Whether you want to try making your own dough from scratch or rely on the shop-bought stuff, these luxurious brioche dishes are the stuff brunch dreams are made of.
Pillow-soft, slightly sweet and exceptionally buttery, brioche – a type of bread that you could once only enjoy on holiday in France – is now ubiquitous in the UK. But while you might like a brioche bun wrapped around your burger at a barbecue, this luxurious Norman bake really comes into its own at brunch.
With that in mind, you’ll find four brunch-ready brioche recipes below. If a year of successive lockdowns has boosted your confidence in your bread-making skills, give Jane Mason’s recipe a go: it takes time and patience, but it’s well worth it.
Prefer to buy a loaf from the supermarket? Katie Lee’s easy brioche french toast casserole is similar to bread and butter pudding, but designed to be eaten at brunch rather than after dinner (although you could certainly serve it as a French-inspired dessert if you like). Shop-bought brioche slices are arranged in a baking dish and soaked in eggs, milk, sugar, vanilla and cinnamon – before being strewn with blueberries, baked in a hot oven and served with a splash of maple syrup and dusting of icing sugar.
More complex are Elisabeth Prueitt’s bacon and egg brioche buns. These “all-in-one sandwiches” by the co-founder of famed US bakery Tartine feature a savoury brunch filling cooked inside a beautifully puffed-up casing of homemade dough.
And if you love a sweet brioche bun, try Flora Shedden’s peach, chocolate and almond recipe – a version of which you’ll find at her cult bakery Aran in Dunkeld, Scotland. Little balls of brioche dough are loaded with crème patisserie (a classic French vanilla custard), crowned with a fan of peach slices and sprinkled with chopped dark chocolate and slivered almonds. If that hasn’t made you feel hungry, we don’t know what will…
Jane Mason says: “Brioche is one of the most famous types of bread in France. Lightly toasted and spread with butter and jam or dipped in egg, it is sublime.
“There are dozens of ways to make it but the most important fact to accept is this: brioche is all about butter. Remember, as with any enriched dough, brioche has a lot going on that yeast does not like, so making a predough helps achieve a light brioche.”
Makes 1 big brioche or 2 small ones
- 250g plain white wheat flour
- 1.25g instant yeast, 2.5g dry yeast, or 5g cake fresh yeast
- 15g sugar
- 50g milk, heated up to boiling point, then cooled to room temperature
- 5g salt
- 2 eggs
- 125g butter, at room temperature and cubed
- melted butter or egg lightly beaten with 1 tbsp water, to glaze
- 1 big loaf pan or 2 small loaf pans, greased
Make a predough
Put the flour in a bowl and make a well. Add the yeast and sugar and pour over the milk.
Flick some flour on the milk to close the well. Cover and allow to rest for 1 hour.
After 1 hour, it will be foamy and bubbling through the top of the well. If it is not, check for signs of life by simply digging through the flour on top of the well.
Make the dough
Sprinkle the salt around the edge of the flour, then add the eggs to the well. Mix and then knead well for 10 minutes.
Now add the butter and knead again for 10–20 minutes until the butter is fully incorporated. Don’t panic! The dough will get very slack but it will firm up again.
Scrape the dough back into the bowl, cover with a shower hat or plastic bag and allow to rest for 4–6 hours until doubled in size. You can also let it rest in the fridge for 8–12 hours.
If you have left it to rise at room temperature, pop it in the fridge for 1 hour once it has risen because this will make it easier to handle.
Pull the dough out onto an unfloured surface.
To make 2 small brioches, divide the dough in half; to make 1 big one, leave it whole. Gently roll the dough into a little sausage and place it in the loaf pan, or bend it into an ‘S’ by rolling it into a long sausage and folding it, snake-like, into the pan.
Or you can divide the dough into 6, roll into balls and tuck them into the pan. Make sure the dough comes only one-third up the pan because it will expand to over twice its original volume.
Brush the top with either melted butter or the egg wash, cover again and allow to rest for 30 minutes if the dough is warm, or 2–4 hours if the dough is cold. You want the dough to be warm and well risen before it goes in the oven. Preheat the oven to 180 ̊C/Gas 4.
Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack.
Adapted from Making Bread At Home: Over 50 Recipes From Around The World To Bake And Share by Jane Mason (£16.99, Ryland Peters & Small), out now
Brioche french toast casserole
Katie Lee says: “Breakfast wins the award for Meal Most Likely To Make You Feel Like A Short Order Cook. If you have a house full of people, or friends coming for brunch, make this brioche french toast casserole. You can completely assemble it ahead of time (even the night before) and bake it just before serving.
“Brioche is buttery and decadent on its own, so when soaked in this custard and baked, then topped with berries, confectioners’ sugar, and maple syrup, it is totally off the charts.”
- 1 loaf brioche, cut into 12mm slices
- 4 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 480ml milk
- 50g granulated sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- ½ tsp ground cinnamon
- zest and juice of 1 lemon
- pinch of flaky sea salt
- 145g fresh blueberries
- icing sugar and maple syrup, for serving
Preheat the oven to 175°C. Butter a 23 x 33cm baking dish.
