How to make fluffy French brioche. Unlike bread, it’s made with eggs, butter, milk and a little sugar making it so much lighter and airy. Discover how to make your brioche rise – and fall for its added fillings or toppings using our family’s best recipe.
This French street sign popped out to say bonjour as we were meandering on a mid summer’s walk in Rhône wine country.
Can you imagine living in a street called Brioche lane? I’d personally feel compelled to have brioche dough out on the window ledge, puffing up proudly for the tourists that passed (that’s the dough not me), inviting everyone to have a part in making it!
However, it perhaps should read in the plural, Impasse des Brioches, as there are many kinds in France.
Different Kinds of French Brioche
There are so many different kinds of brioche in France. I think there are about 30, as every region has pretty much its own version.
For example, in Lyon, bakers add pink pralines (see my article on pastries in Lyon), very similar to the Savoyard speciality, le Saint-Genix. Another version in the north is the Cramique with more sugar, chocolate or raisins – to taste this, visit Aux Merveilleux de Fred in Paris.
Parisian and Nanterre Brioche
Perhaps the most recognised around Paris is the Brioche à Tête, also known as the Brioche Parisienne (Parisian Brioche). It’s basically a large ball with a little head on top, hence its name. As we live in Paris, I’m showing you how to make this version which needs a special brioche tin – plus the easier Brioche Nanterre, as it can easily be made using a regular cake or loaf tin.
Likewise, I’m cheating a bit, as we love the famous Pogne de Romans, found in the Drome region for its touch of orange blossom. So I’m adding this to the dough to give you an idea of its beautiful flavours. Otherwise it’s not used in a classic Parisian version. If not using, just replace the orange blossom water with more milk or just water.
Brioche’s Rules to Rise
The golden rule with brioche is take your time. It’s so simple to make – but if you’re in a rush, forget it.
From experience, I wouldn’t recommend you make this while you’re multi-tasking. When I’ve been rushing back from Mum the taxi or grocery shopping, many times I’d completely forgotten the dough rising in all its glory 2 hours later. I’d discovered brioche dough oozing down the side of a radiator or above the oven sticking to the door. Hence my previous title to this recipe: Arise, Sir Brioche!
So, Sir Brioche prefers to be treated with more respect and not just fitted in to a last-minute schedule.
Brioche Nanterre – Loaf Made with 3 Dough Balls
Depending on your mood, you can add all sorts of sweet surprises (see step 4).
This is the part that the kids love to join in and create their own combinations; especially claiming their own brioche ‘ball’. Additions make this less classic but the kids have adored chocolate chips, walnuts, pistachios, cranberries, orange peel, or soaked sultana raisins (either steeped in more orange flower water or Earl Grey tea). The list is endless, so it’s great to keep changing the brioche ball game.
French Brioche Recipe
The first rule is to take your time. The other golden brioche rule is to ensure your ingredients are at room temperature. The rest is a piece of brioche.
I make brioche using a stand mixer, but I used to make it just as well by hand (but takes much longer!). This recipe originally came from the French Alsa Briochin® dried yeast packet instructions. I like it as it uses many eggs and more milk than the average recipe. Over the years, I’ve adapted it with less butter, less sugar and our favourite addition is the orange flower water.
The brioche also freezes well for up to a month.
Makes 1 large brioche
Preparation Time: 40 minutes
Rising Time: 1 hour + 1 hour
Cooking Time: 25 minutes
500g plain flour
50g caster sugar
1 tsp salt (fleur de sel)
2 sachets/envelopes of dried baker yeast
100 ml (7 tbsp) warm milk
2 tbsp orange flower water
4 large eggs (at room temperature)
150g unsalted butter, melted
2 egg yolks (to glaze)
pearl sugar (to decorate)
1. Mix the flour, salt, sugar and dried yeast in an electric mixing bowl and make a well. Attach the dough hook and start mixing on the lowest setting.
2. Add the warmed milk, orange flower water and then the eggs one by one and mix well until you have an even dough. Gradually add the melted butter (leave a bit to butter the brioche tin if it’s not silicone), mixing for at least 20 minutes until the dough doesn’t stick to the sides of the bowl.
3. Cover with a clean dish-towel and leave to rise in a warm place (24-35°C) for an hour until it looks like this.
4. Knock down the dough (if you’re adding chocolate chips, nuts, or candied fruits, mix these in). If making a brioche à tête, rip off a small amount of dough (size of a ping-pong ball). Roll and stretch the dough into one large ball and place in a fluted brioche tin. Create a tiny well at the top middle and roll on the little pingpong dough head on top.
If making a brioche loaf (brioche Nanterre), divide the dough into 3 and roll into 3 tennis-sized balls and place in a cake or loaf tin.
5. Leave again in a warm place for another hour until the dough rises to at least double its size.
Separate the eggs for the yolk glaze. Place the whites in a clean jar, cover and keep aside in the fridge (or freeze) for up to 5 days (make financiers or tuiles with them – or macarons from my books!).
6. Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/350°F/Gas 4. Brush the brioche with egg yolks mixed with a bit of water to glaze and sprinkle with pearl sugar (or 3 crushed sugar lumps).
Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes until golden. If the brioche browns too much, cover with greaseproof paper halfway through baking (although we prefer it browned, just how they serve it in our local boulangerie.)
7. Cool the brioche on a wire rack. Let the brioche rest for about an hour before devouring; straight from the oven and it will be too yeasty.
What to Serve with Brioche
Sometime plain is best, just with the traditional pearl sugar (or crushed sugar lumps) or a toasted nutty topping. If using the orange blossom, it’s beautiful on its own to appreciate these subtle flavours.
Alternatively, serve with homemade rhubarb or strawberry compote.
What kind of goodies would you hide inside or sprinkle on top of your brioche? Or do you prefer it ‘plain’ with orange blossom?
Fluffy French Brioche
- 500 g (18oz) plain flour (all-purpose)
- 50 g (2oz) caster sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- 12 g dried baker yeast (2 sachets/envelopes)
- 100 ml (7tbsp) whole milk warmed
- 2 tbsp orange blossom water (if not using, replace with more milk)
- 4 large eggs organic
- 150 g (5½oz) unsalted butter melted
- 2 egg yolks (to glaze)
- 1 tbsp pearl sugar (or 3 crushed sugar lumps) to decorate
- Mix the flour, salt, sugar and dried yeast in an electric mixing bowl and make a well. Attach the dough hook and start mixing on the lowest setting.
- Add the warmed milk, orange flower water and gradually the eggs, one by one. Mix well until you have an even dough. Gradually add the melted butter (leave a bit to butter the brioche tin). Mix for at least 20 minutes until the dough comes away from the sides of the bowl and loses its stick.
- Cover with a clean dish-towel and leave to rise in a warm place (24-35°C) for an hour until at least doubled in size.
- Knock down the dough (if you're adding chocolate chips, nuts, or candied fruits, mix these in). If making a brioche à tête, rip off a small amount of dough (size of a pingpong ball). Roll and stretch the dough into one large ball and place in a fluted brioche tin. Create a tiny well at the top middle and roll on the little head on top.If making a brioche loaf (brioche Nanterre), divide the dough into 3 and roll into 3 tennis-sized balls and place in a cake tin.Sprinkle with the pearl sugar or toppings of your choice.
- Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/350°F/Gas 4. Brush the brioche with egg yolks mixed with a bit of water to glaze. Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown. If the brioche browns too much, cover with greaseproof paper halfway through baking (although we prefer it browned, just how they serve it in our local boulangerie.)
- Leave the brioche to cool on a wire rack.
This post was first published 12 September 2012 but has now been updated with a printable recipe card.