Free Range Nurse

Cooking therapy from a former travel nurse

A Tête-a-Tête About Brioche April 27, 2010

Filed under: bread — freerangenurse @ 9:14 am

Têtê-â-têtê – noun – (quite literally a head to head) a private conversation between two people.

Brioche â têtê – noun – culinary, traditional way of preparing brioche, in a mold with a little head of dough.

Come, let’s have a little talk.  It’s about bread.  I mentioned in a previous post my love of bread.  I love a warm chunk of bread, just out of the oven with a delicious imported butter spread across it.  I will never be thin.  I blame this bread fetish on my elementary school years, growing up in Austin, and our field trip to the ButterKrust bakery (which, sadly, is no more).  The tour took us on a behind the scenes tour of making loaves of bread.  I remember the warm yeasty smell in the air, the workers hand twisting the dough, the conveyor belt of baked loaves, but most of all I remember the slice of warm Texas toast slathered in butter that we got at the end of the tour (along with a No. 2 pencil and a ruler).  The amount of butter on that bread was obscene!  And so delicious.

Now that I’m an adult (in years, if not mentality), I still enjoy a warm piece of bread, with slightly less butter on it.  My friend, Jackie, was kind/cruel enough to bring a copy of Fine Cooking to work to show me and inside was a tempting recipe for brioche along with detailed step by step instructions.  I immediately went to Central Market to pick up recipe ingredients and my own copy of the magazine.  My first day off and I made two batches of brioche, reasons to follow.

The first batch, I followed instructions to the letter and the result was yeast that never quite dissolved.  I went ahead and baked the dough and the result was still tasty, but I made some alterations the second time and was happier with the results.  The recipe posted below includes the modifications I made.  The recipe can easily be halved, but you’ll regret it when you taste your first roll.  Be warned.

One little tip, bread is best when made by weight, so I have included both weight and measures for you.


adapted from Fine Cooking April/May 2010

  • 1 lb, 2 oz. (4 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 67g (1/3 cup) sugar
  • 1/2 oz. (4 1/2 tsp.) active dry yeast
  • 1/2 oz. (2 tsp.) table salt, plus a pinch for the egg wash
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature, plus 1 large egg for the egg wash
  • 4 oz. (1 1/2 cup) whole milk, warmed to 110 degrees F)
  • 8 oz. (1 cup) good quality unsalted butter, cut into 16 pieces, slightly softened, plus more for the pans

Dissolve yeast in warm milk.  In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the flour, sugar, and salt on low speed until well combined.  Add the yeast milk and (4) eggs to the dry ingredients and mix on low speed to combine.  As soon as the dough starts to clump together, remove the paddle and switch to the dough hook.  Mix on medium speed for two minutes.  Stop and scrape the bowl and hook down, making sure to scrape the bottom of the bowl.  Continue to mix on medium speed for about two more minutes until the dough is firm and elastic, like this:

Again, stop and scrape down the hook and bowl.  With the mixer on medium-low speed, add half of the butter, a few pieces at a time.  Scrape down the dough hook and bowl and remove the dough hook.  Give the dough a few kneads by hand, in the bowl, folding the butter into the dough.

Reattach the dough hook and add the remaining butter, a few pieces at a time, mixing on medium-low speed.  Once all of the butter has been added, turn the mixer up to medium and mix for 4 minutes.  Scrape the dough hook and sided and bottom of the bowl, then mix again at medium speed for another 4 minutes.  The dough will become smooth, soft and shiny.  If your kitchen is warm, the dough may seem too tacky or loose, resist the urge to add more flour.

Turn the dough out to a lightly floured surface, using a stiff spatula to scrape all of the dough out of the mixer.  The dough will be moist.  Knead it by hand a few times, then form a ball by folding the sides into the middle at 12, 3, 6, and 9 o’clock.

Flip the dough over and place your palms on either side of the dough and tuck it under itself, forming a loose ball with a smooth top.  Transfer dough, smooth side up to a clean (ungreased) bowl.  Cover loosely with plastic wrap and allow to rise until doubled in size in a warm draft free area.  I usually heat the oven to 100 degrees, then turn it off and proof my bread dough there (making sure the oven is off before putting the dough in there).

Turn the dough out onto a very lightly floured surface.  Again, form a ball by folding the dough at 12, 3, 6, and 9 o’clock, flipping it and tucking it again.  Transfer the dough, smooth side up into a clean bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap  Refrigerate the dough overnight.  It will rise while in the refrigerator.

The next morning:

Remove the dough from the refrigerator and let it sit at room temperature for two hours.  Butter 16 brioche à têtê molds, or eight molds and one loaf pan, or two loaf pans, or 16 standard muffin cups.

Turn the dough out, onto a work surface, form the dough into a ball again, divide into two equal pieces.  Divide each half into 8 equal pieces, about 2 1/2 ounce each (yes, I weighed each piece), for a total of sixteen pieces of dough.

Roll each piece into a tight ball by cupping your hand over the dough and moving it in a circular motion with your fingers slightly tucked in.  (Fine Cooking has wonderful pictures of this).  To form the têtê, hold your hand perpendicular to the work surface, press down onto the ball about one-third of the way from one of the edges, leaving one-third of the dough on one side of your hand and 2/3 on the other side.

Saw back and forth with your hand almost all of the way through until you get a shape that looks like a bowling pin.  Turn the dough upright so the small portion sits (like a head) on the bottom portion.  Spread the body a bit with your fingers to nest the head into the body.  Gently place the dough into the molds.  If you are using cupcake tins, you can just place the balls in them without shaping the têtês.  If you are using a loaf pan, place four rows of two dough balls in the pan.  (while I used all three methods, I forgot to take pictures.)

Cover the brioche loosely with plastic wrap and place in a warm area to rise until almost doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 375.  In a small bowl, beat one egg and 1 Tbs. heavy cream (optional) and a pinch of salt.  Brush each brioche with egg wash, trying not to get egg wash between the dough and the mold.  Place all the molds on a rimmed baking sheet.  Bake until golden brown on top and golden on the sides, about 18 minutes.  They should have an internal temperature of 190 degrees F.  Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack for about 10 minutes before unmolding.  Serve warm, with really good lightly salted REAL butter.  Margarine should never touch these.  That is all.

Okay, one last thing, the original recipe called for mixing the yeast with the dry ingredients, then adding room temperature milk and eggs.  I found that the yeast did not adequately dissolve, leaving a bumpy dough (see picture).  The resulting brioche was still good, but I preferred the second batch.


4 Responses to “A Tête-a-Tête About Brioche”

  1. YUM-MO! Oh Lordy—when my new kitchen is done I am going to so be making some of your recipes. Seriously how do you do it all? You are amazing!

    • Thanks, Charlene. I assure you, I am not amazing. I practice the fine art of avoidance. The kitchen stays clean and used because if I’m busy in there, I can’t be bothered to clean toilets, right? That’s my philosophy!

      BTW, I really think your cards are amazing! I have a room full of (disorganized) paper craft products, but can’t manage the impressive creations you churn out. If only we lived closer to each other! We could arrange a baking/crafting exchange!

  2. […] found this/these recipes in Fine Cooking Magazine.  Yes, the same magazine that gave me this, and this.  This particular edition was dedicated to chocolate, every recipe – oh yes, and there are […]

  3. Leigh Says:

    Oh Delia, I remember that trip to ButterKrust so well. I can still smell it!

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