Arrange the brioche slices in the baking dish, shingling them to overlap slightly. Whisk together the eggs, milk, granulated sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, lemon zest and juice, and salt, then gently stir in the blueberries.
Pour the mixture over the bread, making sure the berries are evenly distributed.
Let the mixture soak into the bread at room temperature for 30 minutes.
Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until the egg is set and the bread starts to brown.
Remove from the oven and let cool for a couple of minutes before serving. Scoop out a portion and top with icing sugar and maple syrup.
Adapted from It’s Not Complicated: Simple Recipes For Every Day by Katie Lee (Abrams, £21.99), out now
Bacon and egg brioche buns
Elisabeth Prueitt says: “I love a baking puzzle, and this bun presented one that was very satisfying to figure out. How could we bake a savoury pastry using brioche dough with 1) an egg with a soft centre, 2) the bacon cooked perfectly crisp, and 3) a dough that rose to cup these ingredients perfectly within?
“Here is an all-in-one egg sandwich that isn’t all that hard once you realize how the ingredients are arranged, with precooked bacon creating a little insulated nest for the egg to be broken into and baked. Top with herbs, chili flakes, grated cheese, or pimentón, a smoked Spanish paprika.”
Makes 20 buns
- 20 bacon slices
- 20 large eggs
For the brioche dough poolish:
- ¼ tsp instant yeast
- 180ml water, warmed to 24°C
- 150g bread flour
For the brioche dough:
- 1 tbsp instant yeast
- 110ml whole milk, chilled
- 4 large eggs + 5 large egg yolks, chilled
- 315g bread flour
- 185g plain flour
- 50g sugar
- ¾ tbsp salt
- 350g unsalted butter, at room temperature
For the egg wash:
- 2 large egg yolks
- 2 tbsp double cream
- pinch of salt
- fresh herbs, grated firm cheese, olive oil, chili flakes, sea salt or pimentòn
Make the dough
To make the poolish, sprinkle the yeast over the water in a small bowl and stir with a spoon. Measure the flour into the bowl of a stand mixer.
Add the water and yeast mixture to the flour and mix with a rubber spatula or a wooden spoon to combine.
Cover with plastic wrap and allow to ferment at room temperature for 2 hours until doubled in size, with active bubbles forming on the surface.
While the poolish is fermenting, measure out the rest of the ingredients. Cut the butter into 12mm chunks.
To mix the dough, place the mixing bowl containing the poolish on the stand mixer and attach the dough hook. Sprinkle the yeast over the cold milk in a small bowl and mix with a spoon to combine.
Pour the cold milk-yeast mixture, eggs, and yolks into the bowl with the poolish, all at once. Mix on the lowest speed for about 1 minute to break up the ingredients.
Turn the mixer off, and add the flours, sugar, and salt to the liquid ingredients, all at once.
Place the bowl back onto the mixer and mix on low speed until the dough begins to form and the dry ingredients are no longer visible on the side of the mixing bowl, about 2 minutes.
Increase the mixer speed to medium-low and mix for 6 minutes. Begin adding the butter, one piece at a time, with no waiting between pieces.
Once all of the butter has been added, continue to mix for 4 minutes to incorporate the fat into the dough.
Stop the mixer and scrape the sides of the bowl, pushing any excess butter back down into the dough to incorporate it into the mixture.
Increase the mixer speed to medium for 8 minutes to finish incorporating the butter and to continue strengthening the dough. When the last of the butter has disappeared, increase the mixer speed to medium-high for 1 minute. The dough will be smooth and shiny.
Transfer the dough to a large bowl and cover with a tea towel or plastic wrap. Allow to proof at room temperature for 1 hour.
When the dough has doubled in size, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Fold it in half, then in quarters.
Lightly oil a large baking sheet. Gently pat the dough into a 4cm thick round on the prepared sheet. Dust the top lightly with flour and wrap with plastic wrap.
Put the sheet in the freezer for at least 1 hour to quickly lower the temperature of the brioche dough and slow fermentation. Then transfer to the refrigerator overnight, if baking the next morning.
If you want to bake the same day, put the pan in the freezer for 2 hours and then transfer to the refrigerator for 3 to 5 hours before shaping the dough.
Make the buns
Preheat the oven to 180°C. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil.
Place the sliced bacon in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet. Bake until the bacon is halfway cooked, with some of the fat rendered out, but still light in colour, and bendable without breaking, about 15 minutes. Allow to cool on the sheet.
Brush the cups of an extra-large muffin pan with melted butter, or line with extra-large liners.
Transfer the dough to a floured work surface. Using a knife or a bench scraper, cut the dough into 20 x 80g pieces and shape each one into a ball by rolling them by hand in a circular motion against the floured surface.
Place one brioche ball into each muffin cup and, with floured hands, gently press into a disk shape, pressing right to the edges of each cup.
Place a tea towel or plastic wrap over the pan and proof at room temperature until doubled in size, about 2 hours.
