WHAT IS A BRIOCHE?
While technically a French Viennoiserie (pastry) recipe, little to no sugar is used in this pain. The bread is loaded with butter and egg which gives it an almost creamy taste. Yeast is used which allows the dough to aerate (yielding a lighter, more tender texture). Think of it as a golden pillow made of dough that comes in either a braided or loaf shape.
HOW ARE THE BEST BRIOCHES MADE?
They should have a deep golden color when finished and be almost hollow with a core temperature around 185 F (85 C) to 195 F (91 C). Be careful not to under cook them as the use of egg wash causes the crust to deceptively darken and harden up. Set your oven to a convection setting if it has one. The fan blowing the air around inside will produce a more uniform temperature throughout. If you don’t have a convection oven, be prepared for some frustration but try to only bake the bread in the same place of the oven for consistent results.
WHAT KIND OF FLOUR AND STARTER SHOULD I USE?
Regarding flour, stick with all purpose or a high protein one. In terms of starters most store bought ones will do, though if you like a challenge try a sourdough version! Whenever you use yeast, that means you are entering the fun war between the pressure exerted by the internal gas (merci à la yeast) and the exterior container formed by your gluten matrix (flour proteins and water). Shirley O. Corriher in her book Cookwise has a great explanation on a structurant versus a destructurant when talking about this.
HOW SHOULD BRIOCHES BE STORED?
Moisture from the air is the enemy here. Before cooking you can refrigerate or freeze. After cooking, wrap it in a plastic bag (don’t ziplock) and keep at room temperature for at most a few days.
WHAT MAKES A BRIOCHE DIFFERENT FROM MOST BREADS?
This bread is ironically often served as a pastry. However it’s low sugar content makes it more similar to a croissant. So don’t be afraid to use it in savory applications such as the bun for your hamburger or the dough base for a pizza!