Our ABC challenge for June was “Brioche Bread” – we bake our merry way through Abby Dodge’s wonderful book: “The Weekend Baker“. I was quite pleased with Hanaâ’s choice (she is the instigator of this challenge), because I like brioches.

My last memory of this buttery pleasure was my daughter’s graduation from the New England Culinary Institute. I swear there was never a graduation with better food than at the Trapp Family Lodge in Vermont.

I had made brioches twice before, one from a German baking book – hard work, kneading the butter into the dough (my hands hurt!) but great taste. The second one an easier recipe from Peter Reinhart, less rich, but, unfortunately, also less satisfying.

Following Abby’s do-ahead suggestion, I mixed the dough in the evening, before putting it to sleep  in the fridge.

Due to my inexperience with this particular kind of dough – my two earlier bakes were a long time ago – I was a bit leery about over-mixing. When, after the required kneading time, the dough did not pull away from the bottom of the bowl, I gave it a few more minutes, and then started feeding it with butter, no matter what.

Even though I had already cut the butter in 16 (instead of 8) pieces, I found that it took quite long for them to be absorbed into the dough. The dough got warmer and warmer – and I got cold feet!

When the temperature reached over 90ºF, visions of dying yeast cells caused me to rip the bowl from under the dough hook, taking it to a safe, cooler place. It was smooth, but still sticky, so I applied two stretches and folds, with a 10 minute break, before placing it in the refrigerator.

Overnight the dough had risen mightily, and would have busted the lid, if that had been less tight. After giving it an hour to warm up a bit, I started with the shaping process. But this dough didn’t play by the recipe’s rules, it clung to every surface it could reach.

With oiled hands and bench, I forced it finally into submission, rolling it into shaggy strands (where was the promised smoothness?), braiding it into a halfway decent plait, and sprinkling it with chopped hazelnuts to give it a bit of crunch.

As if nothing had happened, my loaf rose nicely, and looked quite pretty, when it came out of the oven.The crust had a nice, nutty crunchiness, and the crumb was soft and rich.

And the taste? Maybe I’m spoiled by my memories, and the subtle orange blossom flavor of the Mexican “Pan de Muerto” I just made.

Abby’s “Brioche Bread” is a nice loaf, mild, neither too rich, nor too sweet – but will not make it into my most memorable Bread Hall of Fame.


  1. It turned out beautiful! I ended up making mine yesterday and baking it the same day. I made 3 mini loaves. When I divided the dough to make strands, I took each piece, and flattened it by hand (also needing oil on hand and silpat). Then rolled it up as if making a loaf/sandwich bread, and then rolled it out into a strand. That produced a pretty smooth surface.

    Oooooh you made Pan de Muerto??? Ever since I ate a slice a few years ago when a coworker brought it back from Mexico, I've been wanting to make it. Will you be posting it soon?


  2. Your brioche turns out great! My dough took double the time to start pulling away from the bowl, and I added in about 1/4 cup of flour as it was really sticky. After that, it was wonderful, soft but not sticky and easy to handle.
    A lovely Brioche, stays soft even the next day!


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  4. I like the mini loaf idea – I thought the brioche was a bit large (I froze one half).
    Yes, I made a Pan de Muerto from recipe I found at “Fine Cooking”. We liked it a lot! I was even thinking of selling it as a sandwich loaf (without the skeletal decorations). I will make it again and post about it, but probably later, when November is upcoming. I can give the recipe, though.


  5. Thanks!
    I realized later that I was a bit too anxious about the dough temperature, and was afraid I might do something wrong when it took so much longer than the time stated in the recipe. But later I looked at a Peter Reinhart recipe, and the kneading time was rather long, too.
    We ate one half within two days and froze the other for later.


  6. I would love the recipe!! Thanks Karin 🙂 Will let you know how it turned out when I make it. I'm sure it would sell well as a sandwich loaf. Yum!


  7. I saw the same thing too. It took a while for the butter to be absorbed into my bread dough and eventually it all went in. *phew*

    Totally agree with you that bread dough develop better flavour with overnight fermentation. However, It is now winter at Melbourne and so I was afraid that my bread dough was unable to re-activate in this cold weather and to save time, I've decided to make the bread all within the day.


  8. “Phew!”indeed! If you make something for the first time you are more anxious and don't want to do something wrong. And the difference in taste is more noticeable in lean breads than in rich ones like the brioche, anyway.
    I like the convenience of overnight retardation. I do all the heavy lifting for the breads I sell on the day before, and only have to shape and bake them on baking day.


  9. Hi Karin!

    I'm sorry this dough gave you so much trouble- sounds like a baking headache to me! But you couldn't tell from the looks of your beautiful finished loaf. I'd love for you to blog about your pan de muerto- I don't know much about that kind of bread, but it sounds delicious! Does orange blossom water impart a similar flavor to orange zest in a finished loaf (or any baked good for that matter)? Just curious…

    Have a great start to your week!

    Hope to hear from you soon,


  10. I had the same issues with this dough, it was sticky and determined to stay that way haha. Didn't braid just made it into a huge blossoming loaf. Your crumb is wonderfuly yellow!


  11. That's just a stunning loaf. Loave those nuts sprinkled on. Your bread looks beautiful yellow, I get that when baked with the eggs of our (freerange of course) chicks in the backyard!


  12. Thanks, Virginia. It is really nice that in Mexico the Day (or week) of the Dead is not just celebrated with treats or tricks and scary costumes, but with tasty breads. Cinnamon roll the muerto sounds intriguing. Maybe we can trade….


  13. Yes, I was quite relieved when the ugly dough duckling turned into something more swan like. The orange blossom water imparts a more subtle orange flavor than orange zest – I know, Hanaâ uses it more often.
    I will blog about it, and, since you are all so flatteringly interested, not wait until November.
    Have a great week, too, Joy!


  14. Not being used to so long kneading we were probably just too timid.
    My daughter (chef) recommended the “Baking with Julia” brioche version, and I just looked at it today – it's emphasizing looong kneading, even cautioning that the machine might get quite hot.
    Take care!


  15. I always like to bite on something crunchy, and love nuts. I was amazed by the appetizing yellow color of the crumb, too. I always buy organic eggs, but this time I actually got them from a farm stand and saw the happy hens clucking and scratching in their pen.
    Having chicken were a long dream of mine, when I was living in Germany I even took my kids to rural fowl shows to look at the different breeds. But then, alas, my mother put her foot down, announcing that she didn't mind babysitting kids or cats – but not chicks!


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