Preheat the oven to 180°C. For the egg wash, whisk together the yolks, cream and salt. When the brioche is ready, gently brush each bun with egg wash, using care not to press or poke the proofed dough with the brush, as this will cause it to deflate.
With wet hands, use your fingers to form a cavity by pressing directly into the centre and pushing outward, again using care to not deflate the dough. The cavity should be deep and large enough to hold an egg without overflowing.
Press each bacon slice into a ring inside the cavity, overlapping the edges to match the size of the cavity in each bun.
Crack one egg at a time into a small measuring cup or ramekin and gently transfer each egg to the centre of the bacon ring. Sprinkle with cheese, if using.
Place the pan in the oven on the centre rack and bake until the egg white is completely opaque but still quite jiggly, the yolk is bright yellow, the bacon has crisped, and the brioche is golden brown, 15 to 18 minutes.
Remove from the oven and allow the buns to cool in the pan for 10 minutes before transferring them to a cooling rack.
Garnish each bun with chopped fresh herbs, olive oil, chili flakes, sea salt, or pimentón – whatever is your preference. These are best eaten fresh and warm from the oven or within the next 2 to 3 hours.
You can freeze the dough for a few days before baking: transfer it to a wide, shallow airtight container, slip it into the freezer for several days, and then thaw it overnight in the refrigerator before using.
Breaking the eggs directly into a measuring cup will save you the trouble of fishing out any egg shells from your buns if need be, or trying to replace an egg with a broken yolk.
Adapted from Tartine: A Classic Revisited: 68 All-New Recipes + 55 Updated Favourites by Elisabeth M Prueitt and Chad Robertson (£29, Chronicle Books), out now
Peach, chocolate and almond brioche buns
Flora Shedden says: “Brioche is a wonderfully versatile dough and has been on our menu since day one. It is hugely popular when turned into buns though arguably most things are when stuffed with custard.”
Makes 12 buns
For the brioche dough:
- 500g plain flour
- 125g caster sugar
- 100g whole milk
- 100g water
- 1 large egg, plus extra egg, beaten, for egg wash
- 10g/2 tsp dried instant action yeast
- 250g unsalted butter, softened
For the crème pât:
- 500g whole milk
- 2 eggs
- 80g caster sugar
- 30g/2 tbsp cornflour
- 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
For the buns:
- 1 egg, beaten
- 150g dark chocolate, chopped
- 3–4 large white peaches
- 100g flaked almonds
- icing sugar, for dusting
- extra flour, for dusting
Make the brioche dough
Weigh out all of the ingredients together in a free-standing mixer, being careful that the sugar and yeast don’t touch at this stage.
Beat using a dough hook (or by hand) until smooth and well combined. The butter should be soft before using, otherwise you will notice lumps throughout the mixture. If this happens, allow it to soften up, then mix again to fully incorporate.
Sit the dough in a cool spot and allow it to prove for 2 hours.
Make the crème pat
In a pan, warm the milk and remove from the heat just before it begins to boil. Meanwhile, whisk together the eggs, sugar and cornflour with the vanilla.
Pour the hot milk over the egg mixture, whisking all the time.
Pour the combined mixture back into the pan and return to a low heat. Whisk the mixture continuously until it thickens up. Do not allow it to boil. Once thickened, pour into a heatproof airtight container.
Press a piece of cling film on top to prevent a skin from forming. Allow to cool completely before placing the lid on top and storing in the refrigerator.
Make the buns
Knock the dough back on a lightly floured surface. Divide into 12 equal balls, roughly 100g each. Gently shape each ball into a smooth round and dip the bottom in a little flour.
Place each one into a small shallow tin, 10cm in diameter – ideally, one with a flat edge, but a fluted-edged tin will also work. You can do this free form, but the tins do help with a little bit of structure. Allow to prove for 30 minutes–1 hour until doubled in size.
Preheat the oven to 170°C/Gas 5.
Once doubled in size, use 2 fingers to gently press down the middle, forming a little bowl shape, making sure you leave a generous enough border, roughly 2–3 cm wide.
Brush generously with egg wash. Spoon or pipe in a decent amount of crème pât into each bowl. Sprinkle the tops with chocolate, focusing on the border but also a little covering the crème pât.
Quarter your peaches and cut each quarter into about 6 thin slices. Keeping them close together, fan the slices out like feathers. Carefully place each fanned quarter on top of the crème pât and sprinkle the bottom of the fruit with some flaked almonds.
Bake for 20 minutes, until golden brown and cooked through. The dough might look a little soft still, but you don’t want to overcook it as it will become dry.
Allow to cool in the tins for 15–20 minutes before removing. Dust with icing sugar to serve.
Adapted from Aran: Recipes And Stories From A Bakery In The Heart Of Scotland by Flora Shedden (£22, Hardie Grant), out now
Photography: © 2021 Lucy Schaeffer; Peter Cassidy © Ryland Peters & Small; © 2019 Gentl + Hyers; © Laura Edwards