A Basketful of Brioche


            I have always loved ensaymadas as a child. I would watch our baker swirl them into their fluted pans and wait for each batch to emerge, gloriously aromatic, from the oven. Ensaymadas are usually buttered, rolled in sugar and sprinkled with cheese; I did not like them overly covered in sugar and preferred mine buttered, sprinkled with just a little sugar and then “cheesed”. So I would snatch mine up from the cooling racks before they were prepped for their finishing touches. Such was my fond memory of this sweet baked bread.

             It was not until I tasted a brioche in a local French brasserie here in Richmond, Va that I was struck with how similar it tasted to the ensaymada. Unfortunately, this one I tasted was quite dry but the flavor was reminiscent of that childhood memory.

            When I saw Desire brioche in Alice Medrich’s book Pure Dessert (what can I say – I cannot help but bake everything I see in this brilliant tome), I knew it was time to attempt to recapture that moment of my youth.

I could not decide on which pan size to use so I bought 4 each of medium (5.5 inch) and small (4 inch) ones. I’ve also search for the distinct method of making brioche a tete and found this video to be very helpful although Alice’s book had very clear instructions on two methods.

It is also interesting to note that we food bloggers sometimes go on the same wavelength a lot. I was all set to make the brioche when the lovely Anita of Desserts First posted her yummy rendition of it. It was very reassuring that someone else have tested and tried the recipe I was about to undertake and had much success with it.


Cooking Notes:

The method in this brioche recipe requires that you chill the flour so you can beat oodles of butter into the dough without the butter melting. My resulting dough was so sticky, I was so sure I made a mistake. I refrigerated it over night and it did not rise much – I don’t think it was supposed to anyway.

I did have some difficulty forming my brioche a tete as evidenced by the results of almost non-existent “snowman heads”. I had to use a lot of flour just so the dough would not stick to the countertops and my fingers.

I went egg-wash crazy since I loved golden color – I liked it that the recipe tells you to strain your egg wash to get the lumpy egg whites off. I never did that before and am surprise how much easier the application of the egg-wash can be. I baked the brioche for about 20 minutes at 350°F. I was waiting for them to get really dark but a small voice told me to check the temperature of the bread.

The brioche is done at a temperature of 200°F. So I took a little one out and was dismayed to see it register at 210°F. A vision of choky brioche invaded my mind. I took the bigger one out and it registered at 199°F so I figured they were all done.

I let them rest for a couple of minutes and impatient as always with freshly baked bread, I split one of the smaller brioches in two. To my relief, the inside was still moist and the taste was lightly buttery. Of course, I slathered more butter on it and some local honey and popped a piece of it in my mouth immediately – YUM!

My only reservation with this brioche was that it was very crumbly – not dry but crumbly and this made it hard to smear butter and honey on it. I have a sneaking suspicion that I did not beat the dough enough to develop the gluten structure.

I would definitely make this again. Even after three days, it still tasted wonderful after toasting it lightly in the oven.  Rather than smearing the butter on, I made an “x” incision at the top of the brioche and inserted a chunk of butter in before I put it in the oven. That way the butter melts as the brioche warms up and that nostalgia of my childhood bread – the ensaymada – gets rekindled every time.

24 thoughts on “A Basketful of Brioche

  1. I also love ensaymada, especially the kind with macapuno in the center. As a kid, I was always a little weirded out by the cheese on top, but grew to love that too.

  2. This is fantastic Veron! Love the childhood memories of ensaymada 🙂 I have my share of those too! It is a lot like brioche…mmmm, maybe I should try my hand at this in December when it's cooler!

  3. I have never made brioche. I think I will have to give it a try. Yours looks delicious. What a great job.

    I have never heard of ensaymada. This is what I love about food blogs. There is always something new and interesting popping up.

  4. That is just beautiful!
    I do like being able to take the temp of bread to determine when it's done! Then I also like being able to relate it to what condition I find my bread in at what temperature. I believe/hope it'll make me a better baker.
    Ensaymada, when I looked this up on Wikipedia I found such an interesting history!
    As always Veron, your notes are most helpful.

  5. My husband has made the brioche in Dorie Greenspan's book several times, and it is spectacular, not a bit crumbly. He makes it in two small loaf pans. We usually eat most of one right away, because we can't help ourselves. The other one makes the most obscenely good French toast!

  6. I adore brioche! There used to be a great bakery in NY called Ecce Panis that had great "brioche pillows" sprinkled with powdered sugar. They were divine. I have only made brioche a couple of times in the bread machine (Lora Brody recipe)… need to make it again sometime! These look gorgeous!

  7. Nice idea of cutting an X and filling it with butter. I've been eyeing a brioche recipe for a while too….but I'm too intimidated by the sticky flour.

  8. Hi Dana- I'm not sure if it is possible without a kitchen aid mixer because I have not made bread by hand. Also the dough is really sticky so I'm not sure how it is possible to knead it.

  9. I've never made brioche, but I empathize with your desire to recreate that childhood memory. I've been trying to recreate this strange eggy bread (actually very brioche-like) that my grandmother made, but I can't find a similar recipe anywhere. Even though I got her to write it down, her version isn't reliable, and doesn't taste quite like the bread as she baked it. Now I'm going to amazon to check out Alice Medrich's cookbook:)

  10. Veron,
    I noticed the same result when I did the recipe – you can see my brioches don't have very prominent "tops" either…I wonder if it's because of the softness of the dough. But it's so yummy isn't it…I'm so glad I tried it and I still have room to eat yours!!!

  11. So true about bloggers being on the same wave length. I was going to try some brioche and then the wildfires hit. I'll have to compare this recipe to the one I was going to use in Baking with Julia before I give it a go…It sounds great.

  12. Beautiful brioche, Veron. Solution if you can't smear butter & honey on a a very crumbly brioche: drizzle melted butter and warm honey! 🙂 (warning: it's harder to control the quantity though….)

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