Abby Dodge is a food author, contributing editor and teacher. She has been a passionate baker since she was a young girl, cooking with her mother in her home in Brooklyn, New York and Southport, Connecticut. Upon graduating college, she studied in Paris at La Varenne and later worked under renowned chefs Michel Guerard and Guy Savoy, where she specialized in pastry. Currently, she is the contributing editor for Fine Cooking, whose test kitchen she helped create and develop. In addition to regular TV and radio appearances, she also teaches at culinary schools throughout the country.
Overnight Brioche Braid
Makes 1 loaf: 10 to 12 servings.
Brioche is one of the softest and richest breads in the yeast category — it almost melts in your mouth. The secret? It’s loaded with eggs and butter, making the dough silky smooth and the baked interior a gorgeous shade of yellow. Traditionally, brioche is baked is a high-sided, fluted and flared mold with a small round of dough centered on the top of dough. Once risen and baked, it looks like a crown. While this presentation is beautiful and classic, I prefer to simply braid the dough — still gorgeous and very easy to slice.
As with my other yeast bread recipes, I’ve included a hand mixing method. It’s important to note that this dough is very sticky and requires a different hand-kneading technique along with some perseverance and faith. I learned this hand method when I was studying at La Varenne Cooking School in Paris. Not only it is fun, it’s come in handy on many occasions — especially during my time as head baker at Hay Day Market in Greenwich, Connecticut. One busy Friday the power went out, with gallons and gallons of brioche dough awaiting its butter addition - a crucial step. Without an electric mixer at the ready, everyone thought the entire batch was lost. The bakery crew looked on with amazement as I worked the dough by hand (in smaller batches) from a messy, super-sticky dough to the satiny, supple dough that makes for great brioche. I was a magician that day but there’s nothing supernatural about it – just good technique and some old-fashioned elbow grease. When you have the time, I’d encourage you to mix this dough by hand – it’s very rewarding.
-Prepare the dough through step #5, cover and let rise until about 1 1/2 times its original size, about 30 minutes. Refrigerate the dough for up to 12 hours before proceeding with the recipe. It will continue to rise slowly in the fridge.
- Prepare the dough through step #6, cover the braid and let rise until about 1 1/2 times its original size, about 20 minutes. Refrigerate the braid for up to 12 hours before proceeding with the recipe. Remove the braid from the fridge and set it on the counter while heating the oven.
- Prepare the brioche through step #8 and let cool completely. Freeze in a heavy-duty freezer bag for up to 2 months.
3 1⁄2 cups (15 3⁄4 ounces) all purpose flour
1⁄4 cup granulated sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons (1 packet/ 1⁄4 ounces) instant yeast (Rapid Rise)
1 1⁄4 teaspoon table salt
3⁄4 cup warm whole milk (between 115 and 125 degrees)
3 large eggs
8 tablespoons (4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature and cut into 8 pieces
For the egg glaze:
1 large egg
1 tablespoon water
To mix by hand:
1. In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, yeast, and salt with a wooden spoon until blended.
2. Check the milk temperature. It should register about 120 degrees on an instant-read thermometer. (In order for the yeast to grow, the liquid needs to be between 115 and 125 degrees.) Drizzle the milk over the flour and add the eggs. Stir with a wooden spoon until a soft dough forms.
3. Keep the dough in the bowl or scrape it onto an unfloured work surface (my preference) and knead it with one hand, using a slapping motion. It will be sticky at first, but resist the urge to add more flour. First, gather the dough in one hand. Next, lift the dough up (it will continue to stick to the bowl) and slap it back down onto itself. With your clean hand, give the bowl a quarter turn and repeat (if kneading on a work surface, use a bench scraper in your clean hand to help pick up and turn the dough). Keep slap-kneading until the dough is smooth and begins to release from the bowl or the counter and is no longer sticky, about 10 minutes. Spread out the dough and smear the softened butter over the top. Fold the dough up and over itself to cover the butter. Continue kneading as before (it will get sticky and messy again) until it forms a smooth and satiny dough that doesn’t stick to the bowl or counter. Shape the dough into a ball.
4. Proceed as directed in step #5.
To mix in a stand mixer:
1. In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, yeast, and salt.
2. Check that the milk temperature registers about 120 degrees on an instant-read thermometer. (In order for the yeast to grow, the liquid needs to be between 115 and 125 degrees.)
3. With an electric mixer fit with a dough hook, begin mixing on medium-low speed. Slowly pour the milk into the flour and add the eggs. Mix until the flour is completely incorporated. Increase the speed to medium and beat until the dough begins to pull away from the bottom and sides of the bowl, about 6 minutes. Don’t venture too far away while it’s mixing as the mixer might dance around on the counter. With the mixer running, gradually drop the softened butter by the tablespoon into the bowl. Continue mixing until the butter is incorporated and the dough is smooth and satiny.
4. Proceed as directed in step #5.
Let the dough rise:
5. Scoop up the dough and shape it into a ball. Lightly grease the bottom and sides of the mixing bowl and pop the dough, rounded side up, back into the bowl. Cover the top securely with plastic wrap. (I like to use a large rubber band to hold the plastic in place.) Let the covered dough rise in a warm spot until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.
6. Line a large cookie sheet with parchment or a nonstick liner. Turn the dough out onto a clean work surface (there’s no need to flour—the dough is soft but not sticky) and press to deflate it. Using a bench scraper, divide the dough into 3 equal parts. Roll each piece into a 20-inch-long rope. Position the 3 ropes side by side on the prepared cookie sheet. Pinch the ropes together at one end and braid the ropes together loosely by alternating lifting the far right rope over the middle rope and the far left rope over the idle rope. Repeat the process until you reach the end. Pinch the bottom ends together and tuck both ends under the braid. Lightly grease the braid and cover loosely but completely with plastic.
7. Let the braid rise in a warm spot until doubled in size, about 30 minutes.
8. When ready to bake, position an oven rack on the middle rung. Heat the oven to 400 degrees. In a small bowl, make the glaze. Stir the egg and water with a fork until blended. Using a pastry brush, evenly coat the top and sides of the braid. Bake until the braid is well browned and has a hollow sound when tapped, about 30 minutes. Transfer the cookie sheet to a rack and slide the braid onto the rack to let cool.
Recipe reprinted courtesy of Abby Dodge’s book, The Weekend Baker.