Brioche is the granddaddy of sweet enriched breads; it’s rich and tender because it’s laden with butter—we’ve made delicious brioche with as much as 100% butter (in baker’s percentage). Generally speaking, fat can get in the way of gluten-bond formation, so although high-fat dough can take longer to mix, the lubricating quality of fat results in a more tender crumb.
In addition to having a wonderful texture, Brioche is versatile, forming the basis of many enriched breads. Brioche can be sweet or savory and handle a number of fats, such as flavorful infused butters. It can be divided into individual portions or baked into loaves; used to make sandwiches or laminated like a croissant; and baked, steamed, fried, or even microwaved.
The French sweetened pastry dough pâté sablée is the namesake of this relatively easy brioche recipe from Modernist Bread, and we borrow from it the traditional pastry-making technique of rubbing or cutting the fat into the flour. We recommend using a food processor to most efficiently accomplish that task. This technique will greatly reduce mixing time and reduce stress on the dough. The eggs and milk are blended in at the end, unlike with most other brioche recipes, which signal to add them early in the mix.
There’s a lot to understand about how to properly handle the dough so that you wind up with a well-executed brioche. Baking it is a balancing act that involves ensuring the crumb is strong enough to support the structure while not overbaking, which can create a thick crust. Careful baking results in a loaf of brioche that’s rich and satisfying. We love tearing off soft, delicate strands of freshly baked brioche—that’s something you could never do with a baguette. Those strands are long gluten chains made flexible by fat, but more to the point, they’re simply a pleasure to eat.