There is no aroma more intoxicating than that of freshly baked bread. When that bread is brioche, it smells like a French bakery, Christmas morning and your birthday all rolled into one. And no matter how far you live from Paris, you can recreate that bakery right in your own kitchen. With a few minutes of preparation a day or two in advance, and just five minutes of work on the big day, you can even have brioche rolls hot from the oven on Thanksgiving Day.
Brioche is a yeast bread enriched with butter and eggs. It has a soft crumb and a rich flavor. Brioche is also versatile, and can be savory or sweet, turned into elaborate pastries or served simply with a bit of jam. Brioche à tête is common in Paris, but you can also bake the dough in a loaf pan, in individual pans or muffin tins, or transform it into special holiday treats like sweet rolls, King Cake, Stollen or Panettone.
I have minimally adapted this recipe from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, substituting maple syrup for the honey and reducing the eggs by one (because that’s what I had in my refrigerator!). I have no doubt that the original recipe works perfectly. I just couldn’t wait for another trip to the store before baking this brioche! Neither should you. You don’t need any special equipment. You don’t even have to knead. Mix up the dough one day and bake it the next, and your kitchen will feel like Paris, too.
No-knead Maple Brioche à Tête
adapted from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day
(makes 4 one-pound loaves)
1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
1 1/2 Tbsp. active dry yeast (2 packets)
1 Tbsp. kosher salt
7 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, melted and cooled
7 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
egg wash (one egg beaten with a little water)
Mix the water, yeast, salt, eggs, syrup and melted butter in a large bowl or lidded food container. Mix in the flour until completely incorporated (you can use a spoon, large silicone spatula, or a heavy-duty stand mixer with dough hook). The dough will be loose and sticky, almost like thick cake batter. Lumps are okay.
Cover the container (with a plate or an unsealed lid so it’s not airtight) and rest the dough at room temperature until it rises and flattens on top, about two hours. Refrigerate the dough (still covered, but not airtight). If you don’t use it all in the next five days, freeze the dough in one-pound portions (I like sealed freezer bags) for up to four weeks. Thaw in the refrigerator for 24 hours before using.
When you’re ready to bake, grease a nonstick brioche mold or nonstick loaf pan. To make dinner rolls, follow these instructions. Dust the surface of the dough with flour and cut off a one-pound piece (about the size of a grapefruit). Break a golf ball size piece off the main ball and set aside. Dust the large piece with more flour and quickly shape it into a ball. Stretch the ball into an oval if using a loaf pan; otherwise, put the ball in the brioche mold and poke a hole in the middle with your finger. Dust the small ball with flour, roll it into a pear shape and insert the pointed end into the hole. Press the edges of the two together. Leave the dough to rest, uncovered, for one hour and 20 minutes.
After the dough has rested, heat the oven to 350 degrees. Brush the dough with egg wash.
Bake for 40 minutes, or until the bread is a deep golden brown. Remove from the pan immediately and cool on a wire rack. Try not to slice it until it’s (nearly) cool! Store bread in an airtight container for a few days; freeze any leftovers for baked French toast.
Melissa Jerves writes about food, family and 21st century home economics on her blog, Home Baked.