Berlin wall, tearing down the concrete barrier I had built so many years ago, wondering what I was trying to keep out in the first place. I measured, weighed, concentrated, gauged, and did a lot of guessing. And when I laid eyes on my first loaf of brioche, I beamed like a new mother, gently touching the golden glossy crown with my fingers, pressing it to my nose and inhaling deeply. Pride swelled inside me as I thought, “I made this!”

That was Tuesday.

Today I examined brioche 3.0, critical, concerned. Now that I know I can make it work, I won’t be able to stop until I know why it’s working, and how to make it to the best of my ability. This could be a very long winding journey, but I can say with confidence the trip will be filled with golden, yeasty rewards. And who knows what else I’ll unearth along the way. Maybe there is a bit of a bread baker inside me after all.

The recipe

7 Responses to “Brioche”

  1. Dana, you’ve really done it this time. After reading your Tasting Menu article, I sat in front of my computer, staring at the photos, and could actually smell the yeasty fragrance.

    Are you going to share your Brioche recipe?

  2. ts says:

    Many years ago, I tried to make brioche. I remember there was much torturing of the dough, slamming it on the counter, turning it, again and again. Why?
    In more recent years, it was just a change of ingredients and typical bread handling. Is this what you are doing?
    Now, I will probably try one of the no-knead versions with slow rising because I have more success with these as a home baker than I ever had with standard bread baking.

  3. Roberto N. says:

    I loooove Brioche, I love bread too. Funny though I’m better at getting Brioche right than regular bread… This brioche looks wonderful.

  4. Barzelay says:

    I once made brioche from the recipe in the French Laundry Cookbook (http://www.eatfoo.com/archives/2008/04/brioche.php). It turned out more dense than I expected, but that may have just been my lack of skill in not getting it to rise fully. The flavor was great, though. Anyway, I’d love to see your latest recipe, assuming it doesn’t require a steam-injected bread oven.

  5. peabody says:

    Brioche is a good bread to get your feet wet with. It will usually cooperate. Hmm, I am a little bit of both, bread and dessert, though in school I guess I was more dessert than bread.

  6. Camille says:

    After eating hamburgers on homemade brioche buns, I won’t have them any other way.

    While my professional training leans much more towards dessert, I absolutely LOVE baking bread. The way yeast works is an endlessly fascinating phenomenon.

  7. Lameen says:

    I actually linked to your website through my recent post on making brioche. How many eggs did you use, as traditionally brioche is quite yellow inside due to lots of butter and eggs ?